19 October 2011

Why International Criminal Court's work is so significant for Africa: Cote d'Ivoire investigation

*A little late posting this... but better late than never I suppose*

A last refuge for justice

October 12 2011 at 07:53am

At the end of September, the judges of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Pre-Trial Chamber III authorised the court’s prosecutor to launch formal investigations in Ivory Coast. The investigations will focus on the violence that occurred in Ivory Coast from November 28, 2010, following the release of the results of the second round of elections in which the opposition movement, led by Alassane Ouattara, was declared victorious.

The post-election violence in Ivory Coast lasted more than five months. During this period, reports of widespread murder, rape and forced disappearances abounded. As a result of the protracted violence, 3 000 people died and about one million more were internally displaced.

While relative stability has returned to the west African country, according to the UN Mission in Ivory Coast, more than 30 000 people remain internally displaced. As per ICC procedure in matters such as these, the authorisation by the court’s judges followed a request on June 23, 2011 from the ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, to begin the investigations. Ocampo’s request stemmed from an invitation by the Ivorian government to investigate crimes committed in the country.

The judges’ decision is a welcome development in ensuring that justice is served for crimes committed in Ivory Coast. However, the decision comes at a time when the African Union’s relationship with the ICC remains sour. Since 2009, when the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the AU has called on African states not to co-operate with the ICC.

Ironically, several African countries, notably Botswana, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and South Africa, have consistently voiced their support for the ICC and remain committed to co-operating with it.

Furthermore, several African states – Ivory Coast included – have shown continued support for the ICC by calling on the court to investigate and prosecute crimes committed in their countries.

The first situations before the ICC came about after states that are signatories to the ICC’s Rome Statute asked the court to investigate crimes committed in their respective countries. These states are Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic.

The ICC can also claim jurisdiction over a matter in a state party if the prosecutor, of his own accord, requests authorisation from the ICC’s pre-trial chamber judges to initiate investigations. To date, the prosecutor has only exercised this proprio motu power once, in the case of Kenya’s post-election violence.

The UN Security Council may refer situations to the ICC in countries that are not state parties to the Rome Statute. The security council has exercised this power in respect of two situations before the court: those of Sudan’s western province, Darfur, and Libya.

With the recent authorisation of investigations in Ivory Coast, four of the seven cases before the ICC are the result of choices made by African states themselves. This is a clear sign of acceptance by Africans of the importance of the ICC in assisting them in meeting their obligations to end impunity and promote international criminal justice.

While Ivory Coast has not ratified the Rome Statute, it has formally accepted the jurisdiction of the ICC. The first declaration accepting the ICC’s jurisdiction was made in April 2003 by then-president Laurent Gbagbo.

In December 2010 and again in May 2011, incumbent Alassane Ouattara made similar declarations and invited the ICC prosecutor to investigate crimes committed since November 2010.

The peculiar situation in which Ivory Coast has accepted the ICC’s jurisdiction, without taking the broader step of ratifying the Rome Statute, creates an interesting precedent for the authorities of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The Palestinian authorities are bidding for statehood and in January 2009, made a similar declaration granting the ICC jurisdiction over the crimes allegedly committed by Israel during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. If the occupied Palestinian territories are granted statehood, the Palestinian authorities may also wish to refer the situation in their territories to the ICC. However, pending the outcome of the Palestinians’ bid for statehood, to date all the cases before the ICC are from African countries.

This African focus has led to some criticism of the ICC as targeting Africa. This criticism, however, ignores important considerations.

Firstly, 32 African countries have voluntarily ratified the Rome Statute and Ivory Coast has voluntarily accepted the ICC’s jurisdiction.

Secondly, the criticism fails to acknowledge the fact that the majority of the situations before the ICC areas are a result of self-referral by the government of the country concerned.

Furthermore, the criticism overlooks that the ICC serves as a court of last resort, which only intervenes when a state is either unwilling or unable to prosecute alleged perpetrators of international crimes.

Lastly, the criticism does not acknowledge the pervasive culture of impunity and weak criminal justice systems in Africa – factors that have contributed significantly to the continued commission of international crimes on the continent.

The ICC exists to fill the impunity gap and to ensure justice for persons responsible for the most serious crimes of international concern. The ICC is furthermore complementary to national criminal jurisdictions. The preamble of the Rome Statute stresses that the first commitment by states is to themselves “end impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes and thus contribute to the prevention of such crimes”.

Ivory Coast’s recent invitation to the ICC, alongside the ratification of the Rome Statute by 32 African states, are examples of African countries fulfilling their obligations to promote international criminal justice and end impunity.

The fact that at present, all the situations before the ICC are from African countries indicates not only that unacceptable levels of violence bedevil our continent, but it also presents an opportunity for Africa to be at the centre of developments in international criminal justice.

Even as certain African leaders criticise the ICC’s involvement on the continent, for Ivorian victims of mass atrocities, that involvement sends out a symbolically important message that their suffering has not been forgotten and that those responsible may meet justice, through the work of a faraway court in The Hague.

