Time to dissolve ‘racist’ ICC

The problem with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, established in 2002 to bring war criminals to justice, is that it’s far from being international, writes Linda S. Heard.
During the 13 years since its inception, it has indicted 32 individuals who all “happen” to be African nationals. So are we to suppose that war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity are solely the province of Africa?
It’s no wonder that African leaderships are deeply offended, and who can blame the South African authorities for smoothing the exit of Sudanese President Omar Bashir, who was not only an invited guest of the African Union but who had also received assurances of immunity during his stay.
More importantly, the ICC’s request was in direct contradiction of international law whereby a sitting head of state or high officials traveling on state business enjoy immunity from arrest.
For instance, in November 2007, the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues and the US Center for Constitutional Rights lodged a suit against former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in France alleging he was responsible for human rights abuses, including torture. However, French prosecutors ruled that Rumsfeld was immune from prosecution because of the immunity enjoyed by heads of government and ministers.
The UK, which adhered to the concept of Universal Justice, has found ways to circumvent its obligations by granting prominent visitors vulnerable to arrest “Special Mission Status,” which was used to protect Israeli politician Tzipi Livni from arrest on charges of war crimes. A visiting Israeli general, accused by a firm of lawyers acting on behalf of Palestinian plaintiffs of ordering the destruction of 50 homes in Gaza, was tipped off by the UK authorities and advised not to deplane.
Israel’s unbreakable bond with the US and its western allies does not bode well for Palestinian hopes that now Palestine has joined the ICC, the powers that be within Israel will at last be investigated for crimes committed in Gaza last year. The Court’s prosecutors are in the process of deciding whether or not to proceed but even in the unlikely event they opt to do so, Israel will cry anti-Semitism, bar the gates to investigators and would refuse to hand-over suspects. If Bashir has committed the crimes he’s been accused of relating to Darfur, than he should be held to account, but not by a court that’s widely condemned for bias and inefficiency and has lost all credibility.
I’m sure that we can all come up names of many who deserve being investigated for their part in the death, displacement and torture of over a million Afghans and Iraqis but rather than international censure, they are heaped with honors, seats on the boards of major corporations and book tours. International justice should be blind to color, religion, nationality and if it’s not, then it’s open to being considered nothing more than a tool of the wealthy and militarily powerful.
The ICC has had more than enough time to prove itself as a non-political equitable institution but has failed to do so. And certainly the majority of African nations, most of which eagerly signed-up to the Rome Statute — including South Africa that incorporated its statutes within its national constitution — have reached that conclusion.
South Africa’s ruling ANC Party has announced that the ICC is “no longer useful for the purposes for which it was intended.” The African Union is discussing withdrawal from the ICC in favor of establishing an African court along similar lines. That’s a better option when signatories to the Rome Statute have shot themselves in the foot while non-signatory countries can literally get away with murder, virtually unchallenged.
The ICC defends its record arguing structural limitations. There is truth in that argument because global powers, such as the US, Russia, China and India along with many Middle Eastern countries have neglected to ratify the Rome Statute on which the Court was formed.
The US has gone a step further by leaning on its allies and smaller countries to sign bilateral agreements assuring that US citizens will not be handed to the ICC — many are one way or non-reciprocal. The White House’s statement urging Pretoria to arrest President Bashir and hand him to the ICC smacked of utter hypocrisy and double standards.
The only route by which nationals of states that are not members of the ICC can be referred to the court is via the United Nations Security Council. But again, this is wholly unfair because countries with allies among the big five permanent members are protected by their veto-wielding friends.
There is no doubt that the international system is set-up in such a way that the strong and their buddies get a free pass, while the weak are thrown to the wolves. This is not justice. This is unacceptable. And a court that is hamstrung by the principle of might is right is, indeed, not fit for purpose and should be dissolved.

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