Isaac Mangena
Isaac Mangena

The ICC: Justice denied to Gaza victims

There was a sense of hope across the world in 1998 when 120 countries signed a treaty that would establish an international court.

This court would, among others, follow noble principles to protect citizens from violence and abuse by their own governments, rebels or even foreign nations.

The International Criminal Court which was to be permanently based at The Hague in Netherlands, was to ensure that “no ruler, no state, no junta and no army anywhere will be able to abuse human rights with impunity”, and if the court satisfied itself that such crimes are happening, they would be brought to book.

In recent years and days, I believe such hope has been slowly diminishing.

And for many of us who believe in international justice, the last straw was this week, when the court decided that the death of 1 300 Palestinians in the hands of their bully neighbour Israel, were not good enough to deserve justice.

For the sake of those who had forgotten, let me remind you of the picture of a young Palestinian child crying in agony while lying in hospital after being shot at and burnt with white phosphorus fired from some of Israel’s sophisticated artillery.

This was part of the sad results of a three-week deadly war Israel launched on the Gaza Strip between December of 2008 and around March 2009. They carried out a series of indiscriminate bombing raids and ground invasions on heavily populated civilian areas, under the guise of looking for Hamas militants who had allegedly attacked Israel cities with long-range rockets.

But it was Israel’s bombardment that was so deadly and indiscriminate, that they also bombed UN compounds in Gaza. It was one of the saddest tales of the fighting in the Middle East, since the killing by Israel of the 1 200 Lebanese women and children in the summer of 2006.

Following the 2008/09 raids, the Palestinians attempted to seek justice through the international criminal system, for war crimes committed by Israel.

And after three year-long wait, justice wasn’t to be. ICCProsecutors Luis Moreno-Ocampo decided against the Palestinian Authority’s bid to have the crimes prosecuted, saying instead that Palestine was not determined as a state by UN bodies and ICC statutes. (Another set-back to Palestinians’ campaign for international recognition as an independent state.)

Here we have a situation where “a ruler” (Israel), “state” (of Israel), “or junta” (which is how Israel is behaving considering its rebellious occupation and indiscriminate killing of the defenceless), is allowed to kill and “abuse human rights with impunity”, and the international court intrusted with protecting humanity, including the Palestinians, says it can’t do anything about it?

Instead in a statement after this blunder, the prosecutor cowardly passed the buck to “relevant bodies at the United Nations” to determine whether Palestinians are a state enough to can sign up to the Rome Statute.

Fair enough the court can only launch investigations if asked by the UN Security Council or an involved state that has recognised the court. The Palestinian Authority has brought itself forward to be part of the court. As expected, and perhaps knowing its bulliness and international crimes already in its name, Israel has decided not to recognise the court.

The question now is for whom was this court created, if those committing international crimes against humanity cannot be prosecuted and don’t even recognise this court? What kinds of crimes suit its definition of “war crimes”?

Everybody agree that the 2008/09 killings in Gaza shocked people, not to mention how they were committed. And the pictures from newspapers showing children with bullet holes, and burnt, and broken limps didn’t help the situation.

Even a British court issued an arrest warrant against Israel Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in December 2009 for her role in the killings. But after a lot of lobbying by the US, the ruling was overturned.

I believe this is a lost chance for the ICC and Moreno-Ocampo to redeem themselves. It was a perfect chance for the court to exert its relevance and shed the label of it being an instrument of the powerful to settle political scores.

Should we now believe that the court is selective in its prosecutions, and the weak, are the easy targets to prove its worth?

I support Amnesty International when it accuses the ICC of “political bias” and that its “dangerous” blunder is “inconsistent with the independence of the ICC. It also breaches the Rome Statute which clearly states that such matters should be considered by the institution’s judges,” Amnesty added.

Moreno-Ocampo came with the decision ignoring voices of condemnations and calls from leaders and activists across the world and some of investigations by the UN Human Rights bodies, and provisions in the Rome Statute that the ICC should judge on such matters.

Already the mandate of the ICC has come under serious scrutiny from many including the African leaders, especially after the indictment of Sudan’s seating-president Omar al-Bashir. Questions have been raised about the selective nature in which investigations are carried.

Worth noting is the fact that almost all the cases that are currently on the roll at the ICC are for crimes committed in Africa. Its currently investigating “situations” in Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central Africa Republic, Sudan, Libya and Côte d’Ivoire.

I am sure anyone reading this will agree that Africa is not the only warzone or where serious crimes against humanity are being committed. Whoever forgets the killing of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan,(and Palestinians) to mention just a few, is nothing but a hypocrite.

Former US President George Bush should have been tried for the Iraqi war. But as Arab News’ Linda Herd observed, Bush or any leader in the US and Israel may never have their day in court because their countries have not signed up to the ICC. The last option is if their citizens can be referred to the court by the UN Security Council. The US holds a veto power and its “hardly likely to agree to its own referral to the ICC or that of its Middle Eastern appendage, Israel”.

