In­ter­na­tional Cau­casian Court slammed as Africa breaks rank

Sunday World - - OPINION -

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

’ 2002.

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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