News / Africa

Botswana Supports International Criminal Court

Botswana's President Seretse Khama Ian Khama (file photo).
Botswana's President Seretse Khama Ian Khama (file photo).
Peter Clottey
Botswana’s information minister says Gaborone will continue to provide resolute support for the International Criminal Court (ICC) in spite of strong opposition from some African countries.

Jeff Ramsay dismissed concerns that a diplomatic clash could be looming between Botswana and other countries like Kenya and Uganda which question continued African support for the ICC.

They and other critics say the court only targets Africans, including Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“We are in dialogue with both countries about all sorts of issues including multilateral issues. So, I don’t think one issue about the ICC could cause a rift. We have very good relations with both Uganda and Kenya and we cooperate in many areas,” said Ramsay. “After all, the United States is not a member of the ICC, and yet we have good relations with the US as well.”

Kenya’s parliament recently voted to pull out of the ICC.  It has charged Kenyan deputy President William Ruto with laying a key role in the country’s 2007-2008 post-election violence. The conflict left about 1300 people dead and tens of thousands displaced from their homes. Kenya President Uhuru Kenya faces similar charges.  Mr. Ruto’s trial began in late September, while the president’s trial is scheduled for November.

African heads of state and government plan to meet in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa on October 13 to decide whether to follow Kenya’s lead of pulling out from the ICC.

“We will be at the meeting at some level, and we will be listening to our colleagues. Our ears will be open, but we are resolute in terms of standing by the principles of the International Criminal Court,” said Ramsay. “We are not only a party to the Rome Statute, but we were the first African country to ratify the Kampala amendments, which widened the court’s scope of prosecuting crimes against humanity.” 

Ramsay said it is unlikely that his government will end support for the ICC.

 “I do not want to speculate.  Of course, there are going to be discussions about the ICC at the summit, but withdrawal will be an extreme step,” said Ramsay.

A majority of members of the African Union (AU) are signatories to the Rome Stature that established the international court.

Ramsay however did not confirm whether Botswana President Ian Khama will attend the African leaders’ summit.

“Not as far as I know but, that still needs to be confirmed. Certainly Botswana will be represented at some level,” said Ramsay.
Clottey interview with Dr. Jeff Ramsay, Botswana's information minister
Clottey interview with Dr. Jeff Ramsay, Botswana's information minister i
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by: Boitumelo Sekwababe from: Johannesburg
October 10, 2013 12:06 PM
Pround to be a citizen of this great country. If there are issues that Africa has with the ICC, work on them with your colleagues, pulling out leaves the world worse off.

by: wanntaal from: UK
October 10, 2013 9:11 AM
I entirely agree with Robert's analysis of the issues raised by Xaaji.

ICC exists to put an end to total impunity by holding into account those who committed or are committing war crimes. African leaders who have not committed war crimes are not targetted by the ICC. Those who committed attrocities know that they have nowhere to hide forever as they will be found and dragged to justice. Expect what goes around to sooner or later comes around and that day would be the day for the victims and families.

Just discussing the ridiculous option of pulling out of the ICC is a huge step backward. There are numerous serious matters that African leaders should focus their time and effort on like education, health, environment, employment, agriculture, etc...

The solution is simple and inpartial: "Do not commit war crimes if you do not want to be targetted and hunted down"

When an organisation is set up for the greater good of humanity, we all have the moral obligation to support and facilitate its success. I am Black African but proud of ICC work.. I work in a field where i everyday meet victims of related victims of war crimes. The crimes may have been committed long time ago but do still have desastrous on their lives. Unlike Europe, Africa's lack of re-education and medical facilities to deal with the consequences put victims and families in a more vulnerable position where they may never recover from the horrible experience forced upon them.
For the shake of justice.... ICC FOREVER

by: selwyn marock from: Johannesburg
October 10, 2013 8:49 AM
The last Bastion of good governance in Africa Botswana.Just wish our poor Rhino and Elephants could emigrate to your great country here they are doomed to extinction in the not too distant future

by: Xaaji Dhagax from: Somalia
October 07, 2013 10:31 PM
Justice for all PERIOD. Black African leaders should not take into consideration justices exclusively for selective group. That's what's all about Rome Statute.
I have got hard time of understanding why ICC indicts only black African former and current presidents, vice presidents, journalists and janitors for what they call "war crimes". Very short while ago the world saw horrific images from Syria where the president mercilessly gassed thousands of women and children to death. No one is calling that a "war crime". There are lots of non black leader who commit war crimes for a living. AFRICA wake up!!
In Response

by: Robert from: South Africa
October 08, 2013 5:47 AM
Xaaij study which continent pushed for the creation of the ICC, yes Africa lead the charge. Post the genocide in Rwanda, the human rights abuses in West Africa and killing of over 3 million civilians (probably an understatement) in the DRC, during the 1990s numerous African Nations pushed hard for the implementation of an organization to hold war criminals to account.

Simple math explains why so many African “Leaders” are in the dock. It does not take the brains of an Archbishop to determine that where there is conflict there generally tends to be human rights abuses. According to the African Armed Journal Online there are currently more than 15 conflicts in Africa. Which other continent has this level of violence. So it should therefore not be a surprise that so many of us African’s have been fingered to explain our actions to the ICC. Xaai someone living in a country devastated by civil war, and if the media is to be believed (I do on this occasion) human rights abuses occur with devastating frequency would you not want those who have committed these abuses to stand trial for their actions?

Lastly this notion that only Africans are held to account by the ICC is faulty and it is worrying that the AU is portraying this message to Africa. The ICC has convicted, or helped convict war criminals in Europe and Asia. In the Former Yugoslavia the ICC has, or is in the process of charging: Prime Minister Slobodan Milošević (the first sitting head of state indicted for war crimes). Other "high level" indictees included Milan Babić, former President of the Republika Srpska Krajina; Ramush Haradinaj, former Prime Minister of Kosovo; Radovan Karadžić, former President of the Republika Srpska; Ratko Mladić, former Commander of the Bosnian Serb Army and Ante Gotovina. I my opinion it is perhaps only the Serbian people who can question the unbiased nature of the ICC, considering that the ICC has yet to convict a non-Serb for war crimes in the Former Yugoslavia. And I am a firm believer of “it takes two to tango.”

Then there is Cambodia where the ICC has worked closely with the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia to convict five rather nasty Khmer Rouge leaders.

Xaaij don’t simply believe the rhetoric of our so called African Leaders. Their accusations against the ICC may just be to protect themselves. I’d rather someone held them to account than they promise to judge themselves. In legal terms we would have a case of nemo iudex in sua causa (being a judge in one’s own case). Fortunately history has proved us with an excellent example of what happens when rogue Nations decide they should not be held accountable to an international body, namely the demise of the League of Nations set up post the destruction of WWI. The end result was the greatest loss of life in mankind’s history namely WWII.

Africa suffers because of a lack of accountability, whether it is simple corruption or war crimes. To deny this is to deny that ones lungs require oxygen.

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