Felex Share Harare Bureau—
THE International Criminal Court (ICC) is a court for Western countries dispensing Western injustice on Africans, President Robert Mugabe said yesterday as he trumpeted moves to start an African court to try war crimes and other serious breaches of human rights. The African Union and Sadc chairman said it was high time Africa established its own ICC to judge Western leaders who have committed plunder and mass murder on the African continent.
“They committed crimes, colonial crimes galore — the slaughter of our people and all that imprisonment,” President Mugabe told reporters at the Harare International Airport where he was seeing off the Malian President Ibrahim Keita at the conclusion of his three-day state visit.
“I’ve a case, why was I imprisoned for 11 years? We forgave them, but perhaps we’ve not done ourselves justice. There should be justice for all. You set up the ICC, we set our ICC to try Europeans, to try Mr Bush and Mr Blair.”
Following a failed attempt by a rights group to arrest Sudanese President al-Bashir and extradite him to the Netherlands-headquartered ICC last week on war crimes charges, African leaders have found a new impetus to pull their countries from the Rome Treaty that established the tribunal.
They accuse the ICC of targeting African leaders, while turning a blind eye to atrocities committed by powerful Western countries including Britain and the United States, notably in Iraq and Libya.
At an AU summit in South Africa last week, member states resolved to establish an African Court of Justice and Human Rights. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, whose ethnic violence case emanating from his election campaign in 2007-08 collapsed at the ICC, has pledged $1 million for the new tribunal which he said was now unstoppable. His deputy, William Ruto, still has two cases pending at the ICC.
President Keita, who visited the Victoria Falls before returning to Mali yesterday, said it was up to Africans, not Europeans or Americans, to judge their leaders.
“I think we must be respected in Africa,” said Keita. “We know that our legal systems need to be improved for sure, but there’s business that we’ve to deal with between ourselves in Africa, by Africans, by our people. Our people are the only judges of what we’ll be doing or what we might have done in our countries.”
Some world leaders from the West had committed worse crimes against humanity and no-one from Africa had attempted to put them on trial, he said.
“It’s unacceptable, particularly when we know that there’re leaders from somewhere else in the world who’ve done worse than us but they’ve not been judged and we’ve never asked questions about them,” President Keita said.
“What we’re obliged to question is justice only for Africa? I think we’ve to be fair when dealing with justice. When we want justice, it must be justice for all. That’s the way it has to be in order to be fair, otherwise we’ve the right to also question that system.”
The controversial ICC began its operations in 2003 when it took over from two UN Tribunals, namely the UN tribunals for former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
It was ostensibly formed to hear cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity from anywhere in the world. But all of the nine country situations addressed by the ICC are African ones. To the AU states, this demonstrates a northern or western bias in the choice of cases to pursue.
The relationship between Africa – which has most signatories to the Rome statute – and the ICC came to a head on Monday when President Al-Bashir departed from the African Union summit held in Johannesburg. By letting him go, the South African authorities disregarded the urgent requests of the ICC, backed by the UN secretary general, in addition to an injunction of their own High Court.
More than that, South Africa’s defiant attitude represented a power-play by the African states in their attempts to rein in the ICC. The African National Congress government argues that the ICC has become outdated. This view reflects a trend within the AU.