International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Tag Archives: South Africa

Another One Bites the Dust – Gambia announces plans to withdraw from ICC

Burundi first announced its plans to withdraw from the ICC on October 7th. Since then other African countries have begun the dissent into abandoning this international institution. Most recently, Gambia has announced its intentions to withdraw from the ICC. Interestingly, the current ICC prosecutor, prosecutor Bensuda, is a Gascreen-shot-2016-10-27-at-11-17-46-ammbian native. The Gambia is only the third African country to pull out of the ICC – the second being South Africa – but the trend still appears upsetting. USA Today quotes Gambia’s Information Minister, Sheriff Bojang, re-interpreting the goals of the ICC as “an International Caucasian Court for the persecution and humiliation of people of color, especially Africans” (Onyanga-Omar, 26th October, 2016). The calls to retreat from the ICC have been, many believe, in response to the ICC’s issued arrest warrant for Sudanese President, Omar Al-Bashir.

Burundi initially wanted to withdraw its support and participation in the court as a result of the court stating it would investigate the ongoing political violence there. South Africa’s decision to leave stems from its uncomfortableness with the requirement that any ICC state party must hand over a leader who has an arrest warrant out by the ICC. This provision was outlined in the initial signing of the Rome Statute and is not a new development. African countries have – to date – been the only countries prosecuted at the ICC. Bensscreen-shot-2016-10-27-at-11-18-00-amuda is currently investigating nine potential future cases, seven of which are not in the African continent. Still, the feeling of white Western powers infiltrating and involving themselves in African affairs runs deep. Kenya and Nambia have indicated they may follow the initiative set by Burundi, South Africa, and now Gambia. 


Universities in Cape Town Closed Due to Protesting Students


Several universities throughout Cape Town, South Africa are closing for periods of time as a result of protesting students clashing with police authorities. The photo above shows students protesting outside of the University of Cape Town (UCT). I found this article particularly interesting because I will be studying abroad at UCT next semester, and this school was forced to shut down for the past two weeks due to the escalation of disruptions. Three other universities have suspended classes as well. These students are demanding lower tuition costs and better living conditions at the universities, especially for black students. Many statements made by students include how their complaints stem from the title “black academics” being given to the black students, but white students are not called “white academics”, just academics. Protesting students complain that their tax money paid to run the university is reinforcing white privilege. There are escalating instances of violence among the universities between protesters and police forces. Police have been firing rubber bullets and stun grenades at protesters. In one occasion, a large amount of students were brutalized, victimized and beaten by private security guards and police when they tried to collect their belongings from inside of a residence building after being asked to leave the premises. Students plan to continue with the protests, calling UCT a “white supremacy institution”.


ICC to Look Into Zulu King’s Xenophobic Speech

A Nigerian human rights group known as the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, or SERAP, has petitioned the ICC’s OTP to look into allegations of inciteful hate speech committed by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini in South Africa. Bensouda has opted to investigate the xenophobic attacks that have said to have resulted from Zwelithini’s speech.zulu kings

In a March gathering in Pongola, northern KwaZulu-Natal, Zwelithini talked about the inconvenience that foreigners, such as Nigerians and other Africans living in South Africa, have posed to locals in his country. Allegedy, he told gatherers that “foreigners must pack their bags and go home.” Not long after in April, xenophobic violence flared up in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, killing at least seven people and displacing thousands more.

SERAP, in its petition, argues that Zwelithini’s hate speech created the conditions for this violence to occur, crimes of which the group asserts are crimes against humanity that violate the Rome Statute. In addition to Zwelithini’s words, SERAP argues that South African law enforcement is complicit in the violence, as they failed to take steps to stop the abuse against non-nationals. Police Minister Nathi Nheleko was present when Zwelithini made his speech, yet no steps have been taken by the police to counteract the speech’s effects.

Given that the government itself has been implicated in this xenophobia and that law enforcement has failed to act to protect non-national targets, SERAP argues that the conditions are present to justify a proprio motu investigation by Mrs. Fatou Bensouda. The national judiciary is likely to be unwilling to try Zwelithini for his incitements to hatred, thus allowing the ICC to step in under the principle of complementarity and as a court of last resort.

This case will be interesting to watch, especially since Chief Prosecutor Bensouda has decided to look into the situation already. As we have seen in many cases, incitements to violence have been powerful weapons used in many cases to cause mass amounts of violence. In Rwanda, the media was a huge reason why so many regular Rwandans acted out on the hate speech directed at Hutus, resulting in a massive amount of violence in only 100 days. In Cote d’Ivoire, as well, hate speech was generated by political leaders and the media, ultimately leading to an eruption of violence against non-Ivorians. The power of hate speech to incite mass violence, in light of these past cases, surely must not be underestimated in the current situation in South Africa. Given their history of apartheid, any attempt at categorizing different South African citizens is frightening and should not be ignored.

Riots in Durban create fear for South African Immigrants

For years, South Africa has had issues with attacks against migrants from other countries, in particular those who are shop/business owners. Because high unemployment has continued to be a problem, locals in several South African towns have accused the immigrants of “stealing jobs and undercutting small businesses owned by South Africans”. In 2008, South Africa experienced mob riots as “scores of immigrants were killed in attacks in the poorest areas of Johannesburg”.

Over the past week, tensions over the struggling economy have resulted in more riots in the town of Durban, as mobs of local residents with machetes have attacked immigrant-operated businesses, leaving at least 5 dead (2 immigrants and 3 South Africans). In response, heavily armed police have acted quickly to stop the violence. According to the Gift of the Givers Charity that is helping with aid, about 8,500 people have fled to refuge centers or police stations this week, in fear of future attack. While the violence has not yet spread to Johannesburg, charity members have prepared essential supplies on standby incase it become necessary.

Pardon for Peace?

After years of racism and Apartheid in South Africa the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for South Africa put forth a legitimate effort to ejacob-zuma-1ducate South Africans and the world about what had occurred, as well as begin to begin to serve Justice to those who were directly impacted by the institution. Of the 7,000 people who have applied for pardon’s from the new South African government over 5,000 of them were rejected, which demonstrated South Africa’s rigid concept of justice and uncompromising stance on how to best reconcile and deal with the atrocities of the past. The current President, Jacob Zuma however, may cause a shift in this culture. South Africa currently has over 900 pending pardon requests for past offense, 149 of which President Zuma is considering pardoning. The TRC often allows pardons for people who admit to their past crimes; however, this is usually through a process in which the victims of the criminals have some participation. President Zuma is considering beginning to pardon portions of the remaining 926 pardon requests through secret processes, which completely disregard the participation of the victims because he sees it as a necessary step towards reconciliation. Although moving past apartheid may be a step for reconciliation, is makeshift justice really the way to allow a country to be at peace?


Political Pardons and the Promise of South Africa’s Truth Commission

This article discusses the South African President’s plan to pardon at least 149 “serious offenders” of Apartheid-era violence and potentially hundreds more.  This move would in many ways delegitimize the work of South Africa’s Truth Commission.  Under the TRC, perpetrators could either confess to their crimes, if the crimes were politically or racially motivated, apply for amnesty, or would face prosecution.  However, in practice, prosecution was largely an empty threat as very few ever faced charges.  Over 7,000 applied for amnesty, but only about 1,000 applications met the political motivation criterion and were granted amnesty.

With this legacy of unaccountability for the vast majority of perpetrators, the pardons currently considered by the South African government would exacerbate this problem.  Not only does it directly contradict the threat of prosecution for perpetrators made by the TRC, most concerning is the impact on the victim community.  Starting in 2007 when former President Mbeki created a Special Dispensation on Political Pardons, the pardon process has been conducted entirely in secret without any victim participation.  Pervious pardons have included high level police commissioners and those guilty of serious crimes including serial killings and bombings.  There have been many complaints from groups in civil society and victim communities, but the government has failed to make the pardon process more transparent, tarnishing the legacy of reconciliation and restoration the Truth Commission attempted to establish.

