Magazine article New African

The Great Debate Human Rights NGOs

Magazine article New African

The Great Debate Human Rights NGOs

Article excerpt

For the next several months, New African will open up its pages to a debate between our readers on the one hand and international human rights NGOs such as the UK-based Amnesty International, the US-based Human Rights Watch and the French-based International Federation for Human Rights on the other hand, on why the NGOs often appear to pick on African personalities and causes that are disliked by Western governments. In other words, why don't we see the NGOs campaigning for the prosecution of Africans seen as darlings of the West even if they commit the same human rights violations as the Africans disliked by the West? Here, Osei Boateng presents our opening statement. We will publish the responses we receive from the NGOs and readers in subsequent issues. We hope to have an invigorating debate.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

James Kitongo of Nairobi, Kenya, makes a telling point on our Letters Pages (see p. 6 of this issue, "Just the tip of a huge iceberg"): "In everything we Africans do these days, if you have a powerful Western mentor, you can get away with anything. If not, and God help you if you preach African self-reliance, self-confidence or independence, you are blacklisted forever ... Why are some [of our] leaders selected for censure by the West while others are treated like demigods?"

Nothing could have summed it up better. Let's look at the facts. Since March this year, when the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced its indictment against the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, the London-based Amnesty International, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), and the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (IFHR) have been among the organisations vigorously campaigning for the arrest and prosecution of the Sudanese president. On 26 March, Amnesty issued a statement "calling on all members of the international community to ensure full accountability for crimes under international law committed in Sudan and wherever else they occur". The statement criticised the African Union and the Arab League for "shielding" President Bashir from international justice. "By declaring that President Bashir has immunity from the arrest warrant for war crimes and crimes against humanity, the [two organisations have] undermined international law which provides no such immunity for anyone, even a serving head of state, for such grave crimes," Amnesty added for good measure.

For its part, the International Federation for Human Rights (IFHR) has been arguing that "Article 27 of the ICC applies to everyone equally, regardless of their official capacity. The capacity as head of state, in particular, cannot exempt a person from criminal responsibility. This principle is based on the idea that there can be no impunity for the most serious crimes." Yet the IFHR insists that the ICC "has currently no jurisdiction to investigate the Israel-Palestine conflict or the war in Iraq since Israel and the United States have not ratified the ICC statute."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

"It is true," the IFHR goes on, "that Sudan is [also] not a state party [of the ICC] either, but the Court has jurisdiction there through Security Council Resolution 1593, adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, on the basis that this conflict constitutes a threat to international peace and security".

One would be hard pressed to find such twisted argumentation anywhere else. Israel and the US cannot be investigated by the ICC even if they commit the same crimes as listed in Bashir's indictment because they are not members of the ICC or have not ratified the ICC statute. Sudan too is not a member, and yet the IFHR accepts that the ICC "has jurisdiction over Sudan through Security Council Resolution 1593". But who controls the Security Council? Not its five permanent, veto-wielding members--America, Britain, France, Russia and China--who use their political clout (especially the US, UK and France) to get their way at the Council? …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.