Namibia should withdraw from the ICC

27 October 2016
As our administration correctly takes its time to study Namibia’s public position on the International Criminal Court (ICC), we support the positions taken by South Africa, Kenya, Burundi and now The Gambia, to begin the year-long process of withdrawing from the Rome Treaty that created the judicial body.
Namibia should not only begin the process of removing its signature from the Rome Treaty, but it should use its solid reputation as a multiparty democracy and a stable nation, to encourage as many other African nations as possible to do the same. 
We take note that President Geingob has already spoken out against the ICC.  The president said that African nations when signing the Rome Treaty back in 1998 were led to believe that an across the board approach to prosecution of crimes against humanity as defined by the appropriate United Nations documents would guide the ICC.  But, in fact, the ICC track record says something else. 
The exclusion of international targets from around the world for the same or similar crimes as African targets, puts a lie to the original ‘pitch’ that convinced Namibia and other African countries to sign in the first place. 
Our position is critical of the jurisdiction of western courts in African affairs.  In saying this, we do not dismiss the guilt of those convicted by the court nor do we denigrate the seriousness of abuses that are being investigated. 
This distinction is important as some of the media articles decrying South Africa’s position accuse that government of somehow promoting and applauding crimes against humanity by leaving the ICC. 
To be against the ICC’s targeting of Africa is not a statement in support of war crimes.  We feel this kind of nonsensical ‘baiting’ is being done to obscure the policy and principle positions that should be the main pillars of this debate. 
We also firmly reject the racist notions argued by some, that Africans lack the capacity, integrity, intelligence and skills to strengthen judiciary bodies within their countries or create an African-led judiciary body under the auspices of the African Union or another mechanism to grapple with the issue of crimes against humanity and war crimes. 
This kind of anti-African blather coming from those voices that always try to convince us that only Europeans or whites can handle ‘important’ things in this world is offensive. 
The focus of the debate on whether the ICC makes sense for Namibia, should be on what is best for this country in the broader view on the international stage.
We fully support our government’s pressure (along with other AU members) for an immediate change in the 70-year-old Security Council System at the United Nations which clings to the out-dated notion that five nations can veto the will of the world.
It is time for tangible UN changes that acknowledge the reality that Africa is a decision-maker on the world scene.  The patronising aura that Africa is somehow ‘incapable’ of or ‘not ready’ to hold a Security Council seat leaches into the situation with the ICC.
The same Africa that is being denied its rightful equally ranked seat at a revised Security Council is also being told (through the actions of the ICC) that it is incapable of dispensing justice on its own continent.  It is this pattern that we find unpalatable.
Is the public fully aware of the ramifications of the fact that the United States, who regularly cheers ICC decisions about others, is not a signatory to the Rome Treaty?  Since 1998, its decision-makers at various levels who may have participated in actions that are arguably crimes against humanity, will never be subject to an ICC arrest warrant or even publicly investigated for culpability. 
What message is being sent when the “leader of the Western world”, does not submit to the ICC, and yet Africa is supposed to be blindly giddy about doing so? 
A crime against humanity must be the same whether it happens in a Guantanamo Bay prison or with black men being specifically targeted and killed by authorities in the USA.
Israeli actions targeting the Palestinian people, particularly in the Occupied Territories, Russian suppression of Chechnya, systematic repression in Eritrea, actions on all sides of the conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria or Iraq (including the use of chemical weapons), offenses in various Asian countries targeting minority groups, decades of murderous control by drug lords in South America or neo-fascists/skin heads/neo-nazis and sex slave cartels in Europe, are all crimes against humanity.
The perception that there is equal application of the law regardless of who (or which country) commits the crime is powerful and the ICC may only finally realise this when the majority of African countries withdraw.


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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