Yesterday, on the World Day of International Justice, the 24th anniversary of the International Criminal Court was celebrated. A body still decried in Africa, where the ICC is accused of "racial hunting" and "neocolonialism".
The International Criminal Court (ICC) is now 24 years old. The ICC prosecution was headed by Gambian Fatou Bensouda for nine years. The arrival last year of the ICC's new chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, has given rise to hopes that the court will finally focus on regions other than Africa. Khan even hinted that crimes against humanity and war crimes in Africa would, in the near future, be tried by an African court. But nothing has changed. For now.
Karim Khan nevertheless continues to work. Last month, the ICC issued its first-ever warrants against non-African nationals, Caucasians accused of war crimes in Georgia in 2008. However, those warrants come after a pledge of funding from 45 Western countries. A promise which materialized last Thursday, but, these countries specify, these generous donations must be put to use in "the investigations of Russia's war crimes in Ukraine".
The world's leading jurists, from corporate lawyers in Manhattan, to justices of the United States Supreme Court, to their counterparts in Africa, Latin America and Asia, have called these donations " bribes for biased international justice”.
Charges that further undermine the credibility of the ICC. The court was already accused by the African Union of "neo-colonialism" and "racial hunting" for having monopolized its efforts on the sentencing of African nationals.
The ICC of the past…
Former US Ambassador for War Crimes Stephen Rapp painted a vitriolic portrait of the ICC. "When it comes to international crimes, there is only a little justice, in a few places and for a few people... very few times," he said in 2007.
And, indeed, 24 years after the ratification of the Rome Accord, the ICC has investigated only a minimal number of crimes and only prosecuted the perpetrators a few times. In this case, the war of the United States against Iraq, the Israeli colonization of Palestine and the assault of NATO against Libya were three hopes on the part of the ICC which quickly extinct, the investigations having been abandoned.
Following the announcement of these three "starts of investigations", Western states quickly withdrew their financial support to the court.
But when it comes to African war criminals, the ICC has been very — too much? - efficient. The cadre of the Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) Dominic Ongwen was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Former Congolese general Bosco Ntaganda, "the Terminator", 30 years in prison.
Read: ICC upholds conviction of Congolese 'Terminator'
While these two relatively recent examples undeniably concern war criminals, they are not exactly those for whom the ICC is often blamed. Perhaps the court's most publicized trial was that of former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, as well as his ex-wife Simone and his minister Charles Blé Goudé. More than ten years of "judicial kidnapping" of a head of state of a large African country have earned the ICC a definitive loss of credibility in Africa.
… and the same CPI in the future?
The problem with the ICC, however, beyond its past, is also its future plans. Indeed, among thirteen preliminary examinations currently on Karim Khan's desk, four concern African countries - Nigeria, Gabon, Guinea and Burundi. The others concern Latin American countries: Venezuela, Colombia and Bolivia, above all.
There is also no doubt that Russia will be attacked by the ICC in the coming months. In any case, according to the Hague court, the nationals of European countries and the United States would not have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity, nor genocide — Slobodan Milošević had been convicted by a special court.
The late Libyan leader, Muammar Kadhafi, would certainly not have agreed: “This Western world, which boasts of its civilization to you, is a savage and barbaric world. It is the West that has caused humanity's greatest catastrophes: World War I, World War II, the Crusades, the Punic Wars, and it is still waging new wars to destroy humanity," he said. , only half ironic.
However, as new ICC prosecutor Karim Khan points out, his role is not political. And even within the framework of international justice, the ICC would not be “the top of the pyramid”, he clears himself. “The ICC is a court of last resort, active only where states are unable or unwilling to prosecute atrocities themselves,” Khan said. Hence the preponderance of judging crimes in Africa.
One wonders whether the African States would not do better to follow in the footsteps of Ethiopia, Libya, Mauritania, India or even China, several countries which have never ratified the Rome Agreement. And after 24 years of international justice — African injustice, some would say — from the ICC, their fears have not been denied.