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

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid