News / Africa

Groups Rally Support for ICC

Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto (R) reacts as he sits in the courtroom before his trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Sept. 10, 2013.
Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto (R) reacts as he sits in the courtroom before his trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Sept. 10, 2013.

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
Some 130 groups from across Africa are calling on governments to reaffirm their support for the International Criminal Court based in The Hague. They’ve released an open letter in advance of this week’s AU summit in Addis Ababa.


The groups say the ICC is a “crucial court of last resort.” But there has been growing criticism that the court focuses too much on Africa, including the charges filed against Kenya’s leaders stemming from the 2007/2008 post-election violence.

Jemima Kariri is a senior researcher at the International Crime in Africa Program at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, South Africa. She said, “I mean as far as international justice is concerned, the ICC was established as the only international tribunal that deals with international crimes – crimes of the gravest nature.”

She said that victims of human rights abuses need to see justice done – if courts in their own countries fail or are not able to do so.

“Africa was at the forefront of the establishment of this court. And because most of the jurisdictions in Africa are not really well suited or well equipped to deal with some of these crimes, then it is necessary -- especially the 34 countries that have signed up to the court – to make sure that they support the court in order for it to continue working on issues around impunity.”

Kariri described the court as being “quite successful in Africa” despite challenges.

“Quite a few countries have actually reached out to the court to assist in dealing with international crimes that have been committed, for example, in Cote d’Ivoire, in Uganda, in Central Africa, in Mali, as well as the DRC. Despite the fact that it takes quite a long time, I would say that it has been quite a big success, but of course a lot still needs to be done. And you must acknowledge the fact that the court of still young,” she said.

Luke Tembo, spokesman and advocacy officer for the Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation in Lilongwe, Malawi, rejected criticism that the ICC focuses too much on Africa.

“Yeah, that has been the argument. But if you look at the issue of African leaders – if you focus on the rule of law on most of the African leaders – you find that they fall short of adhering to the principles of criminal justice. Those who are saying that they focus much on Africa it’s because you will find that leaders in Africa actually perpetrate violence and abuses.”

Tembo said Malawi supported the ICC last year by refusing to host an AU summit that Sudanese President Omar al Besheer had planned to attend. Mr. Besheer has been indicted by the court on war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from the Darfur conflict.

The groups said the effort by Kenya to withdraw from the International Criminal Court has put African governments in an awkward position. Tembo and others say that “any withdrawal would send the wrong signal about Africa’s commitment to protect and promote human rights and to reject impunity.”

“That poses a threat to criminal justice in Africa. But we will push for the African leaders to be sober enough to look at the advantages of having the ICC around. If African nations pull out, then there will be untold violations and abuses of human rights with impunity,” he said.

Sulemana Braimah is deputy executive director at the Media Foundation for West Africa in Accra, Ghana. He said, “For most of the cases that have been handled by the ICC involving African countries or African governments, it is at the initiative of the countries themselves. If you take Mali or the recent case of Cote d’Ivoire, it is at the instance of the countries themselves. And if you take Darfur in Sudan, it is a U.N. initiative.”

As for the case of Kenya, Braimah doesn’t see the ICC as targeting Africa.

“We are not there yet to make that legitimate and concrete argument that the court targets Africans. Even if it does, and it is the case that violations do occur, it’s OK to have an institution that seeks to improve conditions in Africa,” he said.

In 2008, Kenya’s leaders had agreed to establish a special tribunal for cases related to post-election violence. About 1,100 people were killed. However, those efforts ground to a halt and the ICC prosecutor then opened an investigation.

Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto and former broadcaster Joshua Arap Sang are currently on trial before the ICC. They’re charged with crimes against humanity. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta faces similar charges. His trial is scheduled to begin on November 12th.

Braimah said that Africa has “regional and continental mechanisms” that are supposed to address human rights abuses and other crimes. But he said they are often not respected and their decisions ignored.

“The Media Foundation – the organization that I work with – for example, has had two cases against The Gambia at the ECOWAS court. In both cases The Gambia was asked to compensate the people involved. These were journalists. One was in 2009, the other 2011. To date, the country has flatly disregarded the court’s verdict and nothing is happening.”

ECOWAS is the Economic Community of West African States.

Jemima Kariri of South Africa’s Institute for Security Studies said the ICC faces the “politics of prosecuting the powerful.” She says if the people indicted were ordinary citizens, “no one would talk much about it.”

You May Like

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Lawi
X
William Ide
October 20, 2014 10:23 AM
China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Nigeria Agrees to Cease-Fire With Boko Haram

Islamist militant group Boko Haram and the Nigerian government have agreed to a cease-fire. The Nigerian government issued an order Friday, telling all military chiefs "to comply with the cease-fire agreement in all theaters of operations. Why now and the significance of the agreement are questions on some people’s minds. VOA's Mariama Diallo reports.
Video

Video Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

The offensive by Islamic State militants against the northern Syrian city of Kobani has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to flee to Turkey. They receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from the town of Suruc a few kilometers from the border.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.

All About America

AppleAndroid