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May 4, New York City – Children in the Central African Republic (CAR) are being abducted, recruited into armed groups and denied access to humanitarian assistance, according to a report released today by the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict (Watchlist) and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). These violations, as well as attacks against schools and hospitals, have continued despite the fact that the UN Security Council identified them among the forbidden ‘six grave violations’ committed against children during times of conflict. These six grave violations are the basis of the Council’s protection of children during war.
The report, An Uncertain Future? Children and Armed Conflict in the Central African Republic, finds that the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is still present and active in CAR, where it is abducting children. Abducted children are raped, used as sex slaves and forced to attack villages and kill others, including other children.
In the report, Watchlist and IDMC outline detailed policy recommendations and demand that the government of CAR, the UN Security Council and donors including the US and the EU, take specific actions to help children affected by armed conflict in CAR.
“Children are being abused and their rights are being ignored by the LRA, other rebel groups, and even by the government of CAR. The international humanitarian community at large is also failing them in their inability to monitor and address the situation properly,” says Eva Smets, Director of Watchlist. “We must protect and provide adequate support for these children.”
In January 2011, Watchlist and IDMC conducted a field mission during which a researcher held one-on-one interviews with former child soldiers, internally displaced children and their families, community leaders and teachers, security forces, and members of village self-defense militias.
“This report outlines the situation in CAR from the victims’ perspective,” says Laura Perez, Country Analyst for IDMC and researcher for the report. “We learned directly from the children and their families what is actually happening and how it’s affecting them.”
Specifically, Watchlist and IDMC found the following:
• Abduction: Not only is the LRA abducting children, using them as slaves and
soldiers, but those children who manage to escape from the LRA experience great difficulties returning to their families. They rarely receive much-needed assistance, such as psychosocial care, to heal from these traumatic events. These children also suffer an arduous journey home that often takes them as long as the time they actually spent in captivity.
• Recruitment: The absence of a functioning army has forced local communities to form self-defense militias to protect themselves from criminal gangs and foreign armed groups like the LRA. These self-defense militias admit to recruiting children as young as 12. The rebel group the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP) is also recruiting children.
In addition, there are significant problems in the long-term reintegration of the children recently released by the Popular Army for the Restoration of Democracy (APRD). Without support programs allowing them to earn a living, these children are at risk of returning to armed groups.
• Denial of Humanitarian Access: Between restrictions placed on certain areas by the government of CAR, and the activities of the rebel group CPJP and the LRA, humanitarian assistance organizations and UN agencies are unable to access two conflict areas in the country. This means that no assessment of needs is being made and no assistance provided to the children living in these areas.
Smets says that it is a crucial time to work to remedy the situation. “The recent re- election of President Bozizé offers a unique opportunity for the children of CAR to reclaim their future,” says Smets. “If President Bozizé and his government are able to consolidate the peace process and mark a real end to the armed conflict in CAR, there is real potential for socio-economic development and stability. But, in order for this to happen, the international community must respond now and commit the necessary resources to help children affected by armed conflict in CAR.”
An Uncertain Future? lists specific policy recommendations for improving the protection of children in CAR and for strengthening the humanitarian response to their needs, including demanding that:
• The government of CAR:
o Instruct self-defense militias to leave their children at home;
o Train, equip and deploy troops to communities that have had to rely on self-defense militias to protect themselves;
o Negotiate a cease-fire agreement with the rebel group CPJP in order to restore humanitarian access to displaced communities living in zones controlled by the rebel group
• The UN Security Council:
o Encourage the government of CAR to do all of the above; and
o Request that the UN Country Team in CAR negotiate an action plan with CPJP to release all children from its ranks.
• The US government and the European Union:
o Urgently release funds to assist children formerly abducted by the LRA who are now in need of psychosocial assistance.
“What we want are more programs in CAR. We want people to respond,” says Perez. “The reason why CAR doesn’t have the same degree of humanitarian assistance as DRC is because CAR doesn’t get the same international attention. We want to raise the profile of the situation in CAR and the horrific conditions children face there.”
For a full list of findings and recommendations, please request an embargoed version of the report.
# # #
Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, established in 2001, is an international network of non-governmental organizations striving to end violations against children in armed conflicts and to guarantee their rights. As a global network, Watchlist builds partnerships among local, national and international NGOs, enhancing mutual capacities and strengths. Working together, we strategically collect and disseminate information on violations against children in conflicts to influence key decision-makers to create and implement programs and policies that effectively protect children.
The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) (www.internal-displacement.org) was established by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in 1998, upon the request of the United Nations. It is a leading source of information and analysis on internal displacement caused by conflict and violence worldwide.”
(Quelle: The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.)
By Leslie Pitterson
With the knowledge that Sudan continues to face great obstacles to stability, Vice-President Ali Osman Taha used his appearance at the 65th General Assembly to encourage member states to help relieve his country’s $37.8 million debt.
