ICC-Africa: Beyond the ‘race hunting’.

Hailemariam Desalegn.

Ethiopia’s PM and AU chairman Hailemariam Desalegn reckoned at the end of the 21st AU Summit that the ‘ICC process has degenerated into some kind of race hunting.’

Often more than not cast as an expression of American and Anglo-European imperialism either rightly or in total ignorance, international law isn’t an ‘irrelevant curiosity’ per se. Africa has no doubt suffered a host of gross injustices for ages, from colonialism, possibly the worst political tragedy to ever befall the continent; to the demonized Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) and decrying them here will be of little if no help at all to her. That the unfairness of the international justice system can be traced back to the Nuremberg and Tokyo International Military Tribunals for the reason that the allegations of war crimes committed by the Allied forces went unheard, means that  sentiments of the same as regards the ICC today is anything but novel. Nonetheless, the adoption of the ICC’s founding statute entitled the Hague-based court to embody the moral authority of the community of nations, at the very least undoubtedly.

Genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression are committed by men, not by abstract entities, noted the Nuremberg IMT. The crime of aggression is however yet to be defined and until such a time that it has, the ICC will only exercise jurisdiction over it upon determination of that particular definition and its subsequent inclusion  through an amendment to the 1998 Rome Statute. In spite of the change of tune lately in its relationship with the International Criminal Court, it would be worthwhile to note that in 2010, Kampala (never mind Khartoum’s position) did host the review conference aimed at putting forward proposals for a direct definition of the crime of aggression. Furthermore, irrespective of how justifiable the criticisms on the basis of who pays the piper calls the tune are, it ought not to be lost on us that it is the duty of the Assembly of States Parties, to which every party to the Rome Statute is a member to determine and decide the expenses of the court.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

The overly non-independent nature of many a judiciary on the continent gives way to alternatives and as such, the only continental institution that *could* have probably stopped this ‘race hunting’ by the ICC, is the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights. The court’s express jurisdiction, if I may so call it, is with regards to violations of the Banjul Charter’s provisions. It is thus laughable that as we criticize the ICC, only 26 African countries have ratified the protocol establishing the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights. Even more startling is the fact that only six countries (Burkina Faso, Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Rwanda & Tanzania) as of March 2013, according to the court’s website, have made a declaration accepting the jurisdiction of the court. The declaration is mandatory to allow an individual to bring complaints or make applications to the Arusha-based court. When all is said and done though, prosecution of international crimes is just but one of the remedies of getting justice. Truth and reconciliation commissions, amnesties, as well as local mechanisms a la Rwandese Gacaca Courts count as alternatives and complements to national and international prosecutions. Whilst shouting atop the roofs about the non-indictment of the likes of Bush and his English friend-Blair, maybe we should always keep in mind that ‘might, might not always be right, but unless confronted by equal might, it might as well be right’.


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