I believe the saying that “whoever pays the piper will call the tune”. Moreno-Ocampo, and the entire ICC, is funded by the dollars from the US. Whoever the US wants the court to go after, Moreno-Ocampo will be on the like a bad rush. He is thinking about his pension life coming in few months’ time when he steps down as the chief prosecutor. The US will not pay ICC prosecutors to prosecute the US or its allies and definitely not Israel.

After this many will agree that there is no confidence left in the court. I am also thinking it’s a waste of time for Turkey to think its sons and daughters will get any justice from their petition they sent to the ICC to investigate war crimes after the Israeli Defence Force’s raid on Gaza-bound flotilla in which nine Turks were killed.

Actually it would be interesting to see if the ICC will ignore the UN Human Rights Commission report (compiled by three leading UN human rights experts) which concluded that the Israeli forces, as usual, violated international law, and their attack on the flotilla was “brutal and disproportionate”.

For what it is, I think history will judge the ICC as much as it will Israel. I support those who say the court should either close its doors or open them for everyone to be equal before the international law, if it wants to be credible rather than a sick joke.

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    • The Village Idiot

      Selective justice is no justice. In fact, selective justice only gives ammunition against the proponents of it. Whether that selective justice is committed in the name of Zanu-PF, the US, Israel or the ICC does not matter one iota. Those whose grievances are not addressed on such idiotic grounds will see the ICC as a kangaroo court.

      But perhaps people are so accustomed to this definition of justice: “Any ruling in your favour”, that they are too blind to notice the damage caused by selective justice …

    • Robert Branch

      Thank you Mr Mangena for detailing the stance and background of the Head of Amnesty International Justice Campaign’s statement detailing that the International Criminal Court is now indeed open to accusations of political bias.
      Sobering news, a giant step backwards for mankind as the ICC judges pass the buck.

    • http://hismastersvoice.wordpress.com/ The Creator

      Unfortunately, the ICC lost credibility a long time ago, essentially the moment it agreed to exempt Americans from criminal charges in return for bribes. It has admittedly gone downhill from there, but I wouldn’t even say that the Gaza issue is the most flagrant misbehaviour of the ICC in the last few years. Though it is disgraceful.

    • Larry Lachman

      Perhaps the ICC has more pressing issues, such as the ongoing ethnic cleansing by Arabs against indigenous Sudanese, and the wholesale slaughter perpetrated by Syria’s government against its own people.

      to some minds the war-time casualties of 1300 Palestinians, who brought war upon themselves by hostile acts (not allegedly), needs more attention. One wonders how these minds work.

      overall a totally adolescent piece of writing by Isaac Mangena. But then again, the Israel/Palestinian topic is well known to generate a high hit rate for bloggers.

    • Benzo

      Am I right to conclude that Israel can continue to flatten the Gaza population as they want and feel fit without some uproar from other nations??

      Why then was Ghadaffi removed with so much support from the Nato??

      Does Gaza have oil????

      I do hope that Iran is recognised as a nation and are able to complain when Isreal’s (US) soldiers take care of this neigbour.

      It seems that the more international protocols are signed, the more selective unjustice can be converted into justice.

    • John Patson

      International law is law between states, not people, and always has been.
      There has never been a Palestinian state (it was part of the Roman Empire, then the Turkish Empire, then a League of Nations mandated territory, then a UN mandated territory, then part of Israel, an now a sort of municipality within Israel) so it would have been strange for the ICC to reach any other conclusion.
      Strange how easy it is for South Africans to comment on the Palestine situation, rather than local injustices.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      When Rome ignored and suppressed the message of Jesus Christ – the Archangel Gabriel was sent to the Prophet Mohammed to start a new interpretation of the One Creator God religion. That was only about 1500 years ago.

      For as long as this fiction continues that Palestinians are not illegally “in occupation” of the land given by God to the Jews, as detailed in the Book of Joshua, the more you offend God.

      What if He does the same thing against – sends another Prophet?

    • Chris

      Isaac is clearly lacking material ; the rehash of Israeli injustice against the poor Palestinians and the usual rubbish about how Africa is at the wrong end of selective justice had me yawning half way in. Isaac why don’t you look around you – there is enough injustice going on in your own country for you to write about for the next hundred years.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      Arabs were bussed into Israel and penned up there as “Palestinians” in the interests of Arab Nationalism and Arab Imperialism. It has nothing to do with religion.

      In the same way that the Chinese bussed Han into Tibet and backed their Imperialism with a historical myth of a “Greater China”, and the ANC bussed Xhosa into the Western and Northern Cape with a historical myth that this was black and not brown Khoisan land.

      The whole story is detailed in a book “The Sauds” which is, not surprisingly, out of print – but there must be some copies in some libraries.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      And I find it totally hypocritical for Bishop Tutu to support the bussed in “Palestinians” in Israel, and the bussed in Xhosa in the Western Cape, but to oppose the bussed in Han in Tibet.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      There never was a Palestine State- Palestine was the name the Romans gave to the Roman Province of the conquered Israel.

      The “Palestinians” are bussed in Arabs, bussed in to support Arab Nationalism and Arab Imperialism, during the period of the British Mandate.

