Oct 17, 2013

Oromo: Oromo Studies Association Expresses Concern about Africa’s Heads of States’ Decision.

The Oromo Studies Association addressed a letter to Madame Fatou Bensouda, Chief Prosecutor  of the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court .

Below is the letter published by Gadaa.com:


Re: Oromo Studies Association’s Concern about the Decision by Africa’s Heads of States

Madame Bensouda:

Humanity has a duty to defend the ICC against African vicious tyrants

The Oromo Studies Association (OSA) expresses a profound alarm and concern over a current threat made, by African nations, to undermine International Criminal Court (ICC) activities in the continent. On a two-day meeting of the African Union (AU) held in Finfinne (Addis Ababa), Ethiopia, from October 11-12, 2013, the African nations have agreed to protest an ICC practice of indicting sitting heads of states. The meeting also requested the ICC to delay investigations of President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and his deputy, William Ruto, both wanted in connection to atrocities perpetrated on the aftermath of the 2007 elections. In fact, the resolutions of the 54-member states continental organization fall short of a recent call, by some African leaders, to unleash a wholesale withdraw from the Rome Statue of 1998, which culminated in the formation of the ICC, in The Hague, Netherlands, on its entry into force in 2002. Proponents of the idea hoped that the withdrawal of some 30 plus African nations would deal a serious blow to the legitimacy of the 122 member state ICC. Thanks to campaigns of human rights advocacy groups, the call has received lukewarm responses and vanished into thin air.

The AU accuses the ICC of double standards and purposely targeting sitting African head of states. The AU Commissioner Jean Ping remarked, “What we see is that international justice seems to be applying its fight against impunity only to Africa as if nothing were happening elsewhere.”

It is true that, in 2009, the ICC indicted, on ten counts, the Sudanese president, Oman Hassan Al-Bashir, the first indictment of a sitting head of state, in relation to crimes that took place in the conflict-ridden Darfur region. A catalogue of excuses such as deterioration of a fragile peace process or ignition of a new conflict in the war torn nation, or the creation of a bad precedent in the international law or capitulation to neocolonialism had been said. Credit to indifferent African dictators to the Darfurians plight, Bashir is still at large, but the limitation of his mobility, as the head of the state, has petrified many dictators. Now, his sojourn cannot take him much beyond Africa or to his Middle Eastern friends. Recently, the ICC charged the Kenyan presidents, putting them in the same psychological limbo with Al-Bashir.

Essentially, Africa became the focus of the ICC because most of the African countries are typical cases of a police state, where leaders easily get away with impunity, some of the horrendous crimes they carry out against the very people, in whose name they rule.  This does not mean that the international community has never responded to crisis that committed elsewhere. Precedents for making individuals accountable for their criminal behaviors, on international tribunals, set on motion, on the aftermath of the Second World War, in Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals. International criminal courts for Yugoslavia and Rwanda were ad-hoc international courts to try atrocities unfolded in these countries. Hybrid criminal courts have been established in a scene of crimes and in a fashion easy to obtain witness and evidences. Examples are Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Kosovo, and East Timor. Notwithstanding allegations that the ICC is the Trojan horse of the West, most cases, from Africa, came to the court through referrals of African countries.

It is unfortunate that the ICC has not done enough to prosecute perpetrators of war crimes everywhere. For instance, no attention is given to crimes against humanity committed on the Oromo people and/or other nations and nationalities of Ethiopia, a country often likened to “a prison house.” Oromo refugees, in particular, have been victimized not only by successive Ethiopian regimes but also by corrupt regimes of East Africa. A case in point is a fate of Engineer Tasfahun Chamada, a UNICER mandated refugee, refouled from Kenya under thinly veiled political charges, conspiring to overthrow a constitutional order through street actions. Neither the Gambella “genocide” of 2003 nor the Ogaden crimes against humanity made to the bench of ICC. No wonder, then, Ethiopia is the second country after Sudan to reject Bashir’s prosecution. Again, Ethiopia is a crusade of Africans’ boycott of the Court and suspension of the cases of Sudanese or Kenyan presidents. Of course, so did the Nazi and Imperial Japan tried to delegitimize Nuremberg and Tokyo trials.

The ICC deals with international crimes related with genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. Given the ICC jurisdiction is complementary, it has a mandate to prosecute a case if national courts are “unable” or “willing” to discharge their obligations. A cardinal principle of international law (state sovereignty) gives national courts rights and duties to investigate and try perpetrators of international crimes.

The ICC Statute is consonant with an individual criminal responsibility under the international law. Emerging trends show that some crimes, such as crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and piracy give  universal jurisdiction to any state, on the globe, to prosecute a person who committed crimes outside the boundary of a prosecuting state, regardless of his/her nationality, country of residence, or any other relation with the prosecuting country. In other parlance, these are crimes against all, which any state can punish or extradite since a perpetrator is an implacable enemy of all humankind.

Regardless of objectivity and fairness in the ICC, holding any tyrant accountable for heinous crimes he commits, by itself, is an excellent symbol of justice and a siren call for other incumbents. Actions of the ICC, in this regard, are necessary to send a clear message to authoritarian regimes in any part of the world. “No Free Pass” even for rulers if they commit atrocious crimes. Many groups hail an aggressive move of the ICC as a new chapter to stop violations of human rights with impunity. A few oppose it under the guise of state sovereignty, “a license to kill,” forgetting that a fiction of the state sovereignty emanates from the very people they kill.

The shameless agenda of the AU, spearheaded by Kenya, Ethiopia, and Sudan, an axis of human wrongs, undermines constitutions of most African countries, international conventions, and the Banjul Charter. Instead of playing by their old tactics of gradualist approach, the unabashed campaign of dictatorial regimes against the ICC is an infamy to the leap of human rights and an affront to humanity. The OSA believes that humanity has a collective responsibility to fight those who oppose what the ICC is doing now in Africa. We call all human rights defenders to stand together and make a big noise during this critical time.

Founded in 1984, the OSA is a non-profit, multi-disciplinary organization established to promote and foster scholarly studies in all fields pertaining to the Oromo People, the largest nationality in the Horn of Africa. Since its establishment, the OSA has been and continues to promote scholarship on the Oromo, Nations and Nationalities in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. This time, likewise, we would like scholars, both national and international, to contribute articles for presentations at the forth-coming OSA mid-year and annual conferences. This way, we intend to promote the cause of humanity and protection of human rights in Ethiopia in particular and Africa in general.

Best Regards,

Ibrahim Amae Elemo, M.D., MPH

President, Oromo Studies Association

Photo @flickr by Coalition for the ICC