Solidarity against the ICC rings hollow

2016-10-30 12:33
Gugulethu Mhlungu

Gugulethu Mhlungu

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People often use the shallow notion of solidarity to justify or hide their desire to behave as badly as the ruling elite.

Take the current debate on the legitimacy of the International Criminal Court (ICC) as an example. Some castigate it for “targeting” African leaders while leaving Western heads unpunished for crimes they, too, may have committed.

Claiming the court’s pursuit of African leaders to be biased and unfair, they back this up by saying 90% of the ICC’s cases involve African leaders.

Thus, they say, Africa’s signatories should exit the tribunal, which is based in The Hague in the Netherlands.

While most of the ICC’s cases do involve African countries, the naysayers fail to admit to the fact that most of the charges before the court were brought by African officials themselves.

The argument goes that the justice dispensed by this tribunal is illegitimate as it does not deal with leaders such as the Putins, Obamas, Bushes, Blairs and others for their role in human rights violations and international crimes, as defined by the Rome statute of the ICC.

It is a dubious argument that for justice to be dispensed it must deal with everyone else before it deals with me, even if I am also in the wrong.

This is not to say that the ICC is not in need of reform – it is, and desperately so.

And it does not excuse the problematic structural issues plaguing many a justice system.

But if we are truly committed to justice, we cannot treat it as an “all or nothing” system.

Solidarity as a rallying cry to justify dangerous behaviour by African ruling elites, because others are wrong too, perpetuates a culture of impunity by those in power.

Those disadvantaged by the failings of the ICC do not just get a pass for their bad behaviour.

Furthermore, the behaviour of Western powers regarding black and poor lives is a low standard to aspire to.

There is no radicalism or solidarity in justifying the violent behaviour of black ruling elites because Western elites behave in similar, or worse, ways.

We also cannot pretend that “self-regulating” mechanisms espoused by African leaders will be any more effective – not when we have seen bodies such as the African Union consistently show themselves to be toothless without the cooperation of their sovereign state members.

This type of solidarity is assimilation, dressed up as concern for black lives, particularly on the African continent – where it was hoped that the end of years of brutal colonisation would be the end of suffering at the hands of ruling elites.

Follow me on Twitter @GugsM

Read more on:    icc  |  politics

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