After all the reporting trips you’ve read about here, all the stories I’ve done about war and justice and voice and violence, I’m massively persuaded that Rebecca Hamilton is right in her analysis, at Foreign Policy, of the arguments against the ICC blistering around Africa right now:
The court’s all-African line-up is not an ICC problem; it is an African problem, for which there is an African solution. That solution — doing the hard work of strengthening of domestic accountability mechanisms in nations across the continent — is what African leaders should be discussing this weekend. Unfortunately, they will instead rail against, and possibly abandon, the only recourse for justice that African victims of major international crimes currently have.
One reason I’m so persuaded? Because Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor of the ICC and a Gambian national, calls the criticism exactly what it is: propaganda.
“What offends me the most when I hear criticisms about this so-called Africa bias,” she said in an interview last year, “is how quick we are to focus on the words and propaganda of a few powerful, influential individuals, and to forget about the millions of anonymous people who suffer from their crimes.”
This week, over 160 international groups and civil society organizations across Africa have sought to give voice to those anonymous people with a letter to African foreign ministers, urging them not to withdraw from the ICC. “As organizations working within Africa, some on behalf of or alongside victims of international crimes, we see every day the importance of ensuring access to justice,” the letter states.
Hamilton draws on her own work interviewing Darfuri refugees when she argues that victims of violence want justice — and they rarely expect to find it at the hands of their perpetrators.
It’s a timely call to dig a little deeper than a flamboyant post-colonial critique of the ICC and ask who we can — and should — protect, and whose voices are still missing from the discussion.