World View: South Africa’s Withdrawal Throws Future of International Criminal Court into Doubt

South African Justice Minister Michael Masutha gives a press briefing in Pretoria on Octob

This morning’s key headlines from

  • South Africa’s withdrawal throws future of International Criminal Court into doubt
  • Is the ICC racially biased against Africans?
  • The fallacy of prosecuting war crimes

South Africa’s withdrawal throws future of International Criminal Court into doubt

International Criminal Court in the Hague (Getty)
International Criminal Court in the Hague (Getty)

A week after Burundi announced it was withdrawing from the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma announced that it would do the same. In each case, the withdrawal becomes effective one year after the ICC receives notice.

South Africa’s action was triggered by Burundi’s withdrawal, and also because the ICC criticized Zuma’s administration for failing to arrest Sudan’s leader Omar al-Bashir when he visited Johannesburg for an African Union summit last year.

The ICC was set up in 2002 by the Rome Statute, which 123 countries have ratified, although the US is notably absent. Its purpose is to bring to justice those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes — terms that are all defined in detail in the Rome Statute.

However, in its 16 year existence, it has only prosecuted African states. Since 2014, the African Union has urged member states not to co-operate with the ICC, accusing it of being racially biased against Africa. Uganda, Kenya and Namibia have also discussed withdrawing from the ICC.

For South Africa, the government is currently in chaos because of corruption accusations leveled at Jacob Zuma. Zuma’s opposition Democratic Alliance is opposed to the decision, as described by James Selfe, a leading official:

The Democratic Alliance is disgusted at this decision. We think it sends out an entirely incorrect message around our commitment to human rights and our abhorrence of human rights abuses and of genocide, and we believe that it would set back our foreign policy and the way in which South Africa is viewed in a very fundamental way.

We also believe that the decision itself has been taken in a way which is unconstitutional, unlawful. Accordingly, we will we will be lodging papers in the constitutional court on Monday morning seeking the court’s ruling seeking that it reviews and sets aside this decision by the South African government.

According to activist opposition leader Mosiuoa Lekota:

This government continues to destroy all the good and hard work that the former Presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki spent many years to build. Now everything has been thrown out of the window.

Pulling out of the ICC will expose our children to war crimes in South Africa without recourse to a higher court.

Selfe added that a decision to withdraw from the ICC would require a vote by the parliament. Times Live (South Africa) and VOA and BBC and Foreign Policy

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Is the ICC racially biased against Africans?

It is just an accident of history that the ICC appears to be biased against Africans. There have been war crimes trials against other nations, but they have taken place in other courts. The African nation whining about bias know this, but they’re looking for an excuse to avoid being held responsible for their crimes, even though it’s the victims of the crimes that really want to see the court trials take place.

There are trials targeting the Khmer Rouge for their alleged war crimes in Cambodia’s “killing fields” war in the 1970s, but that trial is being held in the “Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia” (ECCC) in Angk Snuol, Cambodia.

There is a trial targeting Ratko Mladic for atrocities committed at the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in the Bosnian war, but that trial is being conducted in a special court called the “International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia” in The Hague.

There were trials in 1945 for Nazi war criminals, but they were held in special courts in Nuremberg, Germany. Japan’s war crimes trials were held in 1946 in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE) in Tokyo.

So, taken as a whole, war crimes courts have certainly not specifically targeted Africa. Deutsche Welle and Human Rights Watch and Rome Statute creating the ICC

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The fallacy of prosecuting war crimes

Since World War II, this idea of prosecuting genocide and war crimes has been latched on to as a way to save the world. Ever since the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders, “Never again!” must have uttered by politicians thousands of times, referring to the Holocaust.

And yet the Nuremberg trials did not prevent Mao Zedong from killing 45 million people in the Great Leap Forward genocide (1958-59); didn’t prevent Pol Pot from killing 8 million people in the Cambodia Killing Fields genocide (1975-79); didn’t prevent 8 million people from being killed in the Rwanda genocide (1994); didn’t prevent Robert Mugabe from committing the Operation Gukurahundi genocide in Zimbabwe (1984); and isn’t preventing Bashar al-Assad from committing genocide in Syria today, with the help of war criminals Vladimir Putin of Russia and Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei of Iran.

Shakespeare wrote in Venus and Adonis: “Were beauty under twenty locks kept fast, Yet love breaks through and picks them all at last,” a couplet that’s often summarized as “Love laughs at locksmiths.” Just as love laughs at locksmiths, war crimes laugh at the ICC.

No one could seriously believe that Adolf Hitler would have cancelled the Holocaust out of fear of being prosecuted by some court. Or that Mao Zedong would have canceled the Great Leap Forward for a similar reason. The whole concept is absurd.

Love, sex and genocide are all part of the base human DNA. They do not respect skin color, geography, race or religion. From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, they are part of every human’s core makeup, and they are the way the world works, whether we like it or not.

So the politicians in South Africa and Burundi see Bashar al-Assad in a full-scale genocide in Syria, and they’re asking, “Why the hell is the ICC picking on us Africans? Go pick on Bashar al-Assad, and just let us go on committing atrocities, torturing, mutilating and exterminating people we dislike, and stop bothering us about it.” Shakespeare: Venus and Adonis

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, International Criminal Court, ICC, Burundi, South Africa, Jacob Zuma, Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, Mosiuoa Lekota, Cambodia, Khmer Rouge, Killing fields, Ratko Mladic, Srebrenica massacre, Bosnian war, James Selfe, Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler, Nuremberg, Japan, Holocaust, China, Mao Zedong, Great Leap Forward, Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe, Operation Gukurahundi, Syria, Bashar al-Assad, Vladimir Putin, Russia, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, Iran, Shakespeare, Venus and Adonis
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