By Osuolale Alalade
A scoundrel from Khartoum came to town last week and the nation went berserk. The cacophony of approbations and condemnations of our accommodating policy was not unexpected. Yet, it was unexpected because we, as a nation, have immunized ourselves against the luxury of the pursuit of delicate national sensibilities. In our national life, we live with many of such unconscionable characters wearing all manner of masks. Assassins, murderers, brigands, all in high places, have become an integral part of the national socio-political landscape. In fact, they define the geography of our public space and flaunt themselves as the brightest and best of Nigeria. So, last week was good reminder that the Nigerian sense of propriety is still very much alive and kicking. It was good news to see Nigeria perched on the horns of what in fact is a permanent international dilemma? We were bound to be drawn into the practical posers of this international challenge at some point. It came calling last week. What do you do with the torturer? My professor in graduate school termed it “the torturer’s dilemma” In this instance, it is a double dilemma. Bringing the Omar Al Bashirs, Joseph Konys, and the Charles Taylors to justice poses one dimension of the big dilemma. The other dimension is dealing with the dilemma of dealing with torturer?
The two dimensions of this dilemma raise profound challenges for policy making that delicately balances all the contradictory imperatives of these dilemmas. It is the latter of the two dimensions that Nigeria was confronted with last week. How do you respond to the indictment of an International Criminal Court (ICC) of a certified scoundrel when the Court itself was created to advance partisan policies of hubristic, mainly European, powerful forces and their Court itself a certified instrument of their coordinated cooperate strategic policy? It is in this context that I commend the sophistication displayed by the Nigeria administration in successfully undertaking the balancing act of dealing with this challenge. It explained that the presence and participation of H E President Omar Hassan El-Bashir of the Republic of The Sudan, in a conference in Nigeria was in his capacity as an active member of the continental body. Nigeria was therefore under an obligation to comply with the decision of the African Union on the Special Summit. It was, therefore, a matter between the African Union and the international community. I admired the sophistry of the explanation proffered in our decision not to arrest the Sudanese scoundrel. In many ways, this policy is a welcome departure from our recent past.
The challenge would not go away although, but we can at least begin to train our Nigerian eyes to certain debilitating truisms about our society’s naïve perceptions and understandings about the impeccable morality of the international system. There is no morality in the international system. Accordingly, no international structures or institutions, from the Security Council, the so called International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court (ICC) and allied bodies, were established to pursue justice as we know it in the domestic setting. They are all political bodies. They are created as instruments to pursue the interests of powerful forces that need and deploy them against weaker states. We have to wary of not just international structures and institutions, one needs to be wary of humanistic principles when floated by international political bodies. A clear case in point is the principle of Responsibility to Protect. Analysts have observed that restraining predatory elite states contemptuous of the sovereignty of weak states from deploying principles supposedly encoding universal values to unilaterally project their strategic interests has been futile. The doctrine of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) was advanced by its advocates as intended to create a new international legal framework for stopping war crimes. The principle therefore legitimizes international enforcement action against an oppressive state to protect its citizens from grave harm. The outcomes of the unilateral interventions of major powers in domestic affairs of weak states using this principle show that in reality the interventions were in pursuit of national strategic projects. They had nothing to do with the rule of law or to protect vulnerable citizens. The façade of “humanitarian interventions were exactly what it was-only a façade to do other heinous things. It is same case with the ICC.
Ronen Steinke, a German lawyer and political journalist, reveals the real reasons behind the pretend altruistic motives of Germany in the mid-1990s in propagating the vision of an independent ICC, not subjected to the control of the UN Security Council and, finally, in initiating the founding of the ICC. Steinke carefully analysed and explicitly disagrees with the proposition that explains Germany’s politics of international criminal justice as an approach to international law inspired by values and enhanced by a feeling of ‘historical duty’. Steinke shows that the establishment of courts of international justice is an expression of the – often merely symbolic – protest against a ‘culture of impunity’, combating impunity of perpetrators of crimes against humanity. What is of importance to Nigeria and Africa is the second function of the ICC revealed by Steinke. Of greater interest and importance for Steinke, however, is a second function of international criminal justice: “the reconstruction of historical events in a particular way, allowing for the establishment of ‘historical truth’, for the authoritative confirmation of a certain narrative of historical events”. In that process, the prosecutor and her office play a key role. The selection of cases to be investigated and brought to trial determines the narratives to be established, the authoritative ‘historical truth’ of a conflict to be pronounced by the court. The prosecutor’s margin of appreciation and her selection of cases prompt questions of accountability and control. The current discussion concerning the case selection of the ICC, especially in relation to Africa, where neo colonial forces have vested interests to denounce emerged nationalist aspiration, illustrates the core challenge to the legitimacy of any international criminal tribunal. In this controversy, scoundrels like Omar Bashir can get succour in the continent’s challenge to the dirty hands of the ICC. This highlights the axiom that he who comes to equity must come with clean hands. The hands of the ICC are dirty and therefore cannot be trusted by weak states to dispense justice dispassionately and without bias.