Ottilia Anna Maunganidze is a researcher in the International Crime in Africa Programme at the Institute for Security Studies.

21 July 2011

Out with images of war in with the hungry.... step right up!

Watching the news fascinates me... So much so that I subscribed for satellite TV primarily so I could watch the news in the mornings as I get ready for my daily toil and again at night to "catch up"... yet, I must confess that the more I watch the news the more it just seems like a badly scripted attempt to cover "world issues" while only covering a few... or at least covering the ones that will pay for that holiday in Tenerife...

As I watch the news, read the newspapers and what have you, all I see is "sexy"... not catwalk sexy or shake your laffy taffy sexy (depending on how your pendulum swings)... but "This will make a killer headline" 'sexy'. So we are inundated by news of so and so's disastrous breakup, like people don't get dumped everyday... we "oooh" and "aaah" as the details of Dominique Strauss-Kahn's alleged fetish for violent sex is narrated as if thousands of women are not raped each day... 1500 a month in the DRC alone, multiple times... but let's face it, the plight of the poor women in the eastern DRC stopped being glamorous round about the same time it became a cliche to refer to Goma as "the rape capital of the world"...

A friend earlier remarked that the media is acting as if famine is a new thing in Somalia... why do people "care" all of a sudden? I'll tell you why... after months of hearing and seeing the violence in Libya, "the world" is ready for something new, something en vogue... *drum roll please* In saunter the hungry people of east Africa onto our TV screens... Oh yes! Now, we've got "news".. I saw a clip on the news yesterday where the poor Somali child looked like she was made to look sad... Nothing quite like images of emaciated starving eastern Africans to get those TV ratings up... as I supped on my TV dinner, I wondered what I could possibly do to make that poor woman and her children better? Send a goat perhaps? Plant a tree? We ARE going green after all.. and if I plant this one tree in this one corner of the world... that little family on my screen might just disappear... into oblivion... or perhaps they'll just stay exactly where they are, suffering the same pain as the camera pans to the streets of Mzuzu... I hear the Malawians have had it! They want their neo-dictator to go... They can't take it anymore! Run along now dear sexy seekers, you need that "money shot"! The one that'll beat all the others and make it on the cover of National Geographic.. maybe even feature on Al Jazeera... I do love me some news...

07 April 2011

When elephants fight

The thing about power - as has been said many a time - is that it corrupts... the love of power (over and above that of money) for me is the root of all evil. It is in and of itself an all consuming desire to conquer not only one's own world, but the worlds of other... power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. To date millions of people have died in fights for power.. many more will die today... and if we sit back and say "Aaah! But that is the way of the world" many more will die tomorrow and the day after and the day after that...

Today, I write with a heavy heart... once an optimist, man has shown me a side so dark my optimism has been tainted... I find myself believing more and more each day that at the core of many men is an evil so cancerous it threatens to ruin humanity... an evil so all consuming it will mark the end of us all..

I am happy to be alive, my day has not yet come.. but many did not live to see today.. they were killed.. killed by their kin, killed by their kith, killed by their kind.. not by the beasts that lurk in the savanna, but by others like them... hacked by machetes, shot down by AK47s.. Some are alive in body, but dead in spirit. They do not see the world as they did yesterday, they cannot.. stripped of their dignity, a deep hatred thrives where love used to blossom... they are victims of an inhumane world.. a world that does not hear their cries or see their tears.. a world that you and I call ourselves citizens of..

Once an optimist, my rose tinted glasses have been stained by images of mangled bodies and lifeless carcasses... Once an optimist, I see evil in the eyes of many.. I wonder if love can ever live there.. Once an optimist, I realise that my dreams for the world may not become a reality in my lifetime... Once an optimist, I try to celebrate the lives of those who die everyday, but I cannot... I did not know them.. they are faceless.. How can I celebrate their lives, when all I can do is mourn? Once an optimist, I sit here and realise that optimism is a luxury that many cannot afford...

Today I write as innocent people continue to be massacred across the globe - most in the name of politics... My heart bleeds for all the civilians who have been killed as collateral damage in unjust wars...

But as I write, the elephants continue to fight and the ground continues to suffer... as I write someone somewhere has just been gunned down... and as I write, someone somewhere doesn't care :-(

28 February 2011

An open letter to those of whom we do not speak...

Dear Despots,

Thanks to you, I decided to stay home as the world revelled on the 31st of December 2010... Yes, a rather crap year was in its last hours (The memory of the 2010 FIFA World Cup only a blur of bad debt by then), but I couldn't celebrate... It's not that I didn't particularly want to. It just felt like I had reached my pit-stop, that I should take a breather before I embarked on what I hoped would be an amazing 2011.. Yes, the idealist in me not-so-secretly hoped that 2011 would be the year that the ever elusive world peace became a reality.. I needed my rest. No partying for me.

You might be wondering what this all has to do with you.. It's not like you care much for the plight of the ordinary person anyway... Not least one whose passion is the one thing you love most to destroy: human rights... Well, that's just it! My not-so-dear Despots.. This letter is to you..

