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International Criminal Court Begins Trial of Ousted Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo

Sudan : ICC Continues to Target African Leaders, Ignoring the Real War Criminals

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir arrives in Khartoum, after attending the African Union Summit in Johannesburg, June 15, 2015. © AFP
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir arrives in Khartoum, after attending the African Union Summit in Johannesburg, June 15, 2015. © AFP

Press TV has interviewed Abayomi Azikiwe, a Detroit-based editor of Pan-African News Wire, to ask for his take on a call by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on the sidelines of the African Union Summit in Johannesburg. A rough transcription of the interview follows.

Press TV: What do you make of this whole affair where a sitting head of state was first stopped from leaving a foreign country where he was invited first of all and then the court ruled that he should be arrested yet he left?

Azikiwe: There are two major issues involved in this. First of all this harassment and prosecution of the Sudanese president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, has been going on now for nearly a decade. The International Criminal Court was established by what was known as the Rome Statute and only the groups that are signatories to the Rome Statute are bound to abide by its regulations. The major criticism against the International Criminal Court is that it only targets African heads of state and African rebel leaders. The real culprits in terms of crimes against humanity, wars, regime change and genocidal conflicts are not being targeted by the International Criminal Court; there has been no indictment against George Bush, against Barack Obama, against Tony Blair, David Cameron or the others. So this is clearly a biased effort, plus it also demonstrates the fact that even within the South African judicial system, there are elements who in fact are not working in the interest of Africa. President Bashir was invited there as part of the African Union Summit. That takes priority over any court that is based in the Netherlands, which is in Europe, which is a former colonial and slave-owning nation.

Press TV: Indeed! Also the facts put forward about the whole issue with Bashir is the situation in Darfur. Now wouldn’t that warrant some sort of an action on the part of the International Criminal Court? Is the International Criminal Court justified in pushing this arrest warrant considering the situation in Darfur?

Azikiwe: No, because there is no substantial evidence that crimes against humanity, let alone genocide, has been committed in the western region of Sudan known as Darfur. The problems in Darfur were inherited from the legacy of the British imperialism, plus there is outside interest involved, the United States as well as Israel, that arms, finances, and coordinates many of these rebel groups in western Sudan. So these are the elements that need to be analyzed. Sudan used to be the largest geographic nation-state in Africa until 2011 when the country was partitioned at the behest of the United States, Britain, ans Israel. This is a further effort to Balkanize the country by breaking off the western region of Darfur.

MTM/KA


Related:
Attacks on Sudan Overshadow African Union Summit Held in South Africa

The Criminalisation of International Justice

Dossier on UK War Crimes in Iraq Goes to the International Criminal Court

Africa vs the ICC’s “Selective Justice”

If Charles Taylor is a War Criminal, Then So are Obama, Bush and Clinton

Aggression Against Libya: Examining the Past – Looking Towards the Future

Central Africa: The Concept of “Failed State” a Cover for International Crimes

By Alexander Mezyaev
Libya 360°

A coup d’état took place in the Central African Republic this March. The events continue to unfold in the most unfavorable way to aggravate the tragedy. It was clear from the very start that the coup is a result of intense interference from outside. (1) Now the goals are becoming understandable and the prospects foreseeable.

The attempts are on the way to legitimize the military coup and restore the state power. The Transitional Charter was made public in July launching the formation of state agencies to operate during the transition period of a year and a half or two years. The new government is destroying all acts of civil status to complicate the future process of preparing voters’ registration lists. (2) To some extent it reminds the events in Western Sahara. The Moroccans (presumed to be Western Saharans) moved into the country in great numbers to stop the process of identification of those who have a right to take part in the referendum on independence, which has been planned for many dozens of years already. On August 16 the Transitional Constitutional Court judges swore the oath followed in two days by Michel Djotodia, the former leader of Seleka rebel coalition, who was sworn in as the new president of the Central African Republic (CAR) on August 18. It all happens against the background of full and all-embracing collapse of statehood in the country. According to Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of BINUCA (the United Nations integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic) Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye of Senegal, the crisis has affected the entire Central Africa’s population of 4, 6 million. 1,6 million suffer from lack of food and water. Over 200 thousand have become displaced inside the country and around 60 thousand had to flee it. Children don’t go to schools which are destroyed by war or occupied by armed formations. (3)

