Connect with us

World News

Undue criticism of ICC

Published

on

Arab News — Many African leaders have been angry for a number of years that the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the affiliated Rwanda and Sierra Leone war crimes courts appear to have focused exclusively on African war criminals in Rwanda, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Congo, Ivory Coast, Uganda, Kenya and Somalia.

Last month the South African government announced its intention to withdraw from the ICC. Burundi said it had already made such a decision. Then, after those two, came Gambia and now observers are saying there may be others that will follow. Yet over the years it is the African states themselves that have made most of the referrals to the ICC. An African woman is the Court’s chief prosecutor. Five of the 17 judges are African.

In the last few years there have been a number of self-referrals to the ICC by Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Central African Republic (twice), the Comoros and, as recently as September, Gabon. They are countries that have been plagued by vicious, no-holds barred, insurgencies.

African governments were prompt in arresting suspected leaders of the genocide in Rwanda who had tried to hide away in nearby countries. African countries while complaining out of one side of their mouth have been out of the other side forcefully making use of the ICC for their own good purposes.

Today, if one looks at all the courts in the round, since the founding of the War Crimes Tribunal for ex-Yugoslavia in 1993 and then the creation of the international UN-supervised courts for East Timor and Cambodia, there have been a good number of ex-Yugoslavs, Cambodians, Indonesians, East Timorese tried and convicted. It is not just Africans.

Moreover, the ICC prosecutor is currently investigating war crimes in a number of other countries — Venezuela, Syria, Honduras, Georgia, Palestine and Iraq. The influential, Washington-based, Foreign Policy Magazine revealed in a recent report that the ICC “is ready to initiate a full investigation of a range of possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan, including some by US personnel.

The ICC move would mark the first time that a formal ICC investigation has scrutinized US actions and sets up a possible collision with Washington.”

There is nothing to stop African countries referring an alleged atrocity crime to the ICC happening in some other part of the world. If a country, say Tanzania, refers such a happening to the ICC this enables the ICC Prosecutor to initiate a formal investigation without waiting for any further authorization.

African states could also take the initiative, argues David Scheffer, the former American diplomat responsible for war crimes issues, to refer a non-African situation to the Court — for example if new atrocity crimes erupt in Afghanistan, if North Korea again attacks South Korea resulting in many casualties, if new atrocities occur amid the political turmoil in Bosnia, in Syria on both sides of the conflict, or if the Syrian conflict spills over into Jordan.

African governments could be far more effective in pressing the UN Security Council to refer, under Chapter Seven of the Charter, present-day conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. The only Security Council activity pushed by the Africans is to try and persuade it — futilely — to shut down investigations of some of their own. Africans have no good reason to think that the world is picking on them and that the West, in particular, thinks it is morally superior.

Look at it this way. It’s only 70 years ago since the German surrender and the arrest of Hitler’s 50 senior accomplices. British Prime Minister Sir. Winston Churchill wanted them to be summarily shot. How “civilized” was that? It was the US President Harry Truman and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, who persuaded Churchill that a public trial (at Nuremberg) with the right of defense was necessary, both to educate public opinion and to make sure revanchist Germans could never use the argument that the allies didn’t believe in justice.

Most countries of the world are members of the ICC. The last thing we need is a Brexit-type movement of withdrawals. On the contrary, there is a need to further strengthen it.

The number of wars and atrocities has gone down all over the world during the last 25 years, not least in Africa. The Africans should understand that the ICC will help them get this number down further. The ICC serves Africans’ interests. It is important that they should come to realize this.

Ethiopia

U.S. Embassy Statement on the Ethiopian Government’s Declared State of Emergency

Published

on

We strongly disagree with the Ethiopian government’s decision to impose a state of emergency that includes restrictions on fundamental rights such as assembly and expression.

We recognize and share concerns expressed by the government about incidents of violence and loss of life, but firmly believe that the answer is greater freedom, not less.

The challenges facing Ethiopia, whether to democratic reform, economic growth, or lasting stability, are best addressed through inclusive discourse and political processes, rather than through the imposition of restrictions.

The declaration of a state of emergency undermines recent positive steps toward creating a more inclusive political space, including the release of thousands of prisoners. Restrictions on the ability of the Ethiopian people to express themselves peacefully sends a message that they are not being heard.

We strongly urge the government to rethink this approach and identify other means to protect lives and property while preserving, and indeed expanding, the space for meaningful dialogue and political participation that can pave the way to a lasting democracy.

