International Caucasian Court slammed as Africa breaks rank
WITH the brouhaha over South Africa s intention to withdraw from
’ the International Criminal Court (ICC) reaching a crescendo, the body s relevance is once again
’ under question.
Most African countries have questioned the international court s
’ neutrality since it s formation in
Even the self-proclaimed leader of the free world ”, the US, has refused
“to join the ICC, citing concerns of interference with their national sovereignty.
Other countries who also refused to be members, citing the same concerns, include Israel, China, Iran, Iraq, India, Indonesia and Sudan. South Africa s announcement of
’ its intention to withdraw as a signatory to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the International Criminal Court, should therefore not come as a surprise.
The writing has been on the wall for some time. It may just be the catalyst for a mass withdrawal by African states. Since SA s announcement last
’ week, Burundi and Gambia have already followed suit. Kenya and Namibia s cabinets have already
’ voted to withdraw their respective countries from the ICC, but have not started the paperwork as yet.
The idea of African countries withdrawing en masse was first proposed at the African Union in June 2009, in protest against the indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
The argument was that the ICC was merely a tool of Western imperialism, only punishing leaders from small countries while ignoring crimes committed by richer and more powerful nations.
The proposal was put back on the table in October 2013 at a special summit of the African Union, in response to the trial of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Kenyatta was indicted in connection with post-election ethnic violence in 2007, in which 1 200 people died. The ICC later withdrew the charges. He was the first head of state to appear before the court. Gambia s Information Minister
’ Sheriff Bojang was the most scathing about the ICC. He said the withdrawal is
“warranted by the fact that the ICC, despite being called International Criminal Court, is in fact an International Caucasian Court for the persecution and humiliation of people of colour, especially Africans ”.
He questioned the decision by the ICC not to prosecute former British prime minister Tony Blair for the Iraqi war.
He questioned why not a single Western war criminal had been indicted since the formation of the international court.
The absence of powerful countries such as the US, Russia and China meant that the ICC has never been truly international and legitimate. The US so-called war on terror
’ has led to what many independent commentators have labelled as genocide, but the ICC s reluctance
’ to even consider the resultant mass killings of civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lybia and Syria as such, has made it lose face and credibility over the years.
Bojang said there were at least 30 Western countries that have committed heinous war crimes against independent sovereign states and their citizens and not a single Western war criminal had been indicted.
In October 2009, the International Initiative to Prosecute US Genocide in Iraq filed its first legal challenge against four US presidents and four UK prime ministers under laws of universal jurisdiction.
The law was judged retroactive, and led to the closing of the case and others the organisation had lodged.
In 1991 professor of international law at the University of Illinois, Francis Boyle, filed a class-action complaint with the UN against President George H.W. Bush.
He has since estimated that 3.3 million Iraqis, including 750 000 children, were killed in illegal
“wars conducted by the US and
” Britain between 1990 and 2012.
The debate about whether the ICC has been a joke from the start will continue for years to come, and South Africans will remain divided on the country s withdrawal.
Justice Minister Michael Masutha explained it as necessitated by conflicts between the country s
’ respective obligations to the AU and the ICC.
However, the real problem will remain the global power setup, where the United Nations Security Council has the US, UK, France, Russia and China as its five permanent members who have final say on global security issues.
This may explain why the ICC indictments for the past 14 years have only focused on Africa.
The killings continue in Syria to date and the ICC remains silent on the involvement of the US and Russia in the conflict. With the ICC s obvious failure to
’ apply the law fairly and equally, African countries may find keeping their membership increasingly vexatious.
The SA government has faced a backlash from the Democratic Alliance and some non-governmental organisations for the move.
However, Oscar van Heerden, an International Relations scholar, says the sooner we exit the better. It is now time to forge a new “more equitable and fair international accountability and legal systems,” his opinion piece published on local websites says.
He insists that peace must trump justice regardless of how evil the protagonists maybe.
Van Heerden cites the so-called South African miracle as an
‘ ’ example.
He argues that this would not have been possible had we sought to exert justice against FW De Klerk, PW Botha, Magnus Malan, and Adriaan Vlok.
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