Puppet body

With its issue of an arrest warrant for Libya’s president Muammar Gaddafi on charges of committing crimes against humanity, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has laid bare yet again its willingness to be used as a sword-arm of western countries. Unable to oust Gaddafi from power despite its generous military support to Libyan rebels and its relentless bombing of Libyan cities, Nato is desperately looking for options.

And the ICC obliged with an arrest warrant against the Libyan leader. It has alleged that Gaddafi, his son and brother-in-law ordered or encouraged their armed forces to shoot down and jail hundreds of Libyan civilians when the anti-government protests started in February. Gaddafi’s actions call for serious condemnation and action. However, of greater concern is the illegal aerial bombing of Libyan civilians by Nato planes. But that has not moved, let alone agitated the ICC. The ICC’s arrest warrant against Gaddafi will be hard to enforce. His whereabouts are not known. Thus the ICC move will only impede a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

The ICC is a biased body. Since its setting up, it has exercised jurisdiction in six instances – all in Africa, evoking justified criticism that it is gripped by post-colonial prejudices. A part of the problem lies in that the court is restricted in what it can investigate. The UN Security Council can ask it to act - as in the case of Darfur - or the court can launch a probe if it receives a complaint from a state which is party to the Rome agreement that established it. And the western powers have exploited these restrictions to their benefit.

Thus George Bush or Tony Blair can be investigated by the ICC for their war crimes in Iraq if either the UNSC or Iraq requests a probe. The UNSC will not and Iraq is not an ICC signatory. Of course, even if such a probe were conducted by the ICC, the US is unlikely to hand over Bush as it is not an ICC signatory.  

It is not our argument that war crimes must be ignored. But these need to be investigated irrespective of the race, nationality and ethnicity of the perpetrator. The ICC must pursue justice evenly. Its selective quest for justice has left it with little credibility.

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