Continue Reading

KENYA

Suspected Al-Shabaab militants kill 3 in Kenyan school attack

Published

on

FILE

WAJIR, Kenya, Feb. 16 (Xinhua) — Suspected Al-Shabaab militants killed three Kenyan teachers and injured one other in an attack Friday on a school in the country’s northeastern county of Wajir, officials said.

The militants in early morning attacked the Qarsa primary school near the borders with Somalia and Ethiopia, in a town about 70 km from Wajir town, the capital of the county, killing three non-local teachers, said Mohamud Saleh, coordinator of Kenya’s northeastern region.

Authorities have been working to find another teacher who was allegedly shot in the hand and escaped with injuries.

Saleh said that ongoing efforts have been made to trace the killers, who escaped soon after the incident.

“This is (a) very unfortunate incident and the first of its kind in Wajir County,” he said, noting that the militants had planted improvised explosive devices (IED) along the route to the school.

Police said the militants seemed to have planted enough IED on roads leading to the school, making it extremely hard for ambulances and reinforcement teams to get to the site on time.

“One of our vehicles that was responding to the attack was partly hit by an IED … but all our officers are in good condition,” said Mohamed Sheikh, Wajir Administration Police commandant.

Local residents said tension and uncertainty remains high in the entire county.

Northeastern Kenya has suffered grenade and gun attacks in recent years since Kenya took its troops to Somalia to fight the Al-Shabaab militia group in October 2011.

Several attacks believed to have been carried out by Al-Shabaab have occurred in Mandera, Wajir, and Garissa and Dadaab districts of northeastern Kenya even as the military reports gains against the Islamist group by capturing their military bases and killing scores of them.

Continue Reading

Ethiopia

Ethiopia declares state of emergency after PM quits

Published

on

AL JAZEERA — Ethiopia has declared a state of emergency, a day after the country’s prime minister abruptly resigned.

The measure was announced on Friday by the Council of Ministers, the Ethiopian government’s cabinet, according to state broadcaster EBC.

Local media said the measure is effective as of Friday, but it was not immediately clear how long it would last.

Quoting an unnamed source “close to the government”, the Addis Standard newspaper reported that the Council was debating whether to make the measure span three or six months.

In August 2017, Ethiopia lifted a 10-month state of emergency imposed after hundreds of people were killed in anti-government protests demanding wider political freedoms.

Ethiopia’s Oromo and Amhara people – who make up about 61 percent of the country’s population – have staged mass demonstrations since 2015 demanding greater political inclusion and an end to human rights abuses.

Jawar Mohammed, an Oromo rights activist and head of the Oromia Media Network, said the state of emergency declaration was “unnecessary, unhelpful and unwise”.

“The best way to ensure stability at this time is not to declare state of emergency that was tested and failed,” Mohammed wrote on Facebook earlier on Friday.

Felix Horne, a Human Rights Watch researcher on Ethiopia, said during the last state of emergency – the first in 25 years – more than 20,000 people were arrested.

“Those released speak about how it has only angered them further. It didn’t work then, what does [the government] hope to achieve now?” Horne wrote on Twitter.

Political uncertainty

Hailemariam, who has sat at the helm of the Ethiopian government since 2012, announced on Thursday he would be stepping down as prime minister and head of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition.

He cited ongoing “unrest and a political crisis” in the country as major factors in his resignation, which he described as “vital in the bid to carry out reforms that would lead to sustainable peace and democracy”.

Hailemariam said he will stay on as prime minister in a caretaker capacity, until the EPRDF and the country’s parliament accept his resignation and name a replacement.

The executive committees of both the EPRDF and his own party within the coalition, the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement, have so far accepted his decision to step down.

Tsedale Lemma, editor-in-chief of Addis Standard, said there has been a political struggle within the ruling party since the death of former prime minister, Meles Zenawi, in 2012.

Appointing a new prime minister from within the Oromo community would be “a conciliatory gesture”, Lemma said.

But whomever replaces Hailemariam, she said Ethiopia “needs a very serious political surgery to heal it from its structural [disfunction]”, which would include dismantling repressive laws and strengthening the independence of the judiciary.

Mulatu Gemechu, deputy secretary of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress, said earlier on Friday that Ethiopia needs a new political system after years of unrest.

“Ethiopians now need a government that respects their rights, not one that keeps beating and killing them,” he told Reuters news agency.

Continue Reading

TRENDING