International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.
KPFA News, May 30, 2011:
KPFA Weekend News Host Anthony Fest: Kenya failed today to halt an International Criminal Court prosecution of six government and media figures for allegedly organizing the country's post-election ethnic violence, which left at least 1300 dead and drove hundreds of thousands more from their homes. Kenya's government objected to the ICC proceedings, arguing that its new constitution and other reforms had opened the way for it to conduct its own prosecution with its own institutions. International criminal lawyers and human rights activists have long criticized the ICC as a court for selective, racially discriminatory, and politically agendized justice serving the interests of powerful nations, most of all the US and its allies, even though neither the U.S. nor Israel have ratified the treaty that created the court or accepted its jurisdiction over their own leaders.
KPFA’s Ann Garrison spoke with William Mitchell Law School Professor and international criminal defense attorney Peter Erlinder and with Ugandan opposition leader Okello Lucima about African nations’ growing resistance to the court, which has never tried any leaders who were not African.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: Professor Peter Erlinder, could you explain the African resistance to the International Criminal Court that Kenya appears to have joined?
Peter Erlinder: Just a little over a year ago all of the presidents of the African Union states voted not to cooperate with the International Criminal Court because it's become a court that prosecutes only Africans, and moreover, it prosecutes only Africans that are not allied with the major powers on the Security Council. The result of that is that, increasingly, the leaders of African countries, including Kenya, have come to the conclusion that the ICC, at least as far as Africans are concerned, is not a level playing field. And, you may recall that just within the last month or so, the Kenyan Parliament voted almost unanimously to ask the ICC not to go forward with the prosecutions because they had concluded that it would actually make the situation in Kenya worse by demonizing certain political figures in Kenya and allowing others off the hook. And that of course is the problem with tribunals because very often prosecutions are undertaken for reasons that are consistent with the policy interests of powerful nations rather than the facts underlying the reasons for the prosecution. And that has been the track record of the ICC.
KPFA: Okello Lucima, longtime activist and publicist of the Uganda People’s Congress, said that he likes the idea of the International Criminal Court, but not its selective prosecutions:
Okello Lucima: I support the International Criminal Court, in the principles behind it, but I think justice would require that similar cases receive similar treatment. Crimes that were committed in Northern Uganda and the Congo in no way can compare to what has happened in Zimbabwe over the same period. The Northern Uganda catastrophe was not even second to Darfur. But all these were under the watch of President Yoweri Museveni. President Taylor in Liberia was bundled and sent off to the Hague, for fomenting rebellion in Sierra Leone and theft and plunder of Sierra Leone diamonds, but Museveni did exactly the same thing in the Congo.
KPFA: Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has been a close U.S. ally since taking office in 1986. He has been a willing collaborator in the IMF and World Bank's economic structural adjustment regimes and he sent soldiers to Iraq as part of George W. Bush's coalition in 2003. Thousands of Ugandan soldiers have taken the place of U.S. troops since the troop withdrawal began.
(On May 31st, Kenya announced that it would appeal the ICC's decision.)