“The Central African Republic is not yet a failed State but has the potential to become one if swift action is not taken”, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos warned in her briefing to the Security Council. (4) The central authority still exists (though being in the hands of rebels who have illegally grabbed the power), but the state is non-existent in the provinces: no police, no prosecutor offices, and no courts. There is no industry, no agriculture. It’s already clear there will be no harvest next year and the prospect of hunger is very real (only limited amount of seeds has been sown by peasants). So the human catastrophe is to continue making necessary an “international community intervention”, the idea which is bolstered by practical and information support.

Religion is another aspect to characterize what is happening in the Central African Republic, but somehow it is shied away. Seleca, the group that has captured power, was homegrown in the north; mainly populated by Muslims (the northern part of Central Africa shares its longest border with Chad, a predominantly Muslim country). No matter Muslims make up only 15 percent of the Central African population, they dominate the Seleca ranks. The Chad’s involvement into the Central Africa’s March coup was not an occasion.

It all leads to the supposition that the creation of “failed state” in the Central African Republic is not a ramification of the recent coup, but rather its goal. The situation can be compared to the way some forms of stomach ulcer progress. In case of surgical intervention a sore gets open at another place. In the 1990s the Islamists were driven out of Algeria to appear in Mali. Al Qaeda being driven out of Mali is to appear somewhere else. The Central African Republic’s coup leader Michel Djotodia wrote a letter to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (5) asking for its help to create an Islamic state in the country. No matter he said it was not him, who wrote it, the Christian churches have come under attacks and are subject to devastation. (6) Al Qaeda is not the only one; the region is swarm with terrorist organizations, Islamist groups or Christian sects. For instance, The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), also known as the Lord’s Resistance Movement, is a militant movement, which is described by some as a new religious organization or a cult which was operating in northern Uganda and South Sudan. (7) Gradually pushed away from Uganda it now finds refuge in the Central African Republic. Of course, it has no relation to Lord, but it does have relation to diamonds instead – it is located in Upper Kotto, the area where the Central African diamonds are extracted.

The African-Led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (AFISM-CAR,) was launched on August 1, in accordance with the decisions of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union. This is the second time the states of Africa try to conduct a peacekeeping operation under an African command. The force is three and a half thousand men strong. The missions assigned are to provide protection to civilians, stabilize the situation in the country, maintain law and order, restore the central government’s power, reshape defense and security structures, and, finally, create proper conditions for providing humanitarian aid to civilians. (8) According to United Nations Charter, the African Union is to receive the United Nations Security Council’s approval. The last Security Council’s session was wrapped up upon taking a decision to go to another office for «informal consultations».

There is a statement too important to be ignored. U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic signaled to the Security Council that the African Union force would not be enough to combat the crisis in Central African Republic, which borders six other states. «A much larger and nationally more diversified force is needed to provide security and protect the population», Simonovic said. «Such a force would also prevent foreign rebel groups, such as the Lord’s Resistance Army or Islamist extremist groups, from finding a safe haven in the country». (9)

The African Union is not unanimous in its attitude towards the new government of the Central African Republic. No matter there is a ban on his movement, Michel Djotodia, the former rebel leader, has already visited a number of states (Burkina Faso, Benin, Gabon, Sudan, Chad, and Equatorial Guinea). Besides, the junta leaders have invited the heads of Central African Economic and Monetary Union for a summit.

