The International Criminal Court (ICC) has, at last, got someone in its docks. Thomas Lubanga faces six charges of recruiting and using hundreds of children aged under 15 to fight in Democratic Republic of Congo DRC’s brutal five-year conflict, which ended in 2003.
The ICC Chief Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Lubanga had used the children to “kill, pillage and rape”.
Giving his opening statement, Moreno-Ocampo said the prosecution would prove that between 1 September 2002 and 13 August 2003, Lubanga “systematically” recruited children under 15 as soldiers.
He said: “Lubanga’s militia recruited, trained and used hundreds of young children to kill, pillage and rape.
“The children still suffer the consequences of Lubanga’s crimes. They cannot forget what they suffered, what they saw, what they did. They were nine, 11, 13 years old.”
Moreno-Ocampo said some of the children were now using drugs to survive and some had become prostitutes.
Lubanga, on the other hand, insists he was fighting for peace.
He was the leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) and its armed wing at the time of the alleged crimes in 2002-2003.
The prosecution says children were snatched as they walked to school and forced to fight for Lubanga’s Hema militia against their Lendu rivals.
That’s all pretty serious stuff. But its rather strange, with all the indictments ICC prosecutors have dished out (LRA’s Joseph Kony, Jean Pierre Bemba and former Nkunda Chief of Staff Bosco Ntaganda immediately come to mind) that this is the first case before an ICC judge since its inception in 2002.
This is certainly something that the people who put the ICC into existence must have been embarrassed about. I mean, with all those human rights violations and war crimes happening all over the world, one would have thought that the ICC would have been running a brisk business.
But it is strangely the opposite. Would it be because the ICC didn’t have sufficient jurisdiction? I think not.
The International Criminal Court was put into place to prosecute and bring to justice those responsible for the worst crimes - genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes - committed anywhere in the world.
It is a court of last resort, intervening only when national authorities cannot or will not prosecute. Now, lets see, hmm, has there been any genocide since 2002?
I’m sure that those being driven from their homes in Darfur would believe that there has been some since the ICC’s inception. Crimes against humanity?
According to my rather general knowledge of what a crime against humanity is, I’d stick my neck forward and say that Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and waterboarding could have been defined as crimes against humanity.
And what about war crimes? Well, we have the recent Gaza events to look at and NATO bombings in Afghanistan and the tribal regions of Pakistan to consider. But have we seen any prosecutor handing a non-black an arrest warrant? I don’t think so.
One might say that we could have seen a European on the ICC dock if not for the already existing International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, because we all know that terrible things happened in that region, but it would be unfortunate if we believed that the only the African ‘savages’ could possibly be war criminals and human rights violators because that would be patently untrue.
The West would have us believe that the only reason that they aren’t handed indictments is because they heed international law and norms, and should by any chance ‘naughty’ citizens of these ‘angelic’ western nations involve themselves in any shady dealings, they are immediately prosecuted That’s a big joke.
If these big boys had nothing to hide and fear, then why aren’t they signatories to the 1998 Rome Statute? The United States acts like the world’s policeman, but have they signed anything? No.
The ‘reason’ being that they felt that its soldiers might be the subject of ‘politically motivated or frivolous prosecutions’. In fact, the US threatened to pull its troops out of the UN force in Bosnia unless they were given immunity from prosecution by the ICC.
Nations such as Japan, China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Turkey have also refused to sign the Rome Statue. While other ‘big’ guns such as Russia and Israel have signed but refused to ratify the agreement.
So, if all these nations have refused to be a part of this system, I wonder why we, African nations, should even bother being a part of it as well. Because it seems as if the only nations that the ICC attempt to take on are Third World ones.
In fact, I find being a part of this system embarrassing because it means that a nation cannot prosecute its own war criminals; what does it say about that nation’s sovereignty?
Not many good things I believe. That’s why I’m pleased to inform all and sundry that Rwanda isn’t part of this judicial smokescreen.