THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT AND AFRICA: AN END TO ATROCITIES?
Keywords:Intentional killings, destruction, extermination, widespread or systematic attack, disregard for human rights, war crimes, acts of aggression
Intentional killings, destruction and extermination of entire groups; widespread or systematic attack directed against civilians pursuant to state policy or that of other organisations; disregard for human rights; war crimes and acts of aggression, have ravaged the world in general and the continent of Africa in particular. The atrocities in Rwanda prompted UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to conclude that “man’s capacity for evil knows no limits”. On 2 September 1998, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in The Prosecutor v Jean-Paul Akayesu (Case No CTR-9-4-T) found the accused guilty of genocide. The tribunal concluded that genocide was indeed committed in Rwanda in 1994 against the Tutsi as a group, and that the genocide appears to have been meticulously organised. Ethnic and religious tension continues to plague other parts of Africa, such as the Hutu/Tutsi conflict in Burundi and Christian/Muslim friction in Nigeria. Chad, Sudan, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR) have all been wracked with protracted civil wars.
It is reported that the Congolese rebel leader Jeanne-Pierre Bemba is likely to be the first to be investigated for prosecution before the International Criminal Court.
The situations in Angola and Liberia testify to atrocities which in international law can be classified as war crimes and crimes against humanity. According to a Business Day report Zimbabwean NGOs have threatened ICC action against the Zanu-PF elite.
The commission of grave atrocities on the continent has, however, not been limited to conflict situations. The terror under the rule of Amin and Obote of Uganda, Bokassa of the CAR, Habre of Chad, Mengistu of Ethiopia, Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, and Mobutu of the DRC illustrate that gross human rights violations in Africa have not necessarily only occurred during times of war.
Also significant is the fact that the International Criminal Court (ICC) Statute includes apartheid (defined in a 7(2)(h) “as inhumane acts committed in the context of an institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime”) as a category of crimes against humanity. In no other continent has the effect of apartheid been felt like in Africa. Until a little over a decade ago apartheid was institutionalised in South Africa.
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