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.


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

Nearly Every Job in America Mapped in Detail

A nifty map pinpoints practically every job in the United States, revealing the economic character of America’s metropolitan areas, which also helps to inform the local culture

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs