By Brian Kulpan
Over the course of the past month, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has received notice that the three African nations, Burundi, South Africa, and The Gambia, have initiated the process of retracting their membership from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Since the adoption of the Rome Statute in 1998, the ICC has served as a permanent tribunal to investigate war crimes and prosecute heinous actions that rock humanity to its core. In particular, the court covers issues of genocide, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression.
For decades, African countries asserted that the ICC has shown a distinctive bias in its case selection process. Leaders have claimed that the tribunal purports a colonial system of justice and deliberately seeks to bring charges against African violators, all while ignoring crimes committed by westerners. The accusations of overwhelming bias in case selection against the ICC have long been a point of contention amongst African member states.
According to the New York Times, 124 members of the ICC, 34 are African states. Since the inception of the ICC in 2002, all of the charges have been against African nationals. Currently nine out of the ten investigations taken up by the ICC, comprise of African nationals.
A recent article from Aljazeera analyzed a televised state address given by Gambia’s information minister Sheriff Bojang, “There are many Western countries, at least 30, that have committed heinous war crimes against independent sovereign states and their citizens since the creation of the ICC and not a single Western war criminal has been indicted.”
During his address, Bojang noted the case of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a western leader who was not indicted by the ICC for his role in supporting the Iraq War. With such an intense focus on the region, there is little surprise as to why the ICC has been labeled a tool of the neo-colonialist system, where western powers are able to exercise greater control over the ongoing affairs of the African Continent.
The recent defections of ICC member states from the court, on grounds of case selection bias and undermining peace in Africa only highlight burgeoning divisions within the Hague and put forth the prospect for serious dialogue regarding the legitimacy of the current system to take place.
Now in 2016, this issue has reached a boiling point and encourages disgruntled countries to take concrete actions on their assertions. At the present moment, only three countries have taken the first steps towards leaving. Kenya, Namibia, and a host of other countries, however, have also begun to voice an interest in joining the growing list of African defector states.
With more African states looking to follow suit and withdrawal from the ICC, the probability of large scale conflict, enflamed tribal tensions, mass-scale genocide, violence against civilian populations, proliferation of extremist organizations and the exploitation of natural resources expands exponentially.
By Brian Kulpan