      All the facts are in a book called “The Sauds” which I read many years ago, but is now out of print, so I can’t find a copy.

    • joshua s

      “December of 2008 and around March 2009. They carried out a series of indiscriminate bombing raids and ground invasions on heavily populated civilian areas, under the guise of looking for Hamas militants who had allegedly attacked Israel cities with long-range rockets.”

      1st – its was December to January. 2nd there was nothing indiscriminate about the campaign in Gaza Israel tardeted.only.military targets and did so with more prch ecision than any other army in the world. What was indiscriminate was the 10000 missiles that Gaza launched into Israel. The fact that innocent civilians were killed during the operation in Gaza is due in full to the manner in which hamas fight wars which is to place military targets deep.within civilian population centres with the intent to have there own civilians killed so that they can use the media and civilians in there propaganda campaign. Which I.might add is a double war crime.

      U claim the campaign was launched “under the guise of looking for Hamas militants who had allegedly attacked” there is nothing that was alleged in hamas 10000 missiles indiscriminately fired at civilians in Israel.

      If the Gaza operation was what u make it out to be 100000 of 1000 of people.would have been killed it would not be hard for Israel to carpet bomb the entire area but that did not happen what happened was a extremely well fought war to protect civilians from indiscriminate hamas missile fire.

    • Nzou

      Shhhhhh, let’s keep mum on humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe.

    • John

      Isaac, your bias is obvious, and clearly gets in the way of the facts. Where is the mention of the targeted attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah of Israeli citizens, attacks which provoked the Israeli response, as is it’s right to do in self-defence? No mention of ICC justice for the innocent Israelis murdered by Hamas/Hezbollah. No mention of ICC justice for the Palestinian and Arab civilians used by Hamas/Hezbollah as human shields. No mention of Hamas / Hezbollah deliberately firing at Israel from within built up areas to increase civilian casualties and thus engender the kinds of knee-jerk responses illustrated so well by your mindless journalism. No mention of the Israeli army’s early warning to Palestinian civilians via phone calls and leaflets to vacate their homes so as to decrease civilian deaths — something which no other army in the world would do. No mention of ICC justice for Arabs murdered by Hamas for alleged ‘co-operation’ with Israeli forces.

      This is an appalling piece of one-sided ranting posing as journalism; how on earth did you get a column to call your own? This piece of nonsense doesn’t deserve the light of day.

    • Lesego

      I wonder how come only whites are defending the Israel apartheid system.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      Lesego

      And why are blacks defending Islamic terrorism and Arab Nationalism?

      Especially since it was the Arabs who started and for 1200 years ran the slave trade in blacks from Africa?

    • Larry Lachman

      @Lesego

      Third world backwardness versus first world progressiveness and logical thought process. It is not the fault of whites that there is such a scarcity of common sense in third world thinking.

    • Lesego

      Lyndall Beddy, there you go again with your fictitious tendencies.

    • Lesego

      Nzou #

      “Shhhhhh, let’s keep mum on humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe.”

      What humanitarian crisis may I ask?

    • John

      Lesego, how do you know I’m white? What a racist you are – I’m surprised that Thought Leader published your inane comment. And on what grounds do you call Israel an ‘apartheid’ state, when all its citizens are equal under the law, including Arab citizens. Strange how the Arabs have been revolting in Egypt, Syria, Libya, etc — but the Arab citizens of Israel seem quite happy with their lives. Not surprising -they have more rights than their brethren in most Islamic countries!! You really are ignorant — you repeat the “Israel is an apartheid country” only because you are a sheep, following the stupidity of others. A lie repeated does become truth.

    • The Village Idiot

      You make the same mistake Lesego makes John, except that you believe a different source of propaganda. But to each his own.

      There is no state in the world where all are equal before the law. The law is a reflection of the ideology of the powers that be.

    • John

      The Village Idiot — your comments sound as though they make sense, but they do not.

    • Lesego

      John, John its easy to tell that youre white.

    • Lesego

      Village Idiot, what kind of propaganda am I following?

    • The Village Idiot

      @Lesego

      Unless you have lived in Israel on both sides of the border, it is hard to understand what is going on in that country. If you have to rely on media, you will get a very selective picture of that; whether that is left-wing or right-wing media.

      Our understanding also gets shaped by the lives we have lived. For a Black South African, who has endured the worst of the 80s, it is easier to identify with people who seem to have similar experiences, in this case the Palestinians. For Whites who have lived through the same era it is probably the other way around: they can identify more easily with the Israelis.

      There is truth to both the image Jonn and you portray. As long as we insist the other perspective, lived experiences of people from the other side, is completely false we will not move to better understanding of the situation, ourselves and each other. Hence we will not arrive at solutions to real problems.

      One of the biggest problems in South Africa is, and this cuts both ways, that we still find it difficult to imagine how people from different walks of life, experience life, their feelings, fears and aspirations. People only have a vague idea of what life is like “on the other side”, if they even care, as they somehow have to make a living, take care of their families and all that. Even insofar we do, we do not often base our actions on such understanding,