The prosecutor of the world’s first permanent court set up to try those accused of genocide and war crimes today voiced her deep concern about the worsening security situation in the Central African Republic and reports of serious crimes being committed there. “My office will do its part in investigating and prosecuting those most responsible for the commission of serious crimes, if necessary”, Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC), said in a statement. (One should take into consideration the specifics of tropical Africa as a whole and the Central African Republic in particular: the children under the age of 14 years old make up a half of the country’s population). (10) It is a surprise that an International Criminal Court’s prosecutor calls on the international community to help Central Africa provide security. It looks she is not aware of the obvious fact that those who call themselves “the government” now, are the very ones who do commit the crimes the prosecutor is to investigate! It gives rise to expectations that somebody else, not the Seleca rebel coalition and its leaders, is going to be the one to be accused. There are many options, including South Africa. Its soldiers were in the country upon the request of the ousted government led by President François Bozizé, who had to flee. Allegedly they killed a few civilians. Or (what’s even more probable) the charges could be brought on those who tried to stand up to the country’s total destruction and creation of an Islamic state.

The International Criminal Court may exercise its jurisdiction only when national courts are unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute crimes. Appropriate evidence should be produced. That’s what has already been alluded to in the United Nations Security Council. The matter is that this May the new Central African government established a national crime inquiry commission to investigate human rights violations and the crimes committed since 2004. According to the United Nations, the inquiry does not meet the standards as an independent and impartial investigative body, so the establishment of international inquiry commission is needed. There is a certain background. The International Criminal Court has just begun hearings on the charges against Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo – a former vice-president of Congo, rebel leader, and leader of Congo’s main opposition party. Bemba and his troops were invited to intervene in the Central African Republic in 2002 by the then-president Ange-Félix Patassé to help put down a coup. According to the testimony provided by new witnesses for defense, the crimes allegedly committed by Bemba were really committed by the rebels under the command of General François Bozizé (the very same person who overthrew Patassé, no matter the support the Bemba-led forces provided him with, and who, in his turn, was overthrown by the rebels, who seized the capital this March).

The “failed state” concept has been given a boost to be advanced recently. By and large, it has become a kind of pattern to introduce outside rule in the states of Africa. Somalia, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Guiney-Bissau, Mali, now the Central African Republic – they are all the examples of creating political offshores as safe havens for international criminal organizations, including terrorist groups. The Central African coup actually took place right after the mopping up operation against the Al Qaeda forces in Mali. Now the elimination of one political offshore haven will automatically trigger the creation of another one.


Notes:

(1) It happens each time a coup takes place in the CAR during the last fifty years. More in detail: A. Mezyaev, Central African Intrigue: http://www.fondsk.ru /news/2013 /04/ 03/ centralno afrikan skaya -intriga- 19864.html
(2) Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović on human rights, August 14, 2013, the United Nations Security Council // UN Document: S/PV.7017. С.7-8.
(3) The Babacar Gaye’s report, UN Security Council session, August 14 2013//UN Document: S/PV.7017.
(4) Verbatim record, UN Security Council session, August 14, 2013, page.6.
(5) More often mentioned as the Organization Islamic Conference (the name was changed in June 2011).
(6) Christians make up a half of the country’s population (50% – Catholics and 50% Protestants). 35% belong to traditional African religions..
(7) The situation in Uganda and, in particular the Kony’s case, was accepted for consideration by International Criminal Court as far back as in January 2004.
(8) The United Nations Secretary General’s report on the Central African Republic//UN Document: S/2013/470 on August 5, 2013, p.5-6.
(9) The United Nations Security Council, August 14, 2013 session verbatim record, pages 8-9.
(10) The children under 14 make up the 42% of the country’s population. Recalling the internationally recognized definition of the term «a child» (the people under the age of 18), the children represent around 70% of the Central African Republic’s population.


Related:
Africa: From Failed Index To Aid At Gunpoint
The West Aims To Turn The Entire Global South Into A Failed State

Memo to the International Criminal Court: Put Up or Shut Up About Not Targeting Africans

Is the International Criminal Court guilty of “international racial profiling”? The ICC has managed to indict only Africans for crimes against humanity, “while ignoring numerous civilian deaths caused by U.S. air strikes in Afghanistan and other crimes committed by non-Africans.

By Mark P. Fancher

“It is important to determine the U.S. role, if any, in the commission of these crimes.”