South Africa’s “Prime Evil” Released on Parole

Eugene de Kock, a notorious apartheid death-squad leader in South Africa during the 1980’s and early 90’s, was granted parole on Friday January 30th after over two decades in prison. De Kock “is believed to have been responsible for more atrocities than any other man in the efforts to preserve white rule” in South Africa, and was arrested in 1994 for charges of murder, attempted murder, and kidnapping, to name a few. Known throughout South Africa as “Prime Evil”, due to his incredibly violent reputation, de Kock was sentenced to 212 years in prison for his extensive list of crimes. But, at a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1995, established to “unearth crimes committed by both sides”, de Knock confessed to many of his crimes and led authorities to the remains of many of South Africa’s “disappeared”. This cooperation, as well as the “interests of nation building and reconciliation”, were the two reasons cited for de Kock’s release on parole.

As one New York Times article stated about his granted freedom, “It was arguably the greatest single act of mercy to emerge from the anguished debate in South Africa over reconciliation and justice.” The response of the local and international communities have been mixed. Some believe that de Kock’s release is a part of the necessary forgiveness in order to rebuild society, while others believe that reconciliation cannot be found through essentially pardoning a violent and ruthless murderer. This case brings up even more questions about the right way to find “reconciliation” and move on as a society, while still recognizing atrocities and perpetrators for what they are.

“Kagame pushes his luck”

On Wednesday South Africa warned Rwanda that it would not “tolerate ‘criminal’ attacks on its soil against Rwandan exiles that have drawn international criticism of President Paul Kagame’s government.” This warning comes on the heels of an attack on the Johannesburg home of former Rwandan army chief General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, an exiled critic of the Kagame regime. Critics of the regime claim that President Kagame has taken advantage of Western guilt over the genocide to increase persecution of opponents, especially as the 20th anniversary of the genocide approaches. President Kagame has also faced criticism from the international community after a U.N. report showed that his government supported an insurgency in eastern Congo last year. The U.S. Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region has expressed concern over the South Africa-Rwanda situation, as they are both important influences in the region.

Recently Rwanda has criticized the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for ineffective and incompetent handling of the 1994 genocide trials, but I wonder if possibly the greatest example of the ICTR’s mistakes is the very fact that Paul Kagame is president? With the ICC and international tribunals there is a tendency for victor’s justice, in part because often the side which ‘rebels’ did suffer statistically more atrocities, but also because the tribunals need state cooperation in order to function. President Kagame led the Tutsi rebel movement that ended the 1994 genocide, and in the process presided over an army that did carry out retribution killings. Though the situation in Kenya does prove that even international indictments don’t keep war criminals out of office, Paul Kagame was never even indicted. The Rwandan government’s involvement in the attack detailed above is still unsubstantiated, but President Kagame has publicly said that “’traitors’ should expect consequences.” With the increasing violence in the Central African Republic, it is important for Rwanda and South Africa to act as stabilizing forces, but as an editorial in a South African newspaper said, it remains to be seen if Kagame will continue to “push his luck,” and I suspect he will.


Malema and the Future of post-TRC South African Leadership

Julius Malema, an extremely controversial and charismatic politician in South Africa, has had the corruption case filed against him postponed due to the inclusion of an additional count of racketeering. His lawyers claim the case is political, the result of a high-profile falling-out between Malema and his erstwhile political mentor, current president Jacob Zuma.

Malema is a mere 31 years of age, but has already been hailed, even by Zuma, as the “future leader” of South Africa. Before he was exiled from the African National Congress (ANC) party, he was the president of its Youth League, the activist youth wing of the party founded in part by Nelson Mandela and known for its frequent strikes and protests during the apartheid era.

Malema’s case is an interesting one, and a story that could be an ominous indication of the effects of state-run and politicized transitional justice processes. Malema’s late childhood and early adulthood coincided with the airing of the TRC; he is a part of the new South Africa, a product of the reconciliation and reparation process that has consumed the country after the fall of apartheid. For better or worse, he is of a generation that was molded by the narrative of the ANC’s triumph over apartheid and the TRC’s hybrid method of justice.

To witness his history of corruption and frequent hate speech, then, is to witness firsthand the possible drawbacks of a reconciliation process that so vividly illustrates the evil of the apartheid regime. Revenge, even when perpetrators are federally prosecuted, is still sought. Malema has been notorious for his hate speech against whites. He has, in various instances, called for South African whites to surrender their land, led a rally on a college campus while chanting “shoot the Boer”, and consistently refused to apologize for his provocative speech. Despite these incidents, he is often seen as an extremely popular symbol for the poor and disadvantaged black electorate.

In our Iliff reading on grassroots transitional justice, the dominance of state authority in many TJ processes is heavily discussed; specifically, there is an incentive in such systems to establish the authority of the new, transitional government, which could lead to an equally oppressive regime.

The TRC is not immune to these criticisms. Though the model for such truth commissions and hybrid TJ processes, it was still undoubtedly a project that in part aimed to legitimize the authority and message of the ANC and its post-apartheid agenda. Previous blog posts have discussed such contradictions in allegedly apolitical justice systems. Is Malema an outlier, or are his actions in part influenced by the TJ process South African implemented? Does his hate speech and radical, often anti-white views have any bearing at all on how the ANC’s narrative was presented to the South African population, both in the TRC and in other more localized TJ instances?

Long Night’s Journey Into Day

There was one moment in this film that struck me in terms of the mediatory role the TRC has acted out. The Goniwe widow points out that she is not here for Eric Taylor to redeem himself; rather, she says something to the effect of the TRC being able to fulfill that duty. Her statement underscores two issues – the fact that there are limitations to reconciliation and who should be granting redemption, if any. I found it interesting that the Cradock 4 widows had legal representation in the Taylor hearing; it suggested to me  that the widows had some involvement in preventing Taylor’s amnesty. Nonetheless, the victims lose the personal choice of granting redemption (unlike the Timorese case where victimised parties agreed to reconciliation) in the pursuit of collective justice.  Is it fair to override the victims’ desire in order to obtain peace? At any rate, it is important to to consult the victims and whether they are permissive of a third party granting amnesty as some victims might not ever be psychologically ready to forgive but may recognise the cognitively dissonant unfairness in denying a chance for perpetrators to grow and move on.

On another note that speaks to the effectiveness of the TRC, Amnesty hearing transcipts are accessible online,  including those of the Cradock 4 case.

Transitioning in Form and Function: SA

As we move toward discussions of TRCs, we begin to delve in to the power of speech itself. Much of the TRC model, particularly in South Africa, is about an airing of grievances–a public display of truth that is very much grounded in a performative act. I want to focus this post on the possibility that performative acts, while significant, can also have the ability to function as performances: lacking genuine backing if the actors decide to change their roles. The case of South Africa, for me, is particularly illustrative. What is widely hailed as a hallmark of the “truth” model, the TRC in South Africa stands as indicative of the disjunction between appearance and reality in post-transition societies. I think that is evident in contemporary politics in South Africa: rampant corruption, immense rates of poverty and crime, and a dissuasion from full multi-party politics. Yet this is not compatible with the discursive structures of the post-apartheid nation. To the contrary, the South African system features a remarkable constitution and constitutional court that exclaim liberal values far greater than much of the globe, including the US. It seems there is a reliable form of rights-respecting governance in modern SA, but the function hasn’t necessarily followed. Why is that? Is it due to personal politics of cronyism temporarily in power? Are there further structural advancements necessary? More broadly, how can we supplement TRCs with insurance that the future government will not return to past practices. It is not enough to denounce the past,  we must find a way to prepare for the future.

