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Do international courts serve as tools for Western nations?

By Josephat Sinvula

Stephen Gowans article on the "Law of the Rulers" in the Southern Times of May 13, 2012 was a scholarly piece of work. It was well researched and advanced the premise that, "the function of international courts controlled by Western nations is not to deter atrocities, for atrocities committed in the service of Western imperialism are never prosecuted, but to deter military action against Western interests. Indeed, Western-controlled tribunals are tools of regime-change".

Let us look at two extreme cases: that of Charles Taylor, the former President of Liberia who was convicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone on a long list of atrocities, including acts of terrorism; murder; rape; sexual slavery; recruiting child soldiers; enslavement, pillage, etc on one hand and Libyan rebels aided and abetted by NATO leaders who "abducted, arbitrarily detained, tortured and killed" their way through the rebellion while reducing the city of Sirte to rubble through indiscriminate shelling, in itself a war crime on the other hand.

If we follow the paradigm shift of the Court that "the Prosecution had not alleged that Mr Taylor had committed these crimes in person but that he had "aided and abetted the rebels (the crimes' perpetrators) by providing them with arms and ammunition, military personnel, operational support and moral support", can we confidently say the same that they will be a Special Court for Libya to prosecute the rebels backers or will there be indictments against Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy by the International Criminal Court? After all, Taylor was convicted of doing what the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of Britain and the former President of France recently did in Libya: arming and supporting an atrocity-committing rebel group for they aided and abetted the rebels, furnished them with arms and ammunition, gave them military personnel, provided operational support and supported them morally.

The same tools of regime change are being spearheaded by Washington to depose Syrian President Bashar Assad with watered down "sanctions;

diplomatic pressure; increased engagement with the opposition... and the looming threat of prosecution-all tools at the disposal short of military intervention for regime change" [Stephen Gowans Emphasis] Political pundits in Africa have equally advanced the myopic view that the UN International Court of Justice is "only targeting Africans and their leaders and not Westerners and their leaders like ex- President George Bush, Jr", for war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the renowned and astute Namibian Diplomat with impeccable credentials, Ambassador Tuliameni Kalomoh: Special Advisor to Namibia's Minister of Foreign Affairs and also former UN Special Representative to Liberia, as quoted by Marianne Nghidengwa in the weekly Confidente Newspaper of 10- 16 May 2012, critics due to sheer ignorance, are fundamentally wrong in asserting that the Court is only targeting Africans and their leaders.

Ambassador Kalomoh begins by qualifying the issue by making it explicitly clear that, "we Africans do not condone impunity. We should be held accountable for our actions but such convictions should be fair and applied internationally. We must fight impunity for justice. The Tailor trial has not met the criteria".

According to Ambassador Kalomoh, "every case before the Court was either brought by Africans or African Members of the Security Council. There is no record of African Members having voted against a referral of any case that has appeared before the Court".

For instance, Taylor's case was taken to the Court by the Liberian Government with the support and connivance of key African Governments in West Africa. Similarly, Jean-Pierre Bemba of DRC was taken to the Court by the Government of the Central African Republic for atrocities he had committed in the country. President Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan case was referred by the UN Security Council whereas the Rebel- Without-A-Cause, Joseph Kony of Uganda was referred to the Court by the Government of Uganda and during 2011 Muammar Gadaffi's case was referred by the Security Council.

Indeed with such hypocrisy in African led Governments today, who's fooling who when we say the Court is targeting African leaders only? The reality on the ground is that there are so many cases from Africa before the UN International Court of Justice but we Africans look the other way to ascertain who brought these cases to Court; hence, we should only be angry at ourselves!

Josephat Inambao Sinvula has a B.Sc in Urban Studies & Planning from Virginia Commonwealth University at Richmond, Virginia, USA; MPA from Atlanta University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA and is a Ph.D in Political Science. He is currently employed as Head of Human Capital, Finance & Administration at Oshana Regional Council in Oshakati, Oshana Region. The views expressed in this opinion piece are his own personal views.


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