Africa: Africom And the ICC – Enforcing International Justice in Africa?

[The International Criminal Court (ICC), which the USA has never joined nor recognised its authority, is now slated to use the US’ AFRICOM forces as the enforcement arm of the ICC in Africa.  This article traces how this will enable the US to further camoflage its imperialist interests and interventionist maneuvers in the current “scramble for Africa” and its resources. — Frontlines ed.]

Pambazuka News

Samar Al-Bulushi And Adam Branch

14 April 2011

The ICC (International Criminal Court) prosecutor has called for the US military to enforce ICC arrest warrants in Africa, while American officials have declared a new phase of cooperation between the US and the ICC, write Samar Al-Bulushi and Adam Branch. What some see as a solution to the ICC’s lack of enforcement capacity, the authors argue, in fact poses a dramatic danger to peace and justice in Africa and to the future of the ICC itself.

THE ICC’S ENFORCEMENT CRISIS

Nearly eight years since its establishment in July 2002, and with its first major review conference just around the corner, the International Criminal Court (ICC) faces a number of challenges. The fact that it has prosecuted only Africans has provoked charges of neocolonialism and racism; its decision to indict certain actors and not others has triggered suspicion of the court’s susceptibility to power politics; and its interventions into ongoing armed conflicts have elicited accusations that the ICC is pursuing its own brand of justice at the cost of enflaming war and disregarding the interests of victims.[1] Each of these concerns is likely to provoke heated discussions at the review conference in Kampala next week.

But there is another aspect of the court’s role in Africa that will require scrutiny going forward: enforcement. Lacking its own enforcement mechanism, the court relies upon cooperating states to execute its arrest warrants. The ICC has found, however, that many states, even if willing to cooperate, often lack the capacity to execute warrants, especially in cases of ongoing conflict or when suspects can cross international borders. Moreover, the African Union (AU) has rejected the ICC’s arrest warrant for its most high-profile target, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, and ICC supporters worry that the AU will continue to challenge the court’s authority, especially when the court targets African leaders. The court today thus faces an enforcement crisis: out of 13 arrest warrants issued, only four suspects are in custody. Apparently, having concluded that African states are either unwilling or unable to act quickly or forcefully enough to apprehend suspects, the court has begun to seek support from the one country that has shown itself willing and able to wield military force across the globe: the United States. Continue reading