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Justice

Bemba: Condemned for Commanding a Rebellion

Rebel camp in Northern Central Republic, courtesy hdptcar/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies on 23 March 2016.

On Monday 21 March, the International Criminal Court (ICC) found former Congolese vice-president and former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Although the charges emanate from crimes committed in Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002 and 2003, his guilty verdict affects not one, but two African countries.

First, in CAR where the ICC found that troops belonging to Bemba’s rebel group Mouvement pour la Liberation du Congo (MLC – the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo) committed the international crimes of rape, murder and pillaging at his behest. Second, the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where Bemba’s arrest and elimination from the political scene in 2008 significantly changed the political landscape.

In late 2002, Bemba – then MLC leader – sent his troops to assist CAR’s president at the time Ange-Félix Patassé. Patassé was attempting to quell armed attacks from François Bozizé, the man who would eventually overthrow him. At this point Bemba had been relying heavily on Patassé; using Bangui as his rear logistics base during his rebellion against DRC President Joseph Kabila. Responding to Patassé’s call for help was in many ways a survival strategy for Bemba. Despite these efforts, Bozizé ousted Patassé in March 2003.

Categories
International Relations Foreign policy Diplomacy Politics

Follow Me, I’m Right Behind You, Says Kenyatta

Uhuru Kenyatta, the President of Kenya

This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS Africa) on 4 February 2016.

As the 26th ordinary summit of the African Union (AU) ended in Addis Ababa on Sunday, Kenyan media led with reports that ‘the African Union has adopted, without amendments, a proposal by President Uhuru Kenyatta to develop a roadmap for withdrawal from the Rome Statute’ – as the Daily Nation put it.

What had actually unfolded was a little more nuanced. The AU heads of state did not decide to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) en masse – yet. Nor even did Kenyatta ask for that. In his speech to the AU Assembly, he asked the summit to give the Open-Ended Committee of African Ministers on the ICC ‘a new mandate to develop a roadmap for withdrawal from the Rome Statute as necessary.’

The key phrase here is ‘as necessary.’ The rest of his speech makes clear that withdrawal from the ICC would be conditional on the court failing to meet the AU’s demands. As Kenyatta said earlier in his speech: ‘It is my sincere hope that our ICC reform agenda will succeed so that we can return to the instrument we signed up for. If it does not, I believe its utility for this continent at this moment of global turmoil will be extremely limited. In that eventuality, we will be failing in our duty if we continue to shore up a dysfunction(-al) instrument.’

Categories
International Relations Regional Stability Politics

Palestine in the ICC: Game Changer for Peace Process?

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. Image: Vincent van Zeijst/Wikimedia

This article first appeared on The Sentinel on January 19, 2015.

The year 2014 ended with a cliffhanger for the Israeli-Palestinian question. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas signed the Rome Statute on New Year’s Eve, a day after a UN resolution mandating Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank failed to pass at the Security Council. As a result, Palestine will formally become a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on April 1, 2015.

Questions abound as to how significant the move will be in changing the balance of power between Israel and Palestine and what it means for the ever-elusive “peace process.”

Categories
Human Rights Conflict Justice

The ICC in the Central African Republic: The Death of Deterrence?

Rebels in CAR
Rebels in the Central African Republic. Photo: Rebel in northern CAR 02/Wikimedia Commons.

Editor’s note: this article was first published on JiC on 11 December 2013.

The Central African Republic (CAR) is “descending into chaos“. In the past few months, violence and instability in the country have proliferated. In November, the French Foreign Minister even used the ‘g-word’ to describe the situation in the CAR, declaring that ”[t]he country is on the verge of genocide”. Jean Ging, of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, similarly suggested that the country is sowing the “seeds of genocide“.

In response to the crisis, the international community has immersed itself knee-deep into another military and humanitarian intervention. [In the week of 2 December 2013], the UN Security Council unanimously authorized France and African Union forces to use “all necessary measures” to protect civilians. The African Union and the UN Security Council have their work cut out for them. In endorsing international intervention into the CAR, the International Crisis Group stated:

Categories
International Relations Security Justice

Putting the ICC’s Kenya Cases on Ice

Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya
Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya. Photo: World Economic Forum/flickr.

Kenya wants the United Nations Security Council to halt the trials of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto. With the African Union at its side, Kenya has asked the Security Council to temporarily defer ICC prosecutions through the invocation of Article 16 of the Rome Statute. Doing so will undoubtedly lead to accusations that the Security Council is actively endorsing impunity in Kenya. But will that stop them?

Recent reports have suggested that Western diplomats are busy drafting a Security Council resolution to defer the Kenya cases. This is significant. Presumably ‘Western’ powers – especially the US and ICC member-states France and the UK – are the key to any resolution passing. A veto from any of them would ruin Kenya’s chances at a deferral – although it should be noted that such a resolution is unlikely to ever come to a vote unless it is guaranteed to pass in advance.