The International Criminal Court has come under criticism for being prejudiced when handling criminal cases from the African continent. African leaders and their allies have accused the court of blowing their cases out of proportion.
Many of the affected African leaders claim that the ICC is racially subjective, accusing the organization of negatively highlighting cases involving various African leaders throughout the year.
There are 121 state parties who are members of the Rome Statute, the establishing treaty of the ICC. The member states include many countries outside Africa. Even though other member states experience crimes against humanity in myriad ways, little is known about these states when undergoing a trial at the ICC. This leaves the question whether African states are the only states to commit crimes against humanity in comparison to first world countries.
Sophomore Falukh Sentongo of Uganda said the ICC has always been involved in a culture of selective prosecutions, especially when African personalities are involved. He noted that the ICC prosecutes discriminatingly, making decisions partially based on cultural and racial orientations. Sentongo dismissed the fact that most people who accused the ICC of being impartial had either undergone trials, or were people whose states were being judged at the ICC.
As an international criminal court, the ICC was mandated to protect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proposed at a United Nations meeting in 1948. Under the governance of the Rome Statute, the ICC was mandated to conserve human rights throughout the world. They vowed to deal with individuals who violated human rights, especially the rights of people living in areas of continued conflicts without regard to race.
Kenyan political analyst Paul Ofisi says that “Even though the court was created to help international countries end impunity on their lands and bring to justice the perpetrators of serious crimes against humanity, it has handled [the] African continent as a murky place full of atrocities that should be terminated.” Ofisi commended the ICC for doing a good job, but opposed how they damage the reputation of Africa by highlighting African states as the greatest human rights violators.
In a presidential statement marking last year’s Human Rights Day, ICC President Song Sang-Hyun stated, “I express my deepest sympathies to all persons whose fundamental human rights have been violated, especially those living in areas of continued conflict.” This statement expressed that the ICC’s main goal is to deliver justice to the less privileged in conflict prone areas. Sang-Hyun concluded that human rights should be vigilantly promoted and protected.
Sang-Hyun’s statement was strongly guarded by the chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, who responded to accusations of her handling of the recent Kenyan cases at the court. “No one will divert me from the course of justice,” she said, and noted that the main focus of the ICC was to dwell in areas that are susceptible to conflict and where human rights are constantly being violated.
A freshman who requested anonymity defended the ICC and noted that the prosecutorial office only responds where its immediate intervention is seriously needed – to help calm the victims of humanity crimes by ending impunity, and to bring the perpetrators to justice. “That is why many African states are having numerous trials at the ICC – they still experience impunity from their dictator leaders,” the freshman said.
The freshman noted that the recent African cases at the ICC are justifiable because of the ICC’s handling of human rights in those countries. This person added that unless African perception of a biased ICC does not change, crimes against humanity will ever prevail in the continent.