Africa and Nigeria must be worried about the role of the ICC because of its second function revealed by Steinke. We have an example nearby of the shenanigans of international justice. The authoritative global narratives on the Ivorian conflict or in the so called Libyan uprising are to be codified by the ICC. The ICC is in an embarrassing situation in both cases. In Cote d’Ivoire, it is incontrovertible that the most egregious violations of human rights in the conflict were committed by the France, Burkina Faso Ouagadougou instigated and supported rebel Forces Nouvelles. This horrible rebels comprised seventy per cent Burkinabes. The injustice meted out to the nationalist Laurent Gbagbo came again to the fore when the Court, having held the former president in prison for over a year, ordered the prosecutor to go out to manufacture enough evidence to convict former Ivorian president before November, 2013 or face risk dismissing the case. France whose military murdered over 40 unarmed Ivorian youth protesting the meddlesomeness of France in the internal affairs of Cote d’Ivoire during the crisis is behind stoking the continued incarceration of Laurent Gbagbo. The pro-France rebel group now enjoys the patronage of France and Burkina Faso. The fact is that before long, perhaps even in our life time, Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire would settle their score over the Laurent Gbagbo. This would bea t the expense of Africa yet again. The role of the ICC is not so much to convict Laurent Gbagbo, but to fossilize for posterity the jaundiced narrative of the crisis in Cote d’Ivoire. Such is the importance of narratives when you hear the likes of Lai Mohammed of the APC speak of Gbagbo in derogatory terms. It is a shame. In this connection, Nigeria should observe that by virtue of the cataclysmic role of Houphouet Boigny in unleashing Charles Taylor on our sub region, Burkina Faso and Africa lost one of its most charismatic young leaders-Thomas Sankara- who was assassinated by the Houphouet Boigny supported Taylor rebels that murdered Sankara to install Blaise Compaore in power. Nigeria lost many young men in Liberia as part of this Houphouet Boigny ambition to derail the ECOWAS project to consolidate the French pre-carre in West Africa. France rewarded him by instituting an odious peace price in his name. This was a man whose politics gave birth to an infernal regional instability for over a generation. That is the importance of narratives. The man-Laurent Gbagbo-who is legitimately the father of multi-party democracy in Cote d’Ivoire, went to jail to oppose Houphouet Boigny- is incarcerated by the ICC at the behest of France.
It is against this background that we need to interpret the famous dissent of Justice Hans Peter-Kaul, the Vice- President of the International Criminal Court, on the handling of the case over the Kenya post elections crisis investigated by Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo’s and Ocampo’s request for summonses in the case on Kenya’s post-election violence. In contradicting his other colleagues in the Pre-Trial Chamber II, Judge Peter-Kaul of Germany argued that claims that the violence post elections violence was organised were not supported by any of the material presented to the judges and that he found no evidence suggesting a State policy of attacking civilians. He further argued that the ICC has no jurisdiction in the situation in the Republic of Kenya and the alleged crimes fall within the competence of the Kenyan criminal justice authorities to be investigated and prosecuted. He stated that he took this position with a heavy heart, being profoundly aware of the crimes and atrocities as described in the prosecutor’s Application for summonses. The point here again is that Raila Odinga Odinga, a fine nationalist at the beginning of his career, had become a western stooge and it was important to codify a narrative to demonise his opponents Uhuru Kenyatta. The ICC again becomes the preferred instrument of his unedifying project of western forces pursuing the installation of another proxy in a strategic African country. Judge Peter-Kaul, a former German diplomat that some credit as the most important singular advocate of the establishment of
the International Criminal Court (ICC), could not bear to see his vision bastardized by the rotten politics of international justice. In the meantime, some have queried the influence of the United States in the decision of the International Criminal Court on cases related to the crisis in the Balkans.
All put together, we probably need to take a second look at our innocence on matters of international justice or the morality of the international system. It is a jungle out there. The Hobbesian character of the international playground would not be altered. In this jungle, the dilemma remains-how to deal with the torturer and again those powerful nations who bastardize and exploit international morality in pursuit of their pet strategic projects of the nations. It is good that Nigeria’s policy is gradually waking up to the dangers posed by pretend international do-gooders.
Source: PM News
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