International Criminal Court- The Way Out For Africans
By Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba
The question “is ICC for Africans only” is legitimate question to be asked and answered. The question has been asked, but I doubt that any answers could be expected especially from those who are best qualified to answer it: the West. My brief answer is yes ICC is mostly for “African criminals.”
This is not to say that there are only African criminals. No, far from it.
There are war criminals everywhere. But do not expect to see the young man who went into Afghan villages and slaughtered 9 children, some women and men. He will NEVER be tried as a war criminal in ICC or elsewhere. Remember the incident at Iraqi Abu
Gharaeib prisons where war prisoners were abused; the soldiers who urinated on dead corpses in Afghanistan; the tortures of “terrorists” in Gutanmo US prisons; The killings in Palestinian Territories; the abuse and killings of NGO’s trying to ferry supplies to Palestinians; etc, etc. Such cases will never get to ICC.
Why you might ask?
Some of the abusing countries are not members of ICC or rather are not signatories to the treaties. Some have it engraved in their constitutions that what they do cannot be submitted to any authority outside their jurisdiction and that the final authority on their state actions would be their Supreme Court, their legislatures and their presidents.
Outside of these only God has any final say.
So it is illegal in their constitution for any body to hand their soldiers or their criminals or their citizens to anybody else. Another point is that even if one wants to take their criminals to ICC and see what the ruling on jurisdiction is, one must first arrest the alleged criminals. These nations are so powerful that you cannot do it in their territory but they can get into Ivory Coast and arrest its president and take him to ICC. They can pressure an Obasanjo to arrest the Liberian president he had granted asylum and turn him over to ICC.
They have power, you do not.
They have economic power; they have military might; they understand the language of the treaty better than you; because none of those treaties is written in Igbo or interpreted in Igbo. You have to hire their lawyers to interpret it to you after the fact.
I mentioned economic power above. It is perhaps the most potent power they have and the one they use the most. If during the time Mr. Obasanjo was asked to hand over his host to ICC and he refused, his assets in the West would be frozen and converted to US, or European assets. He would be denied visa and some of his asset would be turned over to his enemies to fight him. In other words he would pay a PERSONAL price for his “stubbornness.”
Those are the reasons Africans are where they are.
Is there a way out and what is it?
There are ways out but they are all difficult ways. Remember that there is a treaty against acquiring nuclear weapons. Well Israel got a few. The reason advanced for letting them get those weapons of mass destruction is that they never signed the treaty. Iran cannot get them because they signed the treaty. One knew a long time ago what was in the treaty and one did not.
That is the difference.
But it should not be the end.
If you signed it you can withdraw from it.
That is the way out for Africans in most of the global treaties that are used to tie their hands. They can withdraw from at least 50% of the treaties they are signatories to. But that does not mean that they would be free. The pressure not to withdraw would pile on the leaders. And if they insist, they will pay personal prices. Their personal assets would be frozen and they would not get visa to meet their girl friends in NY, London, and Paris etc. If you ever kept a harem you will understand how difficult it is to stay away. If you are sick you would have to go to Iyi-Enu Hospital in Ogidi. Or to Adazi Nnukwu. Or to Oji River. Those would be the last places you want to go.
You will submit. You will succumb.
And even if you did not, you can be sure that the other African leaders would not join you in your act of disobedience. The first step is therefore not to have deposits abroad. Part of Nelson Mandela’s strength is that nobody is safe keeping his asset for him and therefore there is no way or room for black mail.
You have to live like him.
In a nutshell the way out for Africans is to withdraw from the treaties they had already signed; to not sign any more treaties no matter how sugar coated they are, even those that look so very pleasing and seems to be tailored to “save” them; not to loot from their treasuries, but if they must to keep the loot at home and fight to protect it there.
These are easier said than done.
Otherwise to grin and bear it.
Like a man.
Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba
- The ICC debate: A pan-African perspective (indepthafrica.com)
- Ogaden Somalis file Ethiopia ICC complaint (indepthafrica.com)
- SMNE’s Letter to ICC Prosecutor (indepthafrica.com)
- AU: African States Should Increase Support for Justice – HRW (indepthafrica.com)
- ICC blasts Chad, Malawi over al-Bashir (indepthafrica.com)
- African Dictators: Can’t Run, Can’t Hide! Alemayehu G. Mariam (indepthafrica.com)