On 31 December 2010, as many a middle-class spawn partied up a mini storm, explosions tore through Nigeria, 60 women were brutally raped by members of the military and militia in the Eastern DRC, Cote d'Ivoire teetered on the brink of collapse... As many a person partied up a mini storm on December 31st 2010, thousands across the world caught their last breath... killed, tortured, maimed... Some died physically, most died emotionally and spiritually. Their dignity stripped off them leaving them bare... As many partied up a mini storm on December 31st 2010, the world began to burn... You, the arsonists, drank your overpriced champagne and plotted your future as many lamented their present...

On 1 January 2011, the sun arose and with it a tempestuous new dawn... Ben Ali of Tunisia was toppled, Hosni Mubarak soon followed... The people had had enough... they were tired of typing out their sentiments and living at the mercy of greedy despots... they - like phoenixes risen from the ashes - got up and stayed up until their desires were met... Or were they? Tunisia and Egypt remain unstable... the rest of the region is catching fire... burning fervently and so close to the devil's cauldron... Born of violence many shall die of violence.. so the adage goes...

I have decided to stain my satellite view of Africa with red ink... it symbolises the blood that continues to be let in our people's struggle for their right to be human.. It marks the pain and suffering that no one should ever go through. The raw and gaping wounds that you have caused. It marks your legacy dear despots..

As the sun rose on 1 January 2011 I wondered: Will this decade usher in a new dawn? Will we rid ourselves of the choke-hold of our "leaders"... The sun has not set... When you're gone, dear despots... we may rest... and maybe I too will party up a mini storm on the eve of 2012... One can only dream *sigh*

Yours insincerely,

Sick & Tired

01 February 2011

I tweet what I like... and I let people stroke my ego on facebook

A friend of mine recently started using twitter... After a few days she complained about how she has to metaphorically stand on a soapbox and hope people hear her ALL THE TIME.. By Day 3 she had 6 followers and after not tweeting for a couple of days I unfollowed her.. She asked how I could do that when we are FRIENDS... I told her that that's what I still have facebook for... so the people who think they are my friends don't think I've deserted them...

I tweet - A LOT! But that could be simply because I talk a lot too! The 140character limit helps in a way... but it only adds to the ADHD that we all try to suppress. No one creates albums of different shots of their face on twitter and if they did, I can just unfollow them until they get over their mole. I can interact with friends, foes and a few Romans while I get the news as it breaks... I use it the way I see fit.

Yes, twitter has its fair share of narcissists and it can sometimes feel like people are competing to be heard.. It has its limits, but when it comes to soothing our egos Facebook is the better choice. Facebook is the epitome of egotistical - we post flattering pictures of ourselves so our "friends" can "like" them and tell us how the sun makes our eyes pop... psssht! Then we write pseudo-cryptic posts on others' walls so that the "others" can see them and wonder what we're on about and secretly long to be in the inner circle too *yawn*.. Facebook is a lot like high school or college...

That said: I STILL post pictures on facebook *whips hair back and forth* and write on peoples' walls and post status after status so people comment... because well... we all have our id, ego and superego.. don't we?

21 January 2011

How Angelina Jolie killed my love of cinema!

I'm a Pisces... the so-called "dreamers" of the current Zodiac (y'know, before some mad person tries to add an extra star sign that might see me being dubbed a *gasp* Aquarius *gasp*)... so fantasy is my realm... I love to read, I love to write, I love to draw, I love imagery and until Angelina Jolie and Lindsay Lohan began being dubbed "A-Listers", I also REALLY loved going to the cinema to watch movies... ANY movie to be honest... Thanks to them, I now watch films... the kind that don't win awards for being spectacularly glitzy, but the kind that have a story and manage to tell it in under 2 hours... From the Hollywood red carpet to Cannes... almost like moving from being a cocaine addict to smoking mom's lawn...

I "listened" with amusement as friends of mine .... no names... harped on about the Golden Globes.. who won what, who wore what and "Oooh I can't believe Ricky Gervais said THAT"... I was, however, happy to hear that one of Angelina Jolie's movies was a resounding failure - not only at the box office, but also according to the Hollywood Foreign Press (the people who supposedly know everything about movies and whose opinion result in the Golden Globes)..

So, what's my beef with Angie? Last year, after watching a trailer or three of her movie "Salt", I decided that maybe she had redeemed herself since the flop that was Mr & Mrs Pitt... ooops, I mean Smith! So off to the cinema I went. I must admit that a friend had told me that I should probably wait for it to show on Welfare TV, I still went! I don't want to make this a review of the movie so I'll just say this: There's something about a woman fighting crime, but STILL managing to have flawless makeup & lipgloss that makes one think it's a 1 hour 30 min long ad for Revlon... Never mind that the cinematography was terrible and the glaring inconsistencies...

But don't get me wrong, Angie does provide entertainment - on and off screen... and she does it better than Lindsay Lohan... but next time she releases a movie, I'll read a book instead. (I did exactly that when The Tourist was released... and it seems I made the right decision)