Author Topic: Africa has every right to review ICC participation  (Read 1690 times)

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Offline mayya

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Africa has every right to review ICC participation
« on: October 10, 2013, 23:10:35 PM »
Africa has every right to review ICC participation
by Sipho Hlongwane, 09 October 2013, 05:52

YOU may not have noticed two politically intriguing events in Africa this week. First, the African Union is meeting to decide the future of the continent’s participation in the International Criminal Court (ICC). Then there was the attempted capture of a high-ranking al-Shabaab target in Mogadishu, and the successful capture of an al-Qaeda leader in Libya.

The former may have finally been brought to bear by the trial of Kenya’s leaders at the global court, and the latter by the deadly terrorist attack in a Nairobi mall last month. But these events are connected — and speak profoundly to the future of Africa.

The raid in Barawe, Somalia, by the same Navy SEAL team that assassinated Osama bin Laden in Pakistan two years ago was, by all accounts, a failure. Whoever the target was — it could have been al-Shabaab chief Ahmed Abdi Godane, or senior commander Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir (aka Ikrima) — he wasn’t captured, and the American forces were beaten back by al-Shabaab fighters in the seaside villa they raided. If the US plan was to bolster al-Shabaab’s standing after the mall attack, it carried it out with aplomb. (One would think that after years of trying, the US special forces would have figured out a way to out-fight Somali guerrilla fighters.)

The ramifications of the Somalia raid may be large, especially in the tit-for-tat game of global terrorism, but for now it is the successful Libya raid that is causing political drama. Thanks to the rather tenuous nature of the Libyan central government, it has to play an unpleasant balancing act between the interests of the Western powers that helped depose Muammar Gaddafi and the (often) Islamist rebel formations and insurgents who now control vast swathes of the country after the collapse of the dictatorship in 2011.

In Libya, the US raiders managed to capture Abu Anas al-Liby, an al-Qaeda leader believed to be responsible for the bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 that claimed 224 lives. He was snatched off the streets of Tripoli on Saturday.

While Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has said that relations between his country and the US would not be affected by the raid, US envoy Debora Jones was summoned by the Libyan justice minister to explain the raid. It would appear it wasn’t sanctioned by the Libyan government, and raises questions about its legitimacy and legality.

The position of the Libyan government is that its citizens must be tried within its borders. The US has promised to try Liby in a court of law.

However, both raids raise serious questions about the US’s approach to international law. It points directly to the concerns about the ICC that delegates from African countries will discuss in Addis Ababa this week. Why does it appear that such high-minded court cases only apply to African atrocities, and not to crimes committed by other countries?

Writing in the Guardian, Simon Tisdall said: "The raids yielded one wanted man. They shed yet more blood. They played the terrorists’ game. They invited further retaliation and escalation down the road. They reminded Muslims everywhere that the US, in righteous mood, has scant regard for other countries’ borders and national rights. And they did nothing to address the roots and causes of confrontation between Islam and the West."

Let’s not lose sight of the fact that, in reality, the stance of most African leaders on the ICC is one of incredible hypocrisy. Most African cases brought to the court come from Africans themselves, many of whom have failed to find any justice within their own countries for atrocities.

The conversation about this continent’s involvement in the court cannot happen outside that reality. The death of the Southern African Development Community tribunal last year happened simply because Zimbabwe refused to comply to its rulings on seized land.

Accountability for atrocities committed on African soil must happen in Africa — but we need strong institutions that operate outside political influence. Ironically, it is the politicians themselves who have the power to set up these institutions.

Without the ability to find justice at home, Africans will continue to go to the ICC.

But at the same time, we can’t be blind to the fact that the continent has been made to bear the burden of cases.

The move by African countries to lobby against the United Nations Security Council’s direct say in the cases that the ICC prosecuted was seen as a move to weaken the court, but I think it should be applauded for as long as the council remains unreformed. You don’t need me to show you how its make-up skews global power. The US is not a signatory of the Rome Statute, but would have had the power to dictate where the eyes of ICC prosecutors are pointed through its permanent seat on the council.

By the same token, it is Africa’s general weak standing in global politics that has seen it bear the brunt of ICC focus. Aside from this continent, the other indictees are men such as Slobodan Milosevic and Ratko Mladic who come from the former Yugoslavia, a country that no longer exists. It is telling that no ad hoc tribunal (let alone permanent) has ever sat to decide on cases about the five permanent powers on the UN Security Council.

I don’t believe the AU will withdraw en masse from the ICC. Furious negotiations will suddenly spring up before any such document can be signed. But we can ignite a valuable debate about what African self-determination must look like. Africa must resist undue interference from the outside while upholding peace and justice for its own. That is the only way.