International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Potential Dangers in Bias Claims Against the ICC

This article builds on some important concerns raised in Professor Tiemssen’s last lecture about the African Union and ICC relations. As highlighted in the article, there have been some major proclamations made against the ICC about biases it may have. On one side of the argument, you have certain Africans (i.e. several perpetrators) who believe that there is a bias against African countries specifically. This subset contends that the ICC is targeting Africans. They claim that the ICC is a “White Man’s Court.” Conversely, a crucial question remains: can the ICC help where human rights violations occur?

While in the article they reject these claims, in the age of racial/cultural hypersensitivity, I feel that these claims have the potential to carry much weight and spark unnecessary political action. This would be especially detrimental in considering the implications for the victims the ICC is actually working on behalf. According to the article, 33 [African countries] have ratified the Rome statute’s provisions, making Africa the most heavily represented region in its membership. Considering this large role African countries had in developing the ICC, what happens when certain African countries decide that the ICC is no longer an institutions to address their human right concerns? Which/Which will come(s) first: politics or victims?


3 responses to “Potential Dangers in Bias Claims Against the ICC

  1. smshetty November 5, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    I think the notion of the ICC, as the article suggests, as a “white man’s court” is an interesting one. It’s indisputable that the court has mainly focused on human rights violations in Africa, and rightly so: the continent has experienced extreme turmoil in terms of political upheavals, failed states, and rebel factions being constantly at war. It’s fair, then, that the ICC’s efforts have been focused on prosecuting the people responsible for such terrors.

    On the other hand, I wonder if it’s counterproductive for the ICC to focus so exclusively on a single continent, especially one which has been marred by colonial conceptions and a history of imperialist domination, appropriation, and expansion. In its current manifestation, the ICC may as well be the African Criminal Court. Is it thus really fair for it to claim an international and intercontinental mission? Especially when countries outside Africa, if they eventually face charges from the court, have the leverage and political power to avoid ICC jurisdiction and serious prosecution?

  2. parvathy249 November 5, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) most prominent cases certainly make it seem like a biased and Africa-focused court, but I must disagree with the allegations that the court does not have an “international mission” or “intercontinental mission.” The ICC has ongoing investigations in Afghanistan, Colombia, Honduras, Palestine, and Korea, in addition to closed preliminary examinations in Iraq and Venezuela – all countries outside of the African continent. I think doubting the international mission of the ICC and adding pressure to become more regionally diverse is precisely what has the potential to halt, impede, and stunt the progress of the ICC. The courts prosecutor has continuously said that they will go where the victims need them – if the victims happen to be centered in the African continent this decade, that in no way means the victims will not come from a different region of the world in the coming decade.

  3. brandon459 November 6, 2012 at 11:07 am

    This is a very important issue among those in the International Justice world. Mainly because it speaks to one of the many hurdles that the ICC must jump in order to solidify its legitimacy as a major international tribunal in the world. In one of the assigned readings, “Who’s Afraid of the ICC?” it speaks as to the undeniable bias that has been assigned to referrals in the continent of Africa. Thus, there is a need for the next ICC Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) to be heavily involved and or from Africa. The article states, “Having an African lead the prosecution over the next decade could help inspire domestic and regional efforts at developing accountability and the rule of law by demonstrating that international justice is not a norm imposed by the West but one shared by top African jurists.” The “White Man’s Court” stigma will be broken down if a familiar face is assigned to lead the prosecution. This gives the notion that instead of the ICC trying to “pick on” the African countries, a fellow African leading the prosecution shows that the court would have more sympathy or care towards their issues.

    While the ICC has had other initiatives around the world, mainly in Columbia, they have yet to develop anything solid and stable to work off of. However, this does not involve as much the ICC’s bias, but rather their lack of legitimacy, and more importantly, their lack of direction. At this moment in time, the African countries are a hot-button issue and are a very easy issue to try and attack. Going off of their objective as being a court of last resort, the African countries probably have some of the least capable domestic courts. In my opinion the ICC just needs to work on establishing legitimacy/effectiveness, and provide itself clear implementation policies that will lead it in a stable direction.

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