Rethinking the meaning of justice?

Much of the discussions we’ve been having in class and through the blog have referred to a perceive tension between peace and justice in which one is given up for the sake of the other. However, at the History, Fictions, and Politics of Justice lecture last Friday, Professor Mahmood Mamdani proposed a different way of thinking about this divide. He believes that the goal held by many international justice bodies today to punish all violence without exception prevents us from moving conflict-torn societies forward. Instead of aiming for criminalization of actions, we should aim for increased political participation. According to him, to do otherwise would continue the cycles of violence and animosity that we have discussed before. This particular view is very challenging to accept because it asks us to look at society as the victim rather than only the targeted individuals  in order to achieve a “survivor’s justice”. For this reason he finds that the system implemented in South Africa through CODESA represents a “true negotiated result of the conflict” as opposed to the Nuremberg trials (which he sees as performances of political power).

I appreciate how this idea makes us rethink what we perceive to be justice, but I wonder to what extent it might be carried out- in other words, was he calling for an end to the persecution of crimes committed within the context of conflict? While this is an interesting proposition, how would people who have been hurt and that have suffered perceive this different route. Would they perhaps feel cheated or betrayed when they see their previous oppressors as their neighbors or as their leaders? Perhaps it is exactly this mentality that Mamdani wants us to leave behind and redefine how we understand justice at the most basic level.

Amnesty or Impunity? A Preliminary Critique of the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa

Gender-specific Reparations

I just came across this article on al Jazeera, on Rape in South Africa. The main context of the article is a recent video of a rape that went viral, and then was eventually presented to the police. They discuss South Africa as the ‘Rape Capital of the World’ and announce the statistic that in South Africa a woman is raped every 26 seconds. They do a really good job in the article characterizing the issue of rape [in South Africa] as an unspoken ‘war’ with hundreds of unspoken victims, unseen by the justice system. 

There are also a lot of great videos included in the post; what I found had specific relevance to our class was the “1in9” video. It’s a video of a group of women protesting that Zuma was aquitted on a rape charge. They emphasize that they are remembering the woman who was exiled and all other rape survivors who have been “secondly victimized” by the courts. They emphasize that they are there because of an unrecognized justice claim. 

So here we see that the 1in9 protest is filling a symbolic function (remembering past victims) while attempting to get symbolic recognition of the controversy, and then eventually material recognition – the lifting of the exile. 

Since we’ve just been looking at the importance of gender-specific reparations, I felt this article on (largely) the state of women in South Africa post-Apartheid was a great reflection on the importance of reestablishing civic norms for everyone. Here we have a case of what seems to be large-scale human rights violations happening largely with impunity. South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission undoubtedly set the standard, but did they do enough for acknowledging crimes of sexual violence? (And thus reestablishing the norm that it wasn’t acceptable to commit crimes of sexual violence, and giving effected women back civic agency?)

District Six Museum

Last semester I did a big research project on South Africa and thought the District Six Museum was very interesting.  I feel that it is very relevant to what we have been discussing regarding memorials and forms of reparations that can be given to victims.  The history of District Six is interesting and it is worth reading the museum’s mission statement to connect it to what happened in the apartheid era of South Africa.

District Six was home to much of the Cape Town population before the apartheid regime took over in South Africa.  This regime decided to declare District Six for whites only and so many people were “asked” to leave in order for that change to take place.  Once the apartheid regime took power the history of Cape Town was only half told.  Only white history was allowed to be taught and spoken of in that area since they wanted people to believe that it was a city made by the hard-working European settlers.  They did not speak of the African-Americans that had lived there and they did not mention slavery or the slave trade.  It was as if none of that had ever happened.

