In a letter to Foreign Ministers of African states parties to the International Criminal Court (ICC), more than 30 African civil society organizations and international organizations with a presence in Africa urged African states parties to the ICC to reaffirm support for international justice. The letter, signed by 34 organizations, was written ahead of the 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU), which ends on 30 January 2012.
The letter to Foreign Ministers of African states parties to the ICC came less than a week after the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, said during the launching of the organization's World Report 2012 in Cairo, that the AU was founded to promote democracy but has acted in the last year as if it is a "dictators' support club" that backs authoritarians and ignores the democratic interests of the people. It is hard to disagree with this assertion.
The AU consists of Heads of States who cling to power through controversial elections and constitutional amendments that tamper with presidential term limits. President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, for instance, recently amended the Constitution so as to be eligible to run for (re-)election. This is similar to what happened in Cameroon in 2008 - when President Paul Biya's government eliminated presidential term limits from the Constitution.
With more similarities than differences, such Heads of States are bound to support each other, even if it means turning a blind eye on blatant rights violations or providing safe haven for ousted dictators and their cronies.
Besides failing to take a tough stance against dictators during the "Arab Spring", African states failed to protect the rights of Sub-Saharan Africans who were systematically targeted in Libya during pro-democracy demonstrations in 2011 on accusations of working as mercenaries for the Gaddafi regime. During the conflict, Sub-Saharan Africans in Libya were considered a vulnerable group in desperate need of evacuation, but they were abandoned by their governments and the AU. Many African states turned a blind eye on human rights and democratic interests in Libya, and were preoccupied with blaming western democracies for interfering in the "internal affairs" of Libya.
The ICC is committed to ending impunity for international crimes such as crimes committed in Libya during the 2011 revolution that toppled a 42-year-old regime. African governments should support the ICC and do more to protect the interests of victims of rights violations and oppression, not the interests of dictators and perpetrators of crimes under the jurisdiction of the court.
Impunity for grave crimes is not an option. Perpetrators of crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC should be brought to justice at the Hague - especially in cases where a fair trial is not guaranteed in a national court.
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