The imminent mass exodus from the ICC by African member states: A turning point for justice in Africa?Posted: 26 May, 2016
Author: Thabang Mokgatle
Candidate Attorney, Rushmere Noach Incorporated, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.
After several months of reading headlines, scholarly articles and opinion pieces about the International Criminal Court (ICC) and its alleged anti-Africa agenda, news that Senegal had taken a decision to prosecute former Chadian leader Hissène Habré for, amongst others, crimes against humanity was welcomed.
Implementing the international law principle of universal jurisdiction, the Extraordinary African Chambers (EAC) were opened in Senegal in 2013, giving the domestic courts of the country the authority to try the former leader for war crimes committed in Chad from 1982 to 1990. Universal Jurisdiction, and particularly the jurisdiction of the EAC allows for the African member State to prosecute persons responsible for international crimes, irrespective of whether they are a former or sitting Head of State. As Thulasizwe Simelane of ENCA News aptly puts it, the trial is “‘one small step for a country (Senegal) and one giant leap for the continent” .The move is indeed revolutionary for Africa. Revolutionary because one need only refer to media headlines to deduce that the gripe African leaders have with the ICC is underscored by its persistent ‘targeting’ of African leaders in office.
On 13 October 2013, leaders of African states will meet in Addis Ababa, under the African Union (AU) banner), to consider a possible withdrawal from the Rome Statute creating the International Criminal Court (ICC). African leaders do not find favour with the ICC’s pursuit of Kenya’s “big men”- President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto. The AU draws links between the indictment of Kenyatta and Ruto with that of President Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan and Laurent Gbagbo of the Ivory Coast. Having drawn such links, the AU is of the view that the ICC is a western plot to finish-off African leaders. What is striking of the AU’s ICC analysis is the complete lack of consideration for the victims, 99.9% of whom are Africans. It seems as though grave crimes against humanity are of much less importance when a few “big men” stand accused. What seems to be of extreme importance in the minds of African leaders is that, once again, one of their kind is wanted for crimes against humanity.
African heads of states are rarely united on any issue relevant to development of the continent, such as a common currency, the free movement of people and products, military interventions in war torn regions, etc. However, when it comes to protecting the likes of Bashir and Kenyatta, the AU is zealously united – without regard to the victims of atrocities.