A South African court banned the President of Sudan Omar Al-Bashir from leaving the country after he had come to attend the African Union Summit being held in Johannesburg earlier this week.
The Pretoria High Court was responding to a demand from the International Criminal Court (ICC) that the Sudanese president be arrested and face charges for the deaths of an untold number of civilians during the civil conflict that centered on the Darfur region in Sudan.
In a statement from their headquarters at the Hague the ICC said that it “calls on South Africa… to spare no effort in ensuring the execution of the arrest warrants” against Bashir. The ICC attempted to persuade South African diplomats last month to arrest Bashir if he attended the summit, and said: “South Africa has an obligation to arrest him. Failure to do so puts them in the same bracket as other African regimes who have no respect for human rights. It’s actually a test for South Africa.”
Human Rights Watch, an international NGO chimed in that “Allowing President Al-Bashir into South Africa without arresting him would be a major stain on South Africa’s reputation for promoting justice for grave crimes. South Africa’s legal obligations as an ICC member mean cooperating in Al-Bashir’s arrest, not in his travel plans.”
Bashir is not the first African leader to be investigated by the ICC. The organization’s selective targeting of African leaders was brought up during the summit and many suggested that all African states abrogate whatever treaties they had with the organization. This is the same organization that rejected calls by activists the world over to hold Israel accountable for the war crimes it has committed over the years, causing people to repeatedly question the integrity of the ICC in its dealings with nations.
The court which came into existence in 2002 to prosecute crimes committed by nations and individuals against civilians has often been referred to as the “last resort for prosecution of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.”
In its short history, the Court has dealt with crimes of aggression primarily in some countries in Africa. Despite repeated calls, it has continued to ignore calls for investigations into crimes committed by Israelis against Palestinians. It has remained mysteriously silent about the massacres of the residents of Sabra and Shatila and the butchery of civilians in Jenin crafted by Ariel Sharon the Israeli premier at the time, followed by the public display of the genocide of the women and children of Gaza at the behest of the current Israeli premier, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Lest people forget, it was in July of last year that the Israeli war machine invaded Gaza. Bomb after bomb fell on the defenseless civilians of this besieged land, a people held hostage and forced to live in concentration camp conditions. Many independent observers described the onslaught by Israelis as a continuation of a holocaust against the Palestinians but that did not offer any comfort or help soothe the nerves of the civilians facing a daily rain of death. Women and children were specifically targeted as a diabolical Israeli policy suggested that such a tactic would “break the back of the resistance.” And yet the ICC chose to stay mum.
More than 560 children were victims of Israeli brutality. Over 3,600 civilians lost their lives with 18,000 injured and more than 100,000 left homeless. A UN report stated that 140 families in Gaza were partially or completely annihilated by the Israelis in a six-week period. Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights termed Israel’s planned ethnic cleansing and massacres of Palestinians “incremental genocide.”
So while the ICC is so busy chasing down African leaders, does it not pause to wonder about the genocide committed by the Israeli aggression against the Palestinians? No indeed, they do not seem to. It is a hypocrisy so glaring that it smacks one in the face. Hypocrisy is not a four letter word, but in the case of the ICC it should be.
All African nations should withdraw from this duplicitous organization. It would be the sensible thing to do.