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

Yemen Brings US, Iran Closer to Naval Face-off

US sending two more ships to waters off coast of Yemen to take part in 'maritime security operations' More

Minorities Become Majority Across US

From 2000 to 2013, minorities became the majority in 78 counties in the United States. Here's where those demographic shifts are happening More

Japan's Maglev Train Breaks Own Speed Record

Seven-car 'magnetic levitation' train traveled at more than 600 kilometers per hour during test run Tuesday More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Paini
X
Shelley Schlender
April 20, 2015 7:03 PM
Pain has a purpose - it can stop you from touching a flame or from walking on a broken leg. As an injury heals, the pain goes away. Usually. But worldwide, one out of every five people suffers from pain that lasts for months and years, leading to lost jobs, depression, and rising despair when medical interventions fail or health experts hint that a pain sufferer is making it up. From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Italy Rescues Migrants After Separate Deadly Capsize Incident

Italy continued its massive search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean Monday for the capsized boat off the coast of Libya that was carrying hundreds of migrants, while at the same time rescuing Syrian migrants from another vessel off the coast of Sicily. Thirteen children were among the 98 Syrian migrants whose boat originated from Turkey on the perilous journey to Europe.
Video

Video New Test Set to Be Game Changer in Eradicating Malaria

The World Health Organization estimates 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children under the age of five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. As World Malaria Day approaches (April 25), mortality rates are falling, and a new test -- well into the last stage of trials -- is having positive results in Kenya. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

VOA Blogs