By MURPHY BROWNE (ABENA AGBETU)
“How is it possible that we have a situation where every indicted individual at the ICC is African and every investigation is, guess where, Africa? The ICC was set up to try those lesser breeds without the law – the Africans. This is the same civilising mission from the late nineteenth century and I find it, as a Black man, totally objectionable.”
Quote published in the London Evening Standard on August 12, 2010 attributed to Courtenay Griffiths, Queen’s Counsel QC, one of Britain’s most famous defence lawyers.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) was established on July 17, 1998 by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court treaty at a conference in Rome, Italy and became effective on July 1, 2002.
The Court’s official location is in The Hague, Netherlands, but its proceedings may take place anywhere. As of July 2012, there are 153 countries whose representatives had signed the document. However, 32 of those countries have not ratified the statute.
Israel, Sudan and the United States of America have informed the United Nations Secretary General that they no longer intend to become states parties and therefore have no legal obligations arising from their former representatives’ signature of the Statute.
In 2002, India and the U.S. signed a pact under which they agreed not to send each other’s nationals to a world tribunal. The pact was signed by Indian Foreign Secretary, Kanwal Sibal, the top bureaucrat in the foreign ministry and the American ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill.
At the time Blackwill was quoted as saying:
“India and the United States share the strongest possible commitment to bringing to justice those who commit war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide however, we are concerned about the International Criminal Court (ICC) treaty with respect to the adequacy of checks and balances, the impact of the treaty on national sovereignty and the potential for conflict with the UN Charter.”
The ICC is a permanent tribunal with a mandate to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. However, it cannot exercise jurisdiction over crimes of aggression until at least 2017.
Former U.S. President George W. Bush’s administration strongly opposed the ICC, saying the tribunal could bring politically motivated charges against Americans, including civilian military contractors and former officials. The Rome statute setting up the ICC was signed by former U.S. president, Bill Clinton.
Since its establishment, the ICC has opened investigations involving seven African countries: the Central African Republic, the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, Darfur/Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, the Republic of Kenya and Uganda.
Former Liberian President, Charles Taylor, was tried under the mandate and auspices of the “Special Court for Sierra Leone” but his trial was held at the ICC’s facilities in The Hague supposedly because of political and security concerns around conducting the trial in Liberia.
British defence lawyer, Courtenay Griffiths QC, defended Taylor during his trial at the ICC headquarters at The Hague. Although it is a lawyer’s duty to defend his/her client to the best of their ability and not to make moral judgments, Griffiths was forced to defend himself for his role in defending Taylor.
It seemed that many journalists forgot that people are presumed innocent until proven guilty. When questioned about his decision to represent Taylor, Griffiths said:
“I have no moral commitment to Charles Taylor but I do believe he is entitled to the best-quality defence available. I will ensure that he gets it. The morality of Charles Taylor is none of my business. That’s between him and his God, whichever God he chooses to worship. My job is to present his case in court. I’m certainly not going to be making moral judgments about any of my clients. I’ve defended, for example, terrorists – but to make a moral judgement about such defendants is to forget that, you know, one man’s terrorist is another man’s war hero.”
Griffiths was not shy about expressing his displeasure at what he saw as the ICC’s unwarranted attack on Africa and Africans. Not surprising since he has experienced racism almost from the day his family left Jamaica and immigrated to the UK when he was a small child.
During interviews he has spoken of his experience as a youngster where White people would try to touch his skin and hair as if he was a curiosity. Graduating from law school and becoming a practicing barrister brought its own challenges with White supremacist thinking.
In an interview published by the BBC News on August 26, 2010, Griffiths is quoted as saying:
“One of the first times I went to court in south London, I arrived in court suited and booted, brief in my briefcase – only to be told: ‘Oh, the defendants sit at the back of the court sir’. Meaning, because I was Black, I had to be awaiting a charge, or had to be up on a charge. I couldn’t conceivably be a barrister representing anyone in that court.”
Griffiths is not alone in his criticism of the ICC with its bias against Africa and Africans. On Sunday, September 2, 2012 an article written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu was published in The Observer entitled “Why I had no choice but to spurn Tony Blair.”
In that article Archbishop Tutu lambasted not only the ICC but former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former U.S. President George W. Bush:
“The immorality of the United States and Great Britain’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003, premised on the lie that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, has destabilized and polarised the world to a greater extent than any other conflict in history. Instead of recognising that the world we lived in, with increasingly sophisticated communications, transportation and weapons systems necessitated sophisticated leadership that would bring the global family together, the then-leaders of the U.S. and UK fabricated the grounds to behave like playground bullies and drive us further apart. They have driven us to the edge of a precipice where we now stand – with the spectre of Syria and Iran before us.”
Tutu said if this was happening in a “White” country, nations around the world would attempt to bring a halt to the carnage:
“The cost of the decision to rid Iraq of its, by all accounts, despotic and murderous leader has been staggering, beginning in Iraq itself. Last year, an average of 6.5 people died there each day in suicide attacks and vehicle bombs, according to the Iraqi Body Count project. More than 110,000 Iraqis have died in the conflict since 2003 and millions have been displaced. By the end of last year, nearly 4,500 American soldiers had been killed and more than 32,000 wounded.”
The Archbishop was most likely referring not only to the African states being persecuted but also the on-going investigations into Afghanistan, Colombia, Georgia, Guinea, Honduras, Mali, Nigeria, and South Korea when he wrote:
“On these grounds alone, in a consistent world, those responsible for this suffering and loss of life should be treading the same path as some of their African and Asian peers who have been made to answer for their actions in The Hague.”
Luckily for Blair and Bush, the people with the power to bring “war criminals” to trial are White men. The most recent attack by the ICC is against an African woman.
Despite overwhelming evidence that Blair and Bush conspired to attack Iraq with no evidence of weapons of mass destruction, the unholy duo continue to enjoy their freedom. When the time comes for them to answer for their crimes they will need a lawyer like Griffiths who said:
“It is right and proper that a defendant, however heinous the crime committed, has the right to the best representation. My job is to present a case and it’s for the jury or for the judge to decide that issue. Consequently it’s not a question that I ask. I may have my own suspicions, but at the end of the day I’m not the person returning the verdict, so consequently my views are totally immaterial.”
Blair and Bush should keep this man’s number on speed dial.