President Hage Geingob yesterday showed fortitude in his belief that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has, in its current form, lost relevance, but a British minister begged to differ.
During his meeting yesterday with Tobias Ellwood, Britain’s minister for Africa and the Middle East, in London, Geingob expressed his long-held view that the ICC continues to target Africans at the expense of other perpetrators of crimes against humanity, from overseas.
He cited as an example crimes committed in Iraq and Libya, where thousands of citizens died but the architects of such killings – who are Western leaders – have never been brought to justice.
“Why are we not prosecuting leaders on whose watch these crimes were committed?” he asked during Ellwood’s courtesy call on him.
Joint armed forces from Britain and the USA stormed into Iraq in 2003 under the pretext of disarming Saddam Hussein’s government of weapons of mass destruction, but which proved to be a farce.
Hussein, who was found hiding in a hole as the war intensified, was eventually hanged.
Since then, thousands of Iraqi citizens have died in the war or the web of terrorist attacks that have soared to unprecedented heights since the invasion.
Critics of the Iraqi war have called for the prosecution of then American President George W. Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair for spearheading the deadly war.
In 2011, American President Barack Obama and his then French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy backed a civil war in Libya, which tore the North American country to shreds and saw its leader Muammar Gaddafi killed by rebel mobs.
Today Libya remains in anarchical turmoil and on the verge of virtual collapse.
Without mentioning names, Geingob stated that the two scenarios warranted prosecution against those who sponsored the killings.
“If any African was responsible for this, they’d be under ICC prosecution today,” Geingob said.
Namibia has started the process of withdrawing from the Rome Statute that birthed the ICC, citing bias.
Recent months have been characterized by a wave of withdrawals from the ICC by African nations, including continental powerhouse South Africa.
Ellwood said the ICC, to which his own country is not a signatory, remains an important international institution that must continue to scrutinize the conduct of trigger-happy political leaders globally.
“We need to find a way around our difference of opinion. The fact is that we need top-level scrutiny, but perhaps the ICC needs to be seen to advance the wishes of its members,” Ellwood told Geingob.
Geingob said the ICC was in principle created because many nations, especially in Africa, did not have the capacity to deal with cases of crimes against humanity.
“But today we have strong processes, systems and institutions to deal with these matters, which renders the ICC irrelevant,” Geingob said.
“The reason why nations such as the USA are not members of the ICC is because they feel they have strong institutions to deal with their own problems. Africa feels the same today.”
Perhaps the important takeaway from the discussion, as far as the future of international law is concerned, was that both Geingob and Ellwood nodded in agreement that both the United Nations (UN) and the ICC need reforms.
“We have a situation now where we can’t successfully help the people of Syria because one permanent member of the Security Council doesn’t agree with the solutions being proposed,” the British minister said.
“The two institutions need to be fit for purpose.”
Geingob is on a tour of Europe, having visited France early in the week before arriving in London on Wednesday night, having briefly flown to Havana, Cuba to attend the funeral of revolutionary leader Fidel Castro.