via Zim criticised for backing Africa’s withdrawal from ICC | SW Radio Africa by Alex Bell on Friday, October 11, 2013
Zimbabwe is facing criticism for throwing its weight behind pressure for African nations to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC), with human rights groups saying such a move puts the rule of law in Africa in jeopardy.
African foreign ministers on Friday gathered in Ethiopia for the start of a two day, special summit, called by the African Union (AU) to discuss the continent’s relationship with the ICC. This weekend’s summit is set to discuss the continued membership of the 34 African countries that have ratified the Rome Statue, the treaty that founded the ICC in 2002.
The meeting opened with a scathing attack by Ethiopia’s foreign minister on the Hague based international court, which he accused of treating Africa ‘unfairly’.
“The manner in which the court has been operating, particularly its unfair treatment of Africa and Africans, leaves much to be desired,” Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told ministers and delegates at the opening of the two-day meeting.
The special summit comes as tensions between the court and Kenya continue to rise, with Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta and deputy-president William Ruto both being charged with committing crimes against humanity.
Several nations in the 54-member AU have accused the ICC of bias towards Africa, and have demanded that the court drop its cases against Kenya’s leadership. African states have also repeatedly ignored ICC orders to hand over the indicted Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the ICC for genocide and war crimes in Darfur.
The most recent African state to support calls for a mass withdrawal from the ICC is Zimbabwe, with Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa saying this week that Africans must “stand up and stamp their authority” against the court. He also accused the ICC of ‘humiliating’ African leaders by targeting them, while letting off Western leaders over conflicts in Iraq and Libya.
Amnesty International’s Southern Africa Director Noel Kututwa said a withdrawal from the ICC would be “retrogressive,” and “a smack in the face for victims of international crimes spread across the African continent.”
He told SW Radio Africa that Zimbabwe is “associated with impunity,” and it was therefore no surprise the country was backing calls for a mass withdrawal from the court.
“If we look at elections (in Zimbabwe) in 2000, 2002 and 2008, a lot of political violence took place, a lot of people were killed, serious injuries happened. All those cases are yet to be addressed and point to serious impunity,” Kututwa said.
Dewa Mavhinga, a senior researcher in the Africa division of Human Rights Watch, agreed that the impunity enjoyed by Zimbabwe’s leadership means that there would never be support for ICC.
“Cleary those countries that have something to hide, that are concerned that they may be called to account for abuses of the rule of law in their own backyards, are most vocal (for the withdrawal from the ICC), particularly Zimbabwe,” Mavhinga said.
He added: “If you look at Zimbabwe’s track record, it is one of insincerity in terms of commitment to the rule of law.”
Mavhinga added that any decision to withdraw from the ICC would have a serious impact on the rule of law and human rights protection across Africa.
“This would put the rule of law in the African continent in jeopardy. It is time for Africa to strengthen the institutions that stand for good governance, the rule of law and democracy,” Mavhinga said.
Meanwhile, Nobel laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has made an urgent appeal for members of the public to sign a petition, hosted by the Avaaz online campaign group, in a show of support against an AU walkout from the ICC. In his letter to Avaaz users, Tutu accused African nations of “trying to drag Africa out of the ICC” and “inflict terror across their countries … without consequences.”
“This threat to the ICC started precisely because the court was doing its job,” he said. “It charged Kenya’s deputy president for killing people who rallied against him during an election and Sudan’s president for murdering women and children in Darfur. Now Kenya and Sudan are lobbying all of Africa to pull out of the court and destroy its chance of success.”
More than 650, 000 signatures have already been added to the online petition, which is addressed to the Presidents of South Africa and Nigeria, urging them to “speak out in favour of the ICC.”