Sunday, November 20, 2016

ICC Must Reform or Face Collapse
November 21, 2016
Opinion & Analysis
Zimbabwe Herald

THAT the International Criminal Court is facing a mass “collective withdrawal” by its members is no longer a matter for conjecture, but becoming a reality with each passing day. Last week alone proved that the feared mass exodus from The Hague-based tribunal for reasons that the Western-funded court has refused to acknowledge and act on, will happen and that it will be very costly, both in the short and long-term.

The pull-out from the Rome Statute is no longer confined to African member states whose leaders have been demonised for protesting that the selective manner in which the ICC is implementing the rule of law is not only unjust, but that it is also racially biased, since most of the people tried by the court so far are African leaders.

Former and current chief prosecutors of the ICC have been on a warpath to ensure that they “bring to justice” African leaders they accuse of committing human rights violations, genocide included. They have also put undue pressure on African member states to arrest individuals on their wanted list. The most recent case was that of Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir where the ICC demanded that Uganda, Djibouti, South Africa, among others, arrest him and hand him over to The Hague-based tribunal.

When Uganda and Djibouti refused to comply with the nefarious demand, the ICC referred them to the United Nations Security Council and the Assembly of States Parties. However, what broke the camel’s back was the Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto cases, where Africa finally said enough is enough and that the African Union is capable of setting up a similar court to try those accused of crimes against humanity.

Then the unthinkable happened. South Africa told the United Nations that it was withdrawing its ICC membership, citing that “its obligations with respect to the peaceful resolution of conflicts” were not in sync with the “interpretation given by the International Criminal Court” of the Rome Statute, which is the court’s founding charter.

Burundi had already taken a similar position earlier, but the shocker came from The Gambia since the current chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, is a Gambian national. The Gambian information minister who called the ICC an International Caucasian Court, accused it of “persecution and humiliation of people of colour especially Africans, especially their leaders”.

He pointed to the arrogance and hypocrisy of the tribunal that only sought to look for wrong-doing among small nations when Western leaders have committed heinous crimes against humanity and nothing has happened to them.

Singling out Tony Blair, he said, “There are many Western countries, at least 30, that have committed heinous war crimes against independent sovereign states and their citizens since the creation of the ICC and not a single Western war criminal has been indicted.”

Other African nations set to follow South Africa, Burundi and The Gambia are Kenya, Uganda and Namibia. As each day passes, the ICC is faced with a situation where it might boast power, but no glory. Last week AFP reported that Russia had formally withdrawn its signature to the tribunal’s founding Rome Statute.

Media reports said Russian President Vladimir Putin had signed an executive order removing Russia’s signature. One of the five permanent members of the UNSC, Russia accused the ICC of not living up “to the hopes associated with it and did not become truly independent”.

Now, the Trump-like Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte, inspired by Russia’s actions, also wants to take his country out of the ICC. He called it “useless”: “They are useless, those in the international criminal (court). They (Russia) withdrew. I might follow. Why? Only the small ones like us are battered.”

This looks like the beginning of the end for the ICC — an end spawned by pride and abuse of the international justice system, where some animals are more equal than others.

Tony Blair, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, David Cameron and more have hands dripping with the blood of thousands of people being massacred daily in the name of war on terror. But for the ICC, they remain innocent until proven guilty.

In January 2017, the African Union Heads of State and Government summit will be held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. We hope that the voices of reason that have called on the continental bloc’s members to pull out en masse will be heeded. If major powers like Russia can voice concern over the ICC’s partiality, why should African states stay in it when they get punished more heavily in the end?

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