This is with reference to Pan Butamire’s column, “The Hague: a throne for justice or a zoo for Africans?” in The New Times edition of September 20.
No African with any degree of humanity can dispute the need to punish perpetrators of mass atrocities and human rights abuses to assuage the thirst for justice to their victims. But highly selective justice where only Africans are targeted, while even worse abuses elsewhere, or those committed by non-Africans on Africans in Africa, perpetuates the convenient colonial myth of Africans as savages that need Western saviours to protect them from each other.
In reality, Africa is just like any other continent and needs to be treated as such. The world’s powerless need a universal power and justice to protect them against the world’s wicked powerful. But a court controlled by those same powerful countries – against us, the weak, need to be protected from an ICC, which the permanent members of the UN Security Council (including non-members of the ICC) can direct to do their bidding while putting themselves above its jurisdiction – is not an institution of justice.
It is just an additional tool of unjust control in the hands of the powerful. If the court cannot bring whoever needs to be brought to justice, no matter from which country and in whatever position of power, then it is not a court of law and should be shut down. Selective justice and double standards in the application of the law, whether national or international, is not only unjust, but is the very antithesis of justice.
An international justice system that works only for the lawyers and the aggrandisement of the careers and power of self-important “human rights” professionals, while leaving actual victims without any restorative remedy – as we saw with the ICTR’s failure to provide victims with compensation but lots of career progression and fat salaries for the lawyers and their armies of so-called experts – is not justice in any sense of the word.
There is similarly no justice when a supposedly independent entity like the ICC shows in various ways its subordination to the wishes of states that are not even signatories to its statute, but have the power to refer targets to it, while ignoring the wishes of African signatory states. As an African analyst has noted, this underlies the contemptuous attitude towards African leaders by low-ranking officials in international organisations.
We, Africans, who allow this, are as much to blame as those who hold us in that contempt.
I will only reconsider my views on the legitimacy of the ICC and other international tribunals, the moment I see western officials being hauled there to answer for their roles in crimes in mostly other parts of the world, including Africa.
Until then, I will continue to see these entities as yet another neo-colonial attempt to keep us under their control and working against our own fundamental interests.
Mwene Kalinda, Kigali
This is a very interesting article. Fighting the ICC is not fighting international justice; it is rather fighting the false idea that it’s only Africans committing crimes and also using the court in political interest.
If only African Union can have all its member states that subscribe to the ICC to withdraw from the Hague-based court and establish a strong African court of justice that can cater for Africa’s own issues. Africa should stand united on ICC but also seek an alternative to tomorrow’s injustices.
ICC should only serve the European Union.
Richard Niwenshuti, Kigali