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Is the International Criminal Court unfair to Africa?

June 15, 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

African countries often complain about getting a bad press. They say there’s much more to the continent than war and poverty and starvation. Then there’s the huge coverage given to the International Criminal Court and the fact that all four cases the body is now considering come from Africa.

But what’s strange about the complaints is that the world’s poorest continent is the most heavily represented in the ICC, with 30 member countries. In the March 2009 elections for ICC judges, 12 out of the 19 candidates were Africans nominated by African governments. And Fatou Bensouda, the court’s Deputy Prosecutor, is from Gambia.

Of the four files before the court, the cases on Democractic Republic of Congo, Uganda and the Central African Republic were referred to the court by those very governments. The controversial fourth case, the indictment of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for war crimes, was put before the court by the United Nations Security Council.

The ICC has issued an arrest warrant for the leader of the huge oil-exporting country to face charges of war crimes during almost six years of fighting in Sudan’s violent Darfur region — but he has refused to deal with the court.

It was that case, heavily opposed on the continent, that brought the 30 African ICC members together in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa for an unprecedented meeting last week after calls from some countries that the Africans should withdraw en masse.

That didn’t happen and diplomats told me only Libya, Senegal, Djibouti and the Comoros islands had seriously lobbied the meeting for a total withdrawal. Reporters were kept well outside the conference room and security seemed tighter than usual but, even from a distance we could hear some very angry exchanges coming from inside. And the frustration written all over the faces of delegates as the meeting stretched into the night seemed to indicate there were serious disagreements on the issue.

But, in the end, they told us nothing and simply said they would make recommendations to their heads of state. Most African countries want the indictment against Bashir deferred for one year and the African Union says it will compromise peace efforts in Darfur. The 53-member organisation is also calling for a one-year deferral.

“The pursuit of peace can be deadly impacted upon if players, including a head of state, are denied even the fundamental presumption of innocence,” AU Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamara told delegates before the meeting began.

His boss, AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping, has repeatedly accused the ICC of having an unhealthy fixation on African leaders and says it should look elsewhere, too.

So is the African Union right? Is the ICC unfair to Africa and could the warrant for Bashir compromise peace efforts in Darfur? Or is the fact that every case before the court comes from Africa simply a true reflection of the continent’s problems?

Comments

The fact that only four cases are currently being considered surprises me. The most noticeable absentee from the list is Robert Mugabe… a rogue of close to 30 years who has systematically destroyed Zimbabwe, taken lavish holiday trips which allowed his wife to engage in spending way in excess of probably 10 years salary of the middle class Zimbabwian… forget out the poor. What about the massacre of 20000+ in 1981/82, the destruction of the entire agriculture… this rogue should be TOP of the list for trial, conviction and his remaining days of life in some forsaken prison on a island far removed from Africa… and many will say that is FAR TOO GOOD for him!!

Posted by Ken Alston | Report as abusive
 

We Africans are hungry for justice and that is why Africa is the most represented in ICC. But we want international justice, not white western justice that ignores leaders and generals of the US, Israel and others in the West whose actions have led to death of millions (in like Iraq, latin america, palestine, southeast asia etc) over the decades. For many Africans today, ICC is just another western tool. Otherwise, most of us Africans support criminal charges on Sudan president, IF the rebel leaders who have equally been guilty can be brought to justice, to balanced justice. But such balanced justice would destroy the bashir demonization agenda of the WEST and their oil agenda that motivated the genocide fairytales of CIA. To make it even more complex, such balanced justice would create the famous LRA catch-22 scenario and peace talks will fall and Darfur will burn more. So these are the dilemmas facing African leaders on the ICC issue. it is complex.

Posted by Samuel | Report as abusive
 

I WANT TO TRY AND BE OPEN MINDED HERE.THE MAIN QUESTION IS WHO STANDS TO GAIN MOST IF THE ICC REALLY HAS STRONG CASES AGAINST THESE ALLEGED WAR CRIMINALS?IT IS US AFRICANS!!I DON’T CARE IF THE AMERICANS OR EUROPEANS ARE NOT INDICTED.IF THEY HAVE COMMITED ATROCITIES THEN IF NOT SOON THEN LATER THE LAW WILL CATCH UP WITH THEM.THE ONE MAJOR DIFFERENCE THAT MAKES AFRICA LOOK VERY BADCOMPARED TO OTHER COUNTRIES IN EUROPE AND AMERICA IS THAT THESE COUNTRIES LEADERS DON’T SEND THEIR ARMIES AND POLICE AND MILITIAS TO MURDER,MAIM AND RAPE THEIR OWN PEOPLE.GRANTED YOU MAY HEAR OF PEOPLE BEING ELIMINATED BUT NOT ON THE SCALE OF SUDAN’S DARFUR OR DRC OR THE 80′sIN ZIMBABWE DURING THE GUKURAHUNDI ERA.WHEN YOU SEE A PRESIDENT LEAVING HIS PEOPLE AT THE MERCY OF LAWLESS ARMIES OR POLICE THEN QUESTIONS MUST BE ASKED OF THE CREDIBILITY OF THAT PRESIDENT.ONE THING THAT I HAVE NOTED WITH THESE AFRICAN PRESIDENTSIS THAT WHEN THEY COME INTO POWER THEY HAVE THE MASSES AT HEART BUT THEY ARE QUICKLY CORRUPTED BY POWER AND FORGET THE MASSES THAT PUT THEM THERE.THEY DO NOT WANT TO BE QUESTIONED AND THEIR WORD IS LAW.ANYONE WHO DARES TO QUESTION THEIR LEADERSHIP IS A TRAITOR.I AM A BLACK MAN LIVING IN ZIMBABWE AND IT IS MY WELL CONSIDERED VIEW THAT WITH THE EXCEPTION OF A FEW LEADERS IN AFRICA,AFRICAN PRESIDENTS ARE ALMOST INVARIABLY BAD LEADERS.

 

The ICC is a waste of space with its selective justice. Bush and Blair should have been hurled before this dysfunctional and useless court if it wants to be taken seriously.

Posted by Nduka Tolefe | Report as abusive
 

I tend to agree with Samuel, when he says that perhaps the fact that African nation’s representation in the ICC is a reflection on our need to right the wrongs. I won’t be deluded and say that Africa does not have these problems but I will say that we have been largely misrepresented. One cannot generalize about Africa, Richard Dowden make a good point in saying that for every generalization that is made about Africa, five countries fall away. Instead of looking at this in a negative way by asserting that Africa is indeed the lost continent we should actually be proud that we acknowledge the problems that we have and we are finding ways to mitigate them. In short, no I do not think it is a true reflection of the continents problems, in fact I think it is more a reflection of the countries need to change what is believed to be the status quo in Africa.

Posted by Nonkululeko | Report as abusive
 

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