African leaders are not the only men who need to be hounded by the ICC

2015-06-17 12:44
Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Picture: Ntswe Mokoena

Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Picture: Ntswe Mokoena

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The North Gauteng High Court issued an interim order stopping Sudan’s leader Omar al-Bashir from leaving the country. He is accused of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide during the Darfur conflict, and was instructed to stay in South Africa until Monday, when the court would take a decision on whether to hand him over to the International Criminal Court (ICC). 

From the outset, we must be clear that all and any forms of injustice are condemned in the strongest terms. Tyrannical rulers and perpetrators of mass murder must be held accountable for their crimes, however, this rule must be applied to all men who fall under the above description, and not a select few. 

It is with a deep sense of embarrassment that I ask a question plaguing many an educated mind: Do you think the ICC would ever pursue an Israeli, Western European or North American leader as they do Africans? 

From what we have witnessed, and no conjectures of hypothetical extrapolations needed, the simple answer is no. I visited the “current cases” page on the ICC official website. There are seven cases currently under way; seven African leaders currently being tried; seven men of colour being tried. 

It is never in the interest of progressiveness to propagate racist ideals when the motives do not exist, and some people may argue that if these are the men guilty of war crimes they are the ones who should be tried. I agree completely, any man who orchestrates gross human rights violations of another man deserves to be held accountable. However, knowledge of current world affairs makes it all too transparent that African leaders are not the only men who need to be hounded by the ICC. 

Why is George W Bush not being tried, the man who led a modern day crusade against Iraq and Afghanistan with fabricated motives and is responsible for the complete destruction of those countries? Supported by his cronies in savagery Tony Blair, the Washington DC-based Physicians for Social Responsibility released a landmark study this year that concluded that the death toll from 10 years of the “War on Terror” since the 9/11 attacks is at least 1.3 million, and could be as high as 2 million. That warrants a war crime worthy of trial. 

Why is Benjamin Netanyahu not being tried, a man who launches an offensive on the besieged people of Gaza every two years, wreaking havoc and death that doesn’t spare children, hospitals and even United Nations shelters. The UN, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Israeli Human Rights Organisation B’Tselem, among many others, have conducted extensive fact-finding missions concluding that Israel is guilty of war crimes. That warrants a trial, surely. 

In looking for answers as to why African leaders seem to be the only men pursued by the ICC, I came across a shocking fact: there are international agreements of the Rome Statute referred to by several terms, including Article 98 agreements, bilateral immunity agreements, impunity agreements and bilateral nonsurrender agreements. 

Starting in 2002, the United States began negotiating these agreements with individual countries, and has concluded at least 100 such signatories. Countries that sign these with the United States agree to not surrender Americans to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. 

Essentially, no United States leader will ever face what Bashir is purely because the US has been coordinating mass diplomatic arrangements, exclusive to them. The hypocrisy of the ICC is exposed, if by nothing else, then by these agreements. 

The ICC is a court of no moral authority. As it is currently being run, its sole purpose is to allow Western powers to police their former African colonies. If we want leaders to be brought to justice, then race, ethnicity, countries of origin and political affluence can have no governing role in who is tried and who isn’t. By all means, leaders such as Bashir need to be brought to justice, but then the countless Western leaders guilty of war crimes need to be held liable too. 

» Dr Soni is vice-chairperson of the Media Review Network 

Read more on:    au summit  |  omar al bashir  |  hague  |  international criminal court ( icc)

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