SA should heed ICC re­buke

CityPress - - Voices -

Re­buk­ing South Africa for its fail­ure to ex­e­cute an ar­rest war­rant for Su­danese geno­cidaire Omar al-Bashir, the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court (ICC) could not have been much clearer about our gov­ern­ment’s obli­ga­tions.

Hand­ing down the rul­ing of the panel, Judge Cuno Tar­fusser said it was im­por­tant to em­pha­sise that “a re­quest for co­op­er­a­tion from the court re­mains valid un­til it is ex­plic­itly with­drawn or sus­pended”.

“This is even more the case con­sid­er­ing that the court had made it clear to South Africa that the re­quest for ar­rest and sur­ren­der of Al-Bashir was at all times valid and had to be ex­e­cuted...”

That the court was kind enough not to re­fer the mat­ter to the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil or the Coun­cil of Mem­ber States for sanc­tion does not lessen the sting of the judg­ment. It was a sting­ing re­buke from the high­est court in the world. It was em­bar­rass­ing that a coun­try that ben­e­fited from in­ter­na­tional sol­i­dar­ity to over­come an evil sys­tem had to be chas­tised for fail­ing to com­ply with its com­mit­ment to pro­tect the vul­ner­a­ble from mur­der­ous dic­ta­tors.

In his re­sponse to the de­ci­sion not to fur­ther pun­ish South Africa, renowned ju­rist Richard Gold­stone said he hoped that “gen­tle treat­ment gives gov­ern­ment a rea­son not to per­sist in want­ing to with­draw from the court, which would be a tragedy”.

We hope gov­ern­ment heeds Gold­stone’s ad­vice and aban­dons all thoughts of leav­ing the ICC, which could spur the death of the in­sti­tu­tion. It would be a blow to hun­dreds of mil­lions of peo­ple in the world – and on our con­ti­nent in par­tic­u­lar – who live un­der the heavy boot of tyranny. We would be grant­ing im­punity to blood­thirsty tyrants and war­lords.

South Africans should re­ject the tired ar­gu­ment that the ICC is il­le­git­i­mate be­cause it has mostly tried Africans and be­cause no West­ern lead­ers have ap­peared be­fore it. The re­al­ity is that Africa has been the the­atre of most con­flicts that have taken place since the in­cep­tion of the ICC and is, un­for­tu­nately, home to the most bru­tal hu­man rights abusers. This is akin to say­ing that the sys­tem is be­ing un­fair to peo­ple who have killed mil­lions of Africans and abused tens of mil­lions more.

It is true that it is wrong that some coun­tries – in­clud­ing world pow­ers such as the US – choose not to be mem­bers. The world com­mu­nity should be work­ing to rec­tify this and strengthen the sys­tem, not de­stroy it. We should be on the side of the vic­tims, not the per­pe­tra­tors.

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