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Should the African Union end cooperation with the ICC?
A campaign backed by the governments of Sudan and Kenya is calling for African states to break off relations with the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Join in the debate below.
Professor Peter Kagwanja, President of the Africa Policy Institute and strategist to Kenya’s Party of National Unity
The ICC has turned into an instrument of recolo- nisation of the continent. Attitudes changed radi- cally after 2004, and Darfur was instrumental. Africans were pursuing African solutions for African problems; they deployed their own force in Darfur. And the ICC came in and indicted leaders from the Janjaweed militia and ultimately President Beshir, when Africa was trying not only to resolve the problem in Darfur, but to broker the independence of Southern Sudan. Presiding over this process was a very hawkish prosecutor
who seems not to have read any law in any part of the world.
You don’t need to be a judge to know where crimes are occurring. They are occurring in Asia, in the Middle East, in South America, within Europe itself in terms of violations against Muslims, in many parts of Africa. The ICC focus is exclusively on Africa, except in a few cases of what they call Europe’s Africa, that is, Eastern Europe. Look at the Arab uprisings: why is Libya in the ICC and Syria is not, and Yemen is not? The idea is to reassert African dignity. The idea is not to pull out or boycott the ICC, it is to ask African countries to work on political non-compliance.
Suliman Baldo, Africa director of the International Centre for Transitional Justice
There is a growing sense in Africa and among the advocacy community that the ICC isn’t sensitive to the concerns of Africans, particularly in complex political negotiations and mediation. There are also questions about why almost all the ICC’s cases are in Africa. Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo was invited to Addis Ababa to brief the AU on the court and applied to open a liaison office there, but officials asked why should the ICC not also open offices in other
continents, at other regional organisations?
However, those governments such as Sudan and Kenya, which are trying to get the AU to end cooperation with the ICC, are essentially trying to protect their own officials. The central point is that the AU’s Constitutive Act commits it both to end- ing impunity and holding those to account who are found to have committed crimes against humanity. So to reject the ICC, which shares these aims, would be to undermine the AU’s own constitution.
The AU’s Peace and Security Council has recommended that the Sudan government engage with the ICC. For the AU to end all cooperation with the court would be disastrous; it would lose all credibility and undermine the promotion of justice.