The U.S. military has been blamed for training Congolese soldiers who raped scores of civilians in the little village of Minova. As a consequence the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) now has a new opportunity to dispel the widely-held belief that the court’s mission is to target only Africans and to ignore the crimes of imperialists. Many would likely be shocked if the ICC prosecutor were to investigate and interrogate any U.S. military personnel who trained the soldiers who committed the rapes.

The ICC was presumably established to pierce the sovereign shields that have historically protected soldiers and government officials – including heads of state – from efforts to hold them individually responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and criminal aggression. The fantasy of a U.S. president standing before the court having to answer for imperialist crimes may never become reality. That’s because unless a country has signed on to the “Rome Statute” (the treaty that created the International Criminal Court) that country is usually beyond the court’s reach.

President Clinton had reservations about the court, but he nevertheless took the first step toward signing on. President Bush later withdrew from the court altogether. Since then, the International Criminal Court has indicted a substantial number of African government officials while ignoring numerous civilian deaths caused by U.S. air strikes in Afghanistan and other crimes committed by non-Africans. Some have characterized this as international racial profiling, and it has caused considerable resentment throughout Africa.

“It has been reported that the soldiers were drunk and openly planning to engage in mass rape.”

Acknowledgment that the U.S. provided training to soldiers involved in the wanton, mass rapes adds another dimension to these crimes. A special United Nations human rights report says that at least 135 women were sexually assaulted by members of Congo’s army as troops fled from a battle with the M23 rebel group. Reuters news service quoted a U.N. official as saying: “We do know in the U.N. which are the two battalions [involved in the rapes]. Interestingly, one of them was trained by the Americans – that’s what the American ambassador himself told me.” It has been reported that U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) also acknowledged that the U.S. trained a Congolese light infantry battalion in 2010.

The UN report says: “Some of the human rights violations documented in this report may, as a result of their type and nature constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity as defined by Articles 7 and 8 of the Rome Statute…” It remains to be seen whether there will be an ICC investigation of these crimes, and if so whether it will delve into the U.S. connection.

If Congolese soldiers are prosecuted, it is important to determine the U.S. role, if any, in the commission of these crimes, even if the prosecutor concludes that in this case the U.S. is not subject to ICC jurisdiction. This is because Article 28 of the Rome Statute provides in relevant part that a military commander “or person effectively acting as a military commander shall be criminally responsible for crimes…committed by forces under his or her effective command and control…as a result of his or her failure to exercise control properly over such forces…”

“An honest criminal investigation demands at a minimum that AFRICOM answer questions about a battalion that it trained.”

The court’s perspective on these crimes could be significantly affected by evidence of what these soldiers were ordered to do – or not do. It has been reported that the soldiers were drunk and openly planning to engage in mass rape. Were AFRICOM advisors on the ground with the troops, and did they know any of this? If so, did soldiers infer from the conduct of these advisors or other commanders that there was a green light to commit the crimes?

It may well be that AFRICOM personnel were nowhere near the scene of the crimes, and they had no direct knowledge of what happened. But an honest criminal investigation demands at a minimum that AFRICOM answer questions about a battalion that it trained. If AFRICOM personnel were not on the ground monitoring these troops, given past experiences with trainees and client soldiers who have gone rogue in Mali, Libya and elsewhere, U.S. military advisors should have known the risks of leaving such soldiers unattended. An impartial prosecutor should be willing to ask these hard questions without fear or hesitation. The Obama administration, which claims that it has moved the U.S. from hostility to “positive engagement” with the ICC should be willing to allow military personnel to answer the prosecutor’s questions.

In response to the pointed assertion that the ICC will not try British prime ministers or U.S. presidents, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said: “…our job is not to violate the due processes of law or to pick on individuals, as to who to prosecute or who not to prosecute. The office of the prosecutor is there for all the 121 States Parties, acting in full independence and impartiality.” If that is true, it’s time to put up or shut up. Even if in the end there is a determination in this case that an indictment of U.S. military personnel is not legally permissible, there are many Africans who would find it gratifying to – for at least one time – see AFRICOM confronted, interrogated, publicly exposed and made to squirm.

Mark P. Fancher is an attorney who writes frequently about armed conflicts in Africa. He can be contacted at mfancher@comcast.net.

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