October 14, 2013:
The ICC (International Criminal Court) is facing a mutiny by the 32 African nations that signed the treaty recognizing the power of the ICC to indict and prosecute people in member states of war crimes. So far 122 nations have signed the treaty that allows the ICC to prosecute its citizens. The ICC indicts and prosecutes if it determines that such crimes have been committed and the national government will not or cannot prosecute. The AU (African Union) recently agreed to support continued membership of African nations in the ICC but only if heads of state are exempt from prosecution. Technically the AU is calling for such prosecutions to be “suspended” while the accused is in office. This would mean the accused could travel abroad without fear of arrest. Currently, only two heads-of-state (Sudan and Kenya) are under ICC indictment but many African leaders worry that they could be next. The ICC is not inclined to grant any immunity because that would just make the worst leaders more intent on staying in power.
The ICC has arrested, and even tried, very few people since it began operating in 2002. The ICC has never actually convicted and punished anyone. Since 2002, the ICC has indicted 32 people, issued arrest warrants for 23 individuals, and summonses to 9 others. The ICC is currently trying to prosecute 24 people. It has 5 accused in detention and considers 10 others fugitives. 4 have been arrested in other countries but are not yet in ICC custody.
4 defendants are in the pre-trial phase while another 4 are at trial. One person who was convicted is appealing his sentence. Another who was acquitted is having that appealed by the prosecution. 8 defendants have completed their ICC proceedings with 4 having the charges against them dismissed, one had had the charges against him withdrawn, and 3 have died before trial. There are often disputes between ICC and local prosecutors over who should prosecute. The ICC believes that in some cases the local prosecutors are seeking jurisdiction so they can go through the motions of trying the accused and then acquit. The ICC was founded to avoid this and corrupt heads-of-state often have enough local judges and prosecutors on their personal payroll that they can beat any local prosecutions. The ICC is another matter and corrupt politicians fear it.
The basic Africans complaint is that all the ICC activity has been against African states. While it is true that most war crimes are committed in Africa and that African states are the most likely to have problems with corruption, it is popular in Africa to believe they are being singled out. Thus African mass media (often influenced by corrupt local officials) finds it easy to push the idea that nations elsewhere in the world are deserving of some ICC action. This has become a matter of regional pride and the media are all over it. Less visible is the influence of all those dirty politicians in the region and their influence with African media and diplomats. These crooks often terrorize local media into playing down criticism of corrupt politicians and definitely want the ICC to back off because anti-corruption efforts are becoming increasingly popular and visible. While the ICC doesn’t actually deal with corruption, most of the people it is prosecuting are thieves as well as killers.