Having read Patrick Hatari’s evisceration of the International Criminal Court a while back (‘ICC’s decision against Bashir meant to cripple African authorities’ Tuesday 17th March 2009) I feel compelled to respond. I feel quite strongly that Mr Hatari has missed the point by a considerable margin.
Mr Hatari begins by asserting that the indictment has enraged Africans because it suggests disrespect for African leadership. He also states that it is a way of undermining the institution of the presidency on the African continent.
Somewhat strangely, he argues that he does not oppose the indictment of Bashir and one begins to sense some cognitive dissonance here.
How does one reconcile his assertion of the ICC plot to undermine African leadership with his acknowledgement that the indictment to Bashir is correct?
And why then have many of the World’s major powers- United States, China and Russia- been so critical of the Court and declined to join? Surely it can’t be much of an imperialist get-together if the United States turns its nose up at the whole affair?
Mr Hatari’s thesis is that because no white men have been indicted, the ICC is fundamentally flawed. He resorts to the tried and tested ‘neocolonialism’ argument that the Court is an agent of imperialism.
However the Court was established on 1st July 2002 and can only prosecute crimes that occurred on or after the date it was set up. This is why it cannot bring the French to justice for their role in the 1994 genocide which Mr Hatari suggests they should do.
It is also not surprising that all the thirteen people indicted by the Court so far have come from three of the world’s major conflicts from the last few years- the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Northern Uganda.
The fact that all the indicted are black men is merely a reflection of the location of those conflicts. In the complex world we live in, it seems only human that we try to impose some kind of narrative on events to prevent ourselves feeling completely powerless.
However most of the conspiracy theories I’ve heard in my life tend to be severely inadequate and the more elaborate the conspiracy, the greater the likelihood it is false.
In this case, we are meant to believe that the International Criminal Court was established specifically to deter African leadership and to ensure that the white man continues to keep the black man down.
I find myself asking the same question I ask those who put forward other outlandish theories- like the claim that September 11th was organized by the US Government for example.
The question is: can you sketch even a rudimentary sketch of the mechanics of the plot?
For this particular conspiracy to work for example, you would need the West to consider us a big enough threat which-lets face it- is putting ourselves in a somewhat loftier position than our current place in the world order would suggest.
Then you would need to ensure that the founding countries are on the same page (so to speak) and that they can get the cooperation of many other Countries to ensure that warrants are not rendered worthless.
Even if you could ensure this, you would then need to make sure that the recruited judges dance to your tune. So in effect: the planners, the signatories (many of them anyway) the judges and the Chief Prosecutor would need to be ideologically subscribed to the Project. Does that sound likely to you?
But let’s assume for the sake of argument that the ‘neocolonialism’ thesis has some truth in it and that the Court is setting out to maintain the domination of the imperialist west.
In that case, why would the ICC pick possibly the most widely reviled African leader in power today? (with the exception of Robert Mugabe anyway).
And why would the rest of the indictments be aimed at a rag-tag bunch of Ugandan and Congolese warlords? What kind of attack on African leadership is that? It doesn’t make any logical sense whatsoever.
If the ICC is a plot to weaken African governance institutions, why are they attacking those very elements that are themselves destabilizing African governments? (aside from Bashir obviously) Mr Hatari suggests that in the future no African leader will be safe, but this is an illogical mental leap to a conclusion that doesn’t appear to be supported by any evidence except his own assertions.
This view of the ICC is a classic case of confirmation bias which makes someone interpret events to fit into the way they view the world. It’s a classic symptom of conspiracy theorists but unfortunately it is rarely helpful and calling on African Governments to band together to protect their ‘brother’ is one of the worst possible responses to the indictment.
Mr Hatari claims that his conscience is telling him that the ICC are agents of imperialism. It’s a pity that his conscience is not as discerning when faced with the human rights abuses that have occurred under President Bashir’s watch.
Unfortunately Mr Hatari’s article displays a tremendous case of misplaced empathy.