In 1994 the District Six Museum opened.  This museum shows the complete history of Cape Town (although it could very well be a government accepted “truth” and still not the complete truth).  It serves as a way to teach the true history of the city, to show what happened during the apartheid regime, and to give victims and visitors the opportunity to reflect on what happened and even give their opinions to the museum owners.

Nelson Mandela Digital Archive up and running

Not sure if any of you have heard of this but I found out about it today while scrolling the news. Nelson Mandela, a champion of human rights and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, started the Nelson Mandel Centre for Memory in efforts to carry on his work after his retirement. This program helped launch the Nelson Mandela digital archive of which Google had a large part in making such a feat possible. It donated $1.25 Million to the project in hopes that its resources may help encourage future pushes for social justice. Within the archive some of the earliest known photos of Mandela exist as well as the warrant for committal form issued to Mandela in 1962. Could this type of massive push for making such archives easily accessible be another form of justice? Early it was posted on the right to the truth and whether or not that existed, could these types of websites and archives be a possible path to making such truths not only accesible to victims but to the world as well as serving as an encouragement for future generations to consistently push for justice? Interesting food for thought to say the least. 

Amy Biehl

I know that we have yet to touch up on the Truth and Reconcilliation Commission of South Africa, but I studied this case in two different classes last semester and I have a particular interest in the Amy Biehl case.  Amy Biehl was an American student studying the lives of women in South Africa.  She was against apartheid and wanted to help the community.  One day a group of South African students beat her, stoned her, and stabbed her to death because she was white and they saw her as an oppressor. 

In the documentary, Long Night’s Journey into Day, you can see a part of the amnesty hearings for her accused killers and also get to meet her parents.  The young men were sentenced to some time in jail (I am not sure of the specifics) but only served about five years of their term before being granted amnesty.  Surprisingly this was also the wish of Amy’s parents since they knew apartheid was the root cause of their daughter’s murder.  The young men, as can be read here, are now older, with families, and they work for the local charity Amy’s parents created.  They are still close with the family and regret killing Amy specifically, but do not regret killing in general since the political tensions in that time called for violence. 

I have always found this case extremely interesting because it really speaks to what we will be discussing in these coming weeks: the benefits and weaknesses of truth commissions.  This case alone shows a great strength in the South African Truth and Reconcilliation Commission, but watching the views presented in the documentary Long Night’s Journey into Day shows many differing views.

Symbolic vs. Material

South African Photographer Honored

In 1976 Sam Nzima lost his job as a photographer after capturing the image of a 13 year old being shot and killed by police during (what started as) a peaceful student protest.

In 2011 he is being honored for helping to expose the brutality of apartheid to the rest of the world.

This article made me think of the debate between the benefits of Symbolic vs. Material. I link it to something that Sam Nzima said when asked why he didn’t help the dying student- he said it wasn’t his duty to help a dying man live, but rather take the picture so that the image of brutality of apartheid could be available to the world. His picture of death and brutality made a difference.

So, in this instance, for this person, the symbolism of a picture was more important than the “material” importance of a person’s life.

That might be  a bit of a stretch from what we talk about with “symbolic” and “material” but it interested me to think about how we define “material” benefit to victims.

Does that 13 year old boy’s mother appreciate how her son’s death helped to bring atrocities to light? Or would she have rather had her son alive?

What is more important, saving lives or exposing truth? (circles back to warrants for arrest/trials of war criminals)

South African rapist: ‘Forgive me’

I know that this is really old but it really fits with our material. A man in South Africa is asking the woman he has raped to forgive him for his actions. He goes on to tell a story of how he was virtually pressured into raping a girl and it was also seen as a kind of rite of passage when he was younger. Since then, he has found god, and joined a NGO. This has prompted him to eventually seek forgiveness from the woman that he has harmed. Interestingly, the NGO he works for also deals with the daily lives of women. He is also prepared for any jail time that he might face, showing that he has fully come to terms with what he has done.