Africa silent as US sanctions ICC

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Washington has never made a secret of the fact that it detests the International Criminal Court (ICC).

But matters came to a head last week when the United States announced it had imposed sanctions on top officials of the ICC.

Africa - a regular victim of Western accusations of failure to respect the rule of law and democratic principles and values - has been strangely quiet as the United States declares war on international justice.

“The ICC continues to attack Americans,” said US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo while announcing sanctions on the ICC’s Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, and the court’s Head of the Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Co-operation Divison, Phakiso Mochochoko.

Their crime, according to the super democrats in Washington, was conducting a probe into alleged war crimes by the United States and its allies in Afghanistan.

“Individuals and entities that continue to materially support those individuals risk exposure to sanctions as well,” Pompeo said in reference to Bensouda and Mochokocho.

He added the US State Department had imposed a visa ban and asset freeze on other ICC officials involved in the investigation against the US intelligence, military and its allies in Afghanistan.

If found guilty, history would have been created through the indictment of the US intelligence and military personnel in an international court for war crimes and other breaches of international law.

The US has long had a legal and policy position against the ICC, but sanctioning the court’s officials - and by extension the entire court itself - is a new low, even by America’s historically hypocritical standards when it comes to global affairs.

Established in 2002 by the 124 signatories to the Rome Statute, the ICC “investigates and, where warranted, tries individuals charged with the gravest crimes of concern to the international community: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression”.

It is described as “a court of last resort, it seeks to complement, not replace, national Courts. Governed by an international treaty called the Rome Statute, the ICC is the world’s first permanent international criminal court”.

But the world’s experience of the ICC thus far has been of a court that the West has used to target Africans.

For instance, as at November 9, 2016, the ICC had 10 active cases and nine of those were from Africa.

Out of the 124 signatories to the Rome Statute, 34 were from Africa, making it the most represented continent to the Statute.

And after 18 years when the ICC has finally targeted a major perpetrator of international breaches of justice, the court’s officials have been sanctioned by the US.

The US has never ratified the Rome Statute and last week Pompeo indicated that Washington would not do so any time soon.

The ICC, Pompeo said, was a “thoroughly broken and corrupt institution”, adding that his country “we will not tolerate its illegitimate attempts to subject Americans to its jurisdiction”.

The irony in Pompeo’s angry outburst is that the US has not hesitated to export its reckless foreign policy to other countries through creation and funding organisations that destabilise entire countries and regions.

What’s more, the US - through its proxies such as NGOs and captured media houses - is quick to threaten the leaders of other countries with indictment at the ICC for real and manufactured crimes against humanity.

Zimbabwe, from the time of Robert Mugabe right into the present knows about this, with the ICC being used as a boogeyman to try and scare Harare into pursuing policies that are more to the West’s liking.

In 2018, US President Donald Trump threatened South Africa with sanctions over the SADC country’s move to redistribute land to black South Africans.

“I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers.

“South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers,” said President Trump in tweet that was posted on August 23, 2018.

To Africa this stance by the US both on South Africa’s move to distribute land to the black majority and the sanctions on the ICC should have provoked a stern rebuke over the blatant disregard of the rule of law by the superpower.

Notably, South Africa has seen through the sham of international justice as currently manipulated by the US and has declared its intention to pull out of the ICC.

Political analyst Mr Goodwine Mureriwa has noted that years of bitter experience demonstrate that the international justice system needs a serious overhaul.

"It's self-evident by just looking at the cases that have been tried at the ICC from former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbabgo and attempts to try Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

"In all these cases the West had clear vested interests and preferred leaders. One can say it's a court that has been used to settle scores on behalf of the West," he said.

He also notes that the United States’ refusal to join the ICC undermines the court’s effectiveness as Washington is the world’s biggest violator of human rights.

But not only does the US say it will not join the ICC, and not only does it sanction the court’s top officials, it also has a law that slows bombing of the institution’s headquarters if an American is indicted there.

The American Services Members Protection Act - more commonly known as The Hague Invasion Act - authorises the US government to use force to free any of its citizens or allies who are brought before the ICC.

The US says the ICC does not offer a trial “by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed".

The Heritage Foundation, an ultra-conservative think tank that is influential in Washington’s policy-making, says: "United States participation in the ICC treaty regime would also be unconstitutional because it would allow the trial of American citizens for crimes committed on American soil, which are otherwise entirely within the judicial power of the United States.

“The Supreme Court has long held that only the courts of the United States, as established under the constitution, can try such offences.”

While all this is happening, Africa is silent.

And that silence has been particularly deafening as two international jurists from the continent are slapped with American sanctions simply because they want to pursue true accountability and transparency in global affairs.

 

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