News / Africa

Rwanda Challenges ICC Role as Court Marks 15 Years

Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto (C) sits in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, May 14, 2013.
Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto (C) sits in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, May 14, 2013.
Gabe Joselow
Rwanda’s justice minister says the International Criminal Court only delivers “selective justice” - mostly targeting African leaders. His comments come as the world marks the 15th anniversary of the statute that established the court. Some are questioning whether Africa still needs the ICC, as discontent with the institution grows.

On July 17, 1998, delegates at an international conference in Rome voted to form the so-called “court of last resort” to try perpetrators of genocide, war crimes and other major offenses where local courts were unable or unwilling to act.

Today the International Criminal Court - based in The Hague - has cases involving eight African countries including Kenya, Sudan and Ivory Coast.

Rwanda is one of the countries never to sign the Rome Statute, and remains one of the strongest critics of the court’s activities.

Justice minister defends Rwanda

Rwandan Justice Minister Johnston Busingye told VOA that while Rwanda supports the concept of international justice, he feels the ICC has unfairly targeted Africans.

“Africa seems to be taking the lion’s share of the ICC, for example, in the last one decade or so. So our position has really been this kind of justice is selective, and we do not want to have international justice being used as a tool, or being perceived as a tool to control Africa,” said Busingye.

When Rwanda was confronted with bringing justice to the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide it pursued two paths. One was the establishment of a U.N.-backed international tribunal to try suspected criminals. The other was a community-based system of so-called gacaca courts.

Busingye said the international court, where trials still are ongoing, has fallen short of its potential of holding the ringleaders of genocide accountable.
 
But Busingye said, “By and large, gacaca delivered immensely, in terms of number we have delivered on about 1.5 million cases that we probably would never have dealt with,” said .

Human rights groups states its case

Human rights groups say that while the gacaca courts did speed up trials of an enormous number of cases, they fell far short of international legal standards.

Across the continent, support for the ICC is waning as former supporters of the court now have turned their backs on The Hague.

In May, the African Union voted to refer back to Kenya the case against that country’s president and his deputy for deadly violence that followed the 2007 presidential election. AU Chairman and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn accused the court of “race hunting.”

The ICC denies it is targeting any one region or ethnicity, saying decisions on cases are based on the law, available evidence and where national courts have not taken action.  

While some African leaders may be worried they could be next to appear in at The Hague, the real point of the court is to protect the victims of violence where domestic courts have failed, according to Leslie Haskell, counsel for the International Justice program at Human Rights Watch.

“People often don’t talk about the fact that the ICC and the court is meant to provide justice to victims and the fact that the court only gets involved when national courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute,” said Haskell.

Changing mood

Discontent is not limited to African leadership. A poll of Kenyan citizens published last week showed only 39 percent want the trials against Kenya’s leaders to remain at The Hague, while the rest would prefer they return to Kenya, or be dropped altogether.

Stephen Musau, chair of the Rights Promotion and Protection Center in Kenya, said despite the mood of the country, the fact remains that Kenya so far has failed to bring the perpetrators of the post-election violence to justice.

“The failure is what led us to the ICC and that failure cannot be blamed on Kenyans. It is the state machinery, which failed to show the way in terms of how we deal with these issues and because we failed in that, we are supporting the ICC,” said Musau.

Not surprisingly, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto have led a major lobbying effort against the ICC. Their trials at the court begin later this year.

But it was in Kenya, after the disputed election, where the phrase was coined: “Don’t be vague, let’s go to The Hague.” It is clear now that tune has changed.

You May Like

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Video One Year After Massacre, Iraq’s Yazidis a Broken People

Minority community still recovering from devastating assault by IS militants which spurred massive outrage More

‘Malvertisements’ Undermine Internet Trust

Hackers increasingly prey on users' trust of major websites to delivery malicious software More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Leslie Haskell
July 25, 2013 11:07 AM
Yes the ICC system is selective and the Hague knows that well.
"Spin Doctoring" it is called. The Hague must not be vague.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs