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motive behind threat of ICC pull-out
Elias Mambo, The Independent (Zimbabwe)
October 18, 2013
The frosty relations
between the International Criminal Court (ICC), which came into
force on July 1 2002, and African leaders show signs of further
deterioration with African leaders accusing The Hague of employing
double standards against Africans.
The conflict was sparked
in July 2008 when the then prosecutor Moreno Ocampo applied for
a warrant of arrest for Omar Al-Bashir, the sitting President of
the Republic of Sudan.
Al-Bashir was charged
with war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in the Darfur
region of South Sudan.
the office of the prosecutor (OTP) of the ICC has investigated eight
cases involving alleged violations of international criminal law.
Each of these investigations is related to situations in African
countries, namely the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Uganda,
the Central African Republic (CAR), Darfur/Sudan, Kenya, Libya,
Ivory Coast and Mali.
The stand-off worsened
with the recent indictment of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and
his deputy William Ruto by the ICC for crimes against humanity in
the violent 2007 elections which left more than 1 000 dead.
The African Union (AU)
charges that the ICC seems to be only targeting African leaders
while ignoring transgressions of other countries, especially the
Armed with that argument
the AU extraordinary summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last Saturday
stopped short of withdrawing from the ICC, demanding the immediate
deferral of the cases against Kenyatta and Ruto.
The weekend summit also
ignited debate on the role of the ICC in as far as its global approach
on dealing with issues of gross human rights abuses is concerned.
While the OTP has received
information on alleged abuses in other parts of the world such as
Iraq, Venezuela, Palestine, Colombia and Afghanistan, it has decided
not to open investigations or kept them under preliminary examination
in order to determine whether or not to proceed.
All situations and cases
under current investigation or prosecution by the ICC are in Africa.
Critics claim that the OTP’s focus on Africa has been inappropriate
and biased because it has been targeting African leaders, resulting
in the international court being viewed as a reflection of the global
balance of power.
The US is not a signatory
to the Rome Statute, but has the power to dictate where the ICC
casts its eyes through its permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
Aside from Africa, the
other indictees include Slobodan Milosevic and Ratko Mladic, from
the former Yugoslavia.
of Zimbabwe lecturer Charity Manyeruke said African leaders
are to blame for believing that justice can only come from The Hague.
“At last African
leaders are realising that their belief that justice only comes
from the West-oriented Hague was an error of judgment,” Manyeruke
“Africa must have
confidence in itself and build institutions which deal with African
problems with regards to human rights. What Africa has done is to
fire warning shots at the ICC that time has come for Africans to
speak for themselves,” she said.
President Robert Mugabe
last Saturday advised Kenyatta not to go to The Hague to answer
to charges of crimes against humanity which he faces together with
George Charamba said Mugabe did not mince his words over the ICC’s
alleged intransigence, saying it was heavily biased against African
leaders and Kenyatta could not reduce himself by appearing before
it when no Western leader had been subjected to such treatment.
Several nations in the
54-member AU have demanded that the court drop its cases against
Kenya’s leadership. African states have also repeatedly ignored
ICC orders to hand over indicted Sudanese leader al-Bashir.
In 2012, the venue of
the AU summit was changed from Malawi to Addis Ababa, after Malawian
President Joyce Banda said she had asked the AU to prevent Al-Bashir
from attending the summit in her country, saying his visit would
have “implications” for the economy since he was wanted
by the ICC.
However, some analysts
claim the view being pushed by the AU is only meant to serve the
interests of “African leaders’ culture of impunity”.
Dewa Mavhinga, a senior
researcher in the Africa division of Human Rights Watch, said the
impunity enjoyed by African leaders means they would be very happy
to push for the withdrawal from the international court.
“The ICC is certainly
not beyond criticism, and should seek a more balanced approach to
ensuring global justice,” Mavhinga said.
“However, the AU
leaders, by seeking to pull out of the ICC, are exposing their hypocrisy
and undermining their own charter which enshrines promotion and
protection of the rule of law, good governance, justice and human
rights respect,” he said. “It appears the AU leaders
have a sinister motive to prioritise insulating their predominantly
‘old boys’ club’ from justice and accountability
while ignoring Africa’s pressing needs including ending multiple
wars, ensuring development and respect for basic rights.”
Mavhinga also said those
countries with something to hide, that are concerned that they may
be called to account for abuses in their own backyards are most
vocal in trying to stop the activities of the ICC.
“This would put
the rule of law in the African continent in jeopardy. It is time
for Africa to strengthen the institutions that stand for good governance,
the rule of law and democracy,” Mavhinga said.
and lawyer, Gabriel Shumba, who is director of Zimbabwe
Exiles Forum based in South Africa, bemoaned the move by African
leaders to threaten the ICC.
Shumba, who alleged he
was a victim of torture in Zimbabwe, managed to take his complaint
before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
(ACHPR) which later found the Zimbabwe government responsible for
his torture and ill-treatment.
The decision also alluded
to the impunity with which torture is being committed in Zimbabwe
which made it impossible for Shumba to seek justice before Zimbabwean
“It (the possible
decision to pull out of the ICC) is tragic because ordinary citizens
will have no meaningful recourse and succour for serious crimes
committed by their own governments,” said Shumba.
would rather have a docile court that panders to their whims, while
sanitising atrocities. It is an unforgivable shame and African civil
society is called upon to unite and fight any attempt to destroy
the court as happened to the Sadc Tribunal.”
The tribunal, which incensed
Zimbabwe due to its judgment in favour of white commercial farmers,
was dissolved in 2011 after leaders from the regional bloc tasked
the justice ministers to reconstitute the body and give it a new
However, while there
are allegations the ICC reflects the balance of global power politics,
there are hopes the push by the AU to have a greater say in the
investigations at The Hague will not disadvantage African victims
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