Is the International Criminal Court (ICC) unfairly targeting Africans?
The tribunal, which came into effect 12 years ago after 120 countries agreed to a treaty four years earlier that would govern the world’s first permanent international criminal court, has only prosecuted Africans, including Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta who is accused of helping instigate the violence that rocked his country a few years ago following vigorously contested elections. An estimated 1,100 people were killed and nearly 650,000 were forced to flee their homes.
Dr. Chile Eboe-Osuji, an ICC judge since March 2012, addressed concerns that the court is only targeting Africans during his keynote speech last week at the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers’ (CABL) annual Black History Month celebration at The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC).
“In recent years, the work of the ICC has not been well received by some African leaders and intellectuals,” said Eboe-Osuji who was called to the Ontario and British Columbia Bars in 1993. “The precise reason for that is every single indictment and every case that has been sent to trial has been from Africa…It then comes as no surprise that this has led to criticism that some may view as having the effect of weakening the confidence of the court in the discharge of its mandate to protect victims of atrocities wherever they are.
“The critics worry that what is happening is nothing short of racial profiling at the highest international level. The context of that complaint is framed by the fact that atrocities are also occurring elsewhere other than in Africa, but only those in Africa are making it into the court’s docket.”
Eboe-Osuji, who studied law at McGill University and the University of Calabar in Nigeria and holds a Ph.D. in criminal law from the University of Amsterdam, said efforts should be made to reassure African leaders that they and their people are not the only ICC targets.
“Although racial profiling remains a judicially recognized wrong that every society must root out from its domestic justice systems, it is a mistake to permit any experiences of that wrong to skew proper appreciation of the work of the ICC,” he said. “The best perspective from which the work of the ICC must be appreciated is from the perspective of victims of atrocities who crave the basic right to life and to security of the person and not from the perspective of the preferences and predispositions of political leaders who would rather not be the focus of the ICC’s attention. African victims of atrocities are also Africans and they have no lesser claim to have their own predispositions taken into account too. And, it is their protection that matters more for purposes of the work of the ICC.
The theme of Eboe-Osuji’s presentation was, “Recalling: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.
“The best value that can be given to the complaint of African leaders about the current concentration of the court’s work in Africa is afforded by the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s. famous words, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’,” he said. “But that is a compelling reason for African leaders to continue to insist that the justice that the ICC promises humanity must be extended to victims of atrocities everywhere, particularly those outside Africa.
“It’s never a credible argument to weaken the confidence or ability of the ICC justice to victims of atrocities anywhere, especially in Africa, merely because of the look of things. Hence, political leaders everywhere should continue to insist that African victims of atrocities should continue to receive justice at the ICC while in good faith joining African leaders in their clamour that victims of atrocities everywhere in the world must similarly benefit from the work of the ICC.”
Last week, the ICC launched an investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Central African Republic where Christian and Muslim militias are waging a sectarian war.
Attendees at the Black History Month event included LSUC treasurer Thomas Conway.
The CABL has been quite active since its formation 18 years ago. It has collaborated with the University of Windsor Faculty of Law to establish the Julius Isaac scholarship to honour the first Black to be named to the Federal Court of Canada and the first Black to be appointed Chief Justice of the Federal Court. He passed away four years ago.
The organization has also recognized Black Bay Street partners, Canada’s Black judges and Black women who have positively contributed to law and the legal professional, and made submissions on legal, equity and social justice issues to the federal and provincial governments.
The current executive comprises Arleen Huggins (president), Cherylyn Dickson (vice-president), Donna Walwyn (secretary), Philip Graham (treasurer), Rosemarie Mercury (membership director), Larry Henry (fundraising director) and Shawn Richard (professional development director).
Keri Wallace and Shaneka Shaw are the Young Lawyers Division (YLD) co-chairs while Tamara Johnson and Gordon Cudjoe are the community liaison co-chairs.