16 July 2013

Africa: Is the ICC Unfair to Africans or Just Misunderstood?


The African Union heads of State and Government summit proposal in Addis Ababa - Ethiopia in May, and President Museveni's recent criticism of the International Criminal Court (ICC) represents the most elaborate attempt to strengthen sovereignty of African States not only from the internal political realm, but also from the external sphere of international justice system.

The heads of states urged the ICC to refer the 2007 post-election charges against President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto to the Kenyan Courts. They said Kenya has a credible judiciary.

Museveni, as a key note speaker at their inauguration ceremony in April, castigated those using the ICC for selfish ends.

He advised the ICC to avoid being used by what he described as 'a bunch of self-seekers and shallow-minded people whose interest is to mint revenge on those who hold opposing views. Former Kenyan PM Raila Odinga is leading the pro-ICC group.

It is an absurdity that the objectivity of ICC is under question. Facts and rumours are swirling around that ICC investigations and trials of African suspects are conducted in a manner which is in most circumstances inconsistent with the intent to bring the persons concerned to justice. That the institution is used to witch-hunt Africans to appease the conscious of the international community

Last month, during the joint press conference in Entebbe, Uhuru, an ICC indictee promised to cooperate with the ICC as long as it respects Kenyan sovereignty.

To Africans, Uhuru's victory and the voters' rejection of ICC sympathisers demonstrated that the endeavour to ever again get rid of African sovereignty can never be quite successful.

Formed almost 15 years ago on July 17, 1998 in Rome, over 120 nations voted to create a permanent court to try war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Article 5 of the Rome Statute grants the court universal jurisdiction over these crimes.

The framers intended to have it as a court of last resort to eradicate the culture of impunity by investigating and prosecuting crimes where national courts failed.

However, although the UN recognises that crimes against humanity may be committed by constitutionally elected and responsible leaders, one wonders why its only African leaders and none of the western leaders is facing trial. Some suggest that leaders such as George Bush, and Tony Blair should be investigated.

The world wonders why the US is not a state party to the treaty. Africans look on in horror as Sudanese President Omar Bashir travel is restricted yet newly elected Uhuru flew to London in May and even met British Premier David Cameroon at a Somalia Summit.

Frankly, I would be gratified if the ICC avoids selective justice. 99 percent of cases before the ICC are against Africans.

Those for home grown justice systems argue that a precedent to try ICC suspects in Africa has already been set. In December 2003, Uganda referred to the ICC the LRA case in Northern Uganda and the Court in July 2005 issued arrest warrants for Joseph Kony and his commanders. Since the LRA leaders demanded immunity from ICC in return for the end of the insurgency, the Government established a tribunal that meet international standards allowing the ICC warrants to be set aside.

Similarly, although the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was set up in Arusha, to arrest and try planners of the genocide, Rwandan leaders instead set up the Gacaca tribunals that guaranteed the victims and survivors of the genocide justice, but also gave the perpetuators a chance to reintegrate in society and play a productive role in development.

Who then says Africa cannot confidently take care of itself using its national courts and traditional justice systems?

The Writer is a Regional Political Analyst

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