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is about justice, not race
October 11, 2013
behind the move to extract the continent from the jurisdiction of
the International Criminal Court (ICC) are effectively seeking a
licence to kill, maim and oppress their people without consequences.
They are saying
that African leaders should not allow the interests of the people
to get in the way of their personal ambitions. Being held to account
interferes with their ability to act with impunity to achieve their
objectives. Those who get in their way - their victims - should
remain faceless and voiceless.
They are arguing
that the golden rule of reciprocity - do unto others as you would
have them do to you - should not apply to them. And nor should any
But they know
that they cannot say these things in public, so they say that the
ICC is racist.
At first glance,
when one tallies the number of African leaders versus European and
North American leaders prosecuted by the court, their argument appears
as if it might be plausible. When one considers the facts, however,
one quickly realises that the number of Africans put on trial is
an indictment of leadership and democracy in some African countries,
not of the court.
Africa has suffered
the consequences of unaccountable leaders for too long to allow
itself to be hoodwinked in this manner.
of people are murdered and displaced in any country one would hope,
in the first instance, that that country’s own systems of
justice and fairness would kick in to right the wrongs.
But when that
country is unwilling or unable to restore justice, who should represent
the interests of the victims? Those behind the call to extract Africa
from the ICC say: Nobody.
The ICC was
established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most
serious crimes of concern to the international community. The Rome
Statute that established the court provided victims with the opportunity
to have their voices heard and to obtain, where appropriate, reparation
for their suffering.
The roll call
of African leaders being summoned by the ICC to face justice is
growing. President Bashir of Sudan has been charged with crimes
against humanity in Darfur, and now President Uhuru Kenyatta and
Deputy President William Ruto of Kenya face similar charges for
brutal violence against their own people following their election
of crimes proclaim their innocence and vilify the institution as
racist and unjust, as Hermann Göring and his comrades vilified
the Nuremberg Court that put Nazi leaders on trial following World
today and tomorrow at the African Union Summit, Kenya will attempt
to lead the continent in pulling Africa out of the ICC. This would
be a grave blow to the rule of law and the memories of the millions
of people that have suffered in the refugee camps of Darfur, and
the villages of Congo and Cote D’Ivoire.
Right now, thousands
of people from across the planet are joining a campaign hosted by
Avaaz, an international advocacy organisation, calling on Africa’s
leaders to stay in the ICC and stand behind international justice
and what it means for so many vulnerable citizens everywhere. They
represent our global commitment to working together to make the
future brighter and safer for the next generations.
The eight matters
brought before the ICC were without exception initiated by African
countries and their leaders. There was no witch-hunt or imposition,
the judges and investigators were invited in.
So while the
rhetoric of leaders at the African Union may play both the race
and colonial cards, the facts are clear. Far from being a so-called
“white man’s witch hunt”, the ICC could not be
more African if it tried. More than twenty African countries helped
to found the ICC. Of 108 nations that initially joined the ICC,
thirty are in Africa. Five of the court’s eighteen judges
are African, as is the Vice President of the court. The chief prosecutor
of the court, who has huge power over which cases are brought forward,
is from Africa. The ICC is, quite literally, Africa’s court.
ICC would be a tragedy for Africa for three clear reasons.
justice, countries can attack their neighbours or minorities in
their own countries with impunity. Two years ago, when the warlord
Thomas Lubunga was arrested to face charges of enlisting and conscripting
child soldiers, the threat of the ICC undermined his support from
other militia. In Cote D’Ivoire, since Laurent Gbagbo was
taken to face justice in The Hague, the country has been able to
rebuild. Human Rights Watch reported that national radio and television
stations switched messages of hatred to appeals for restraint when
the ICC threatened to intervene. Without this court, there would
be no brake on the worst excesses of world leaders. And these violent
leaders continue to plague Africa: The Great Lakes, Mali, northern
Nigeria and Egypt all give reason for concern. Perpetrators of violence
must not be allowed to wriggle free.
justice there can be no peace. In South Africa, the scars of apartheid
are still deep and painful and it has taken a long process of truth
and reconciliation for these wounds to begin to heal. In Kenya,
the rioting and killing across the Rift Valley will take a long
time to resolve, with communities pitted against each other and
tension and division remaining. Put simply, where justice and order
is not restored there can be no healing, leaving violence and hatred
ticking like a bomb in the corner.
Third, as Africa
finds its voice in world affairs, it should be strengthening justice
and the rule of law, not undermining it. Everyone has a duty to
adhere to these principles; they are part of global collective responsibility,
not a menu we can choose from as and when it suits us.
are too painful: revenge, like what happened in Rwanda, Kosovo,
Bosnia; or blanket amnesty, a national commitment to amnesia like
what happened in Chile. The only way any country can deal with its
past is to confront it.
We need loud
voices in Addis Ababa to deliver the message of the world’s
people, to shout down those that want us to do nothing. At the front
we need the heavyweight champions of Africa - South Africa and Nigeria
- to exercise their leadership and stop those that don’t like
the rules from attempting to re-write them. If Africa’s democracies
truly believe in justice and the rule of law, they must stand up
against this attempt by their least democratic brothers and sisters
to undermine those values.
is a contest between justice and brutal violence. Far from a fight
between Africa and the West, this is a fight within Africa, for
the soul of the continent.
Africans raise their voices and affirm the ICC and the rule of law.
The Avaaz petition
started by Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Emeritus Tutu can be
signed at secure.avaaz.org/en/justice_for_africa_icc/
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