International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

International Colonial Court?

In a Brookings op-ed, Mwangi S. Kimenyi wrote about Africa’s relationship with the International Criminal Court. Kimenyi opens with the background behind the controversy surrounding Africa’s membership with the ICC. Part of the justification for this is the claim that Africa is the region where the most significant crimes against humanity are committed and where civil courts are not equipped to deal with them.

This relates to the accusations that the ICC is subject to political manipulation, which the US is a large proponent of. This political manipulation also has to do with the sources of funding the Court has access to, especially seeing as “60 percent of ICC funding comes from the European Union”. Moreover, this criticism extends to the fairness and quality of the judges. Similarly, China and India have similar issues with the Court including the powers of the prosecutor and jurisdiction. 

The largest issue nations seem to have has to do with the Rome Statute and the UNSC relationship it sets up. India is a vocal supporter of the concern that the ICC is subordinate to the Security Council. 

Kimenyi concludes with a fairly pessimistic viewpoint that postulates that the ICC will not last the test of time and will continue to lose support. The jurisdiction and scope is far too broad and does not encourage mass support. To that end, I’m not sure I agree; there is definitely a consensus over the need for international justice and the ICC has at least set up the beginnings of that framework. At the moment it is controversial but I suspect that in a few decades the international communities relationship with the ICC will be more supportive. Regardless, the op-ed presents a concise summary of the many criticisms levied at the ICC and places it in an interesting context within the larger debate about international justice. 


2 responses to “International Colonial Court?

  1. jlcovello February 2, 2014 at 11:53 pm

    There is no doubt that the African Union openly contests the International Criminal Court, and it is not just a faction of it but almost the entirety of the 54 nation organization. The African Union has stated that it needs its members to “speak with one voice” against criminal proceedings at the ICC against sitting presidents. Following an Ethiopian summit on February 1, only Botswana of the 34 represented AU countries opposed the African Union’s stance against the International Criminal Court. At least now, however, I believe that the International Criminal Court has enough backing by the UN Security Council that it can be effective and relevant. Last November, the Security Council infamously rejected the demand made by the AU to suspend the trial of Kenyan President Kenyatta. In the Security Council vote, eight Security Council nations (all of whom are ICC members or supporters) abstained from the vote to ensure the failure of the resolution. While it is true that the scope of the ICC is very broad and the Court is heavily reliant on outside funding, at this point in time it has enough support to function. The big question, I believe, will be how the Court addresses the strong criticisms brought forth by the AU that only seem to be gaining supporters in Africa against the ICC. The ICC, who does not have its own military or police force, is heavily reliant on the domestic military forces in order to arrest the war criminals. How will the AU’s critical analysis of the Court affect that ground support?


  2. gracen0te5 February 4, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    Simon Allison’s “Is there an African alternative to the International Criminal Court?” brings in some points worth considering in discussion with Kimenyi’s op-ed. I don’t necessarily see that the African Union wants to separate itself from the ICC because of racial and colonial biases. When taking a look at Kenyatta and Ruto’s past campaign messages, they targeted ICC to their advantage by spreading the message that the ICC was an instrument of the West. This gives the notion that the ICC perpetuates the “Colonial court” and puts Kenyatta and Ruto’s tribes (two biggest tribes in Kenya) at risk. This convinces people not only in Kenya but in the AU that if their leaders were sent to jail they would be the ones to suffer due to how much power presidency in Africa historically attains.

    I think the biggest challenge of the ICC would be to convince the rest of Africa, not just its leaders, that ICC does not mean to go against/punish all the people under certain leaders who have committed major crimes. The ICC also does not mean to affect the water supplies, electricity, schooling, and health care of the general population, which are all areas that could diminish or lessen based on the country’s leaders.

    In countries without strong institutions where patronage prevails, how can ICC hold powerful people accountable? It does not seem realistic to say that African courts can hold its own country accountable when its most powerful people seem to easily take advantage of its people.

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