Taha’s emphasis on the issue was not misguided; debt relief has played an integral part of peace-building in several African post-conflict states.
One such country is the Central African Republic (CAR), which was plagued by political upheavals throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. The World Bank announced last week that CAR had completed the debt relief process for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Debt Initiative (HIPC) in just two years, a considerable achievement.
Mary Barton-Dock, the World Bank’s Country Director for CAR, said the Bank had “worked with Central African authorities on a number of reforms that allowed the process to move along at a steady pace.”
Barton-Dock stressed that HIPC has helped provide many poor countries with the ability to gain financial stability; the program is part of the World Bank’s wider emphasis on economic governance. She noted that Liberia, another post-conflict country, had its $4.6 million dollar debt relieved after completing HIPC this past June.
Nevertheless, getting through HIPC is no small feat. The program created by the World Bank for countries in overwhelming debt has often proven to be a challenge in and of itself. Twenty of the twenty-eight countries who are currently in HIPC have been in the process for the past ten years.
Groups including Jubilee USA, an American organization that advocates for debt cancellation in impoverished countries, have criticized the program. Jubilee’s Deputy Director, Melinda St. Louis, said HIPC stops short of offering developing nations the complete relief they need.
“While the debt relief received through the HIPC initiative is a very positive step forward for countries like CAR, the HIPC program has been problematic,” said St. Louis. “The economic and political conditions that the IMF and World Bank required of countries in order to reach the ‘completion point’ delayed debt relief for far too long and sometimes were harmful to the poor.”
Established in 1996, HIPC was an effort by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) to offer economic relief to countries the Bank has deemed have “unsustainable debt,” a debt that is one and a half times their annual export revenues.
At last week’s press conference, Barton-Dock said debt relief has proven to be a vital part of progress for CAR’s economy and governance. She emphasized that the World Bank saw their completion of HIPC as “an opportunity to underscore the importance of consolidating progress in order to avoid an unraveling of the situation.”
Even critics of HIPC agree that debt relief is key for post-conflict states to recover. Eric LaCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee told MediaGlobal, “Debt relief is an important part of development…[it] is more that aid, achieving debt cancellation is critical to achieving economic justice.”
In the buildup to last week’s Millennium Development Goals Summit, advocacy groups called on policymakers within the UN and the World Bank for an UN mechanism for debt arbitration.
When asked about the World Bank’s response to criticism of HIPC and calls for reform, Barton-Dock told MediaGlobal, “Frankly, I don’t think that is a subject we are going to be addressing this week.”
HIPC was last reformed in 1999 at the G8, when the World Bank agreed to lower the threshold for qualification, opening the program to a larger number of countries. However, the Bank still requires that countries work with them for three consecutive years before qualifying for the program. Sudan has not yet established this rapport and is therefore not part of HIPC, one reason why Vice-President Taha’s speech appealed directly to member states.
Barry Herman, Visiting Senior Fellow at the Graduate Program in International Affairs of The New School told MediaGlobal he is not surprised by the lack of discussion around foreign debt.
When asked what he expected to see from the UN on the subject, the professor said, “Not much beyond the standard annual debates in the General Assembly and in the Financing for Development process, which is to say talk without concrete action.”
But in the case of Sudan, time for discussion is running out. With the five-year peace agreement coming to an end and the January 2011 referendum on southern Sudan’s succession looming, many fear that unrest in the country could lead to another outbreak of war.
In his speech before diplomats and the international community at large, Vice-President Taha said debt relief would “eliminate many doubts” surrounding the country’s upcoming elections. If Sudan is to face a peaceful future, policymakers and critics alike may have to hope his assessment is right.”
By Moses Odokonyero
Photo: UN Photo/Tim McKulka
Civilians displaced by recent LRA attacks in southern Sudan, which neighbours Uganda.
As Washington prepares to unveil a strategy aimed at neutralising the Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA, many in northern Uganda are mindful of how past attempts to deal a knock-out blow to the rebel movement have succeeded only in increasing instability in the region.
While welcoming greater support in apprehending Joseph Kony, the leader of the LRA, and his henchmen, they are concerned about the consequences of a military campaign against the rebels who’ve terrorised civilians across eastern and central Africa over the past three decades.
Although Washington’s plans have yet to be announced, one of the principal fears in northern Uganda is that, rather than defeat the LRA, the United States might simply succeed in pushing them further afield, to commit atrocities elsewhere, or even prompting their return to Uganda.
Previous international initiatives have not been immediately successful. Five years after the International Criminal Court, ICC, issued arrest warrants for senior LRA commanders, none have been caught and two have died while on the run.
And while the rebel movement has now been forced out of northern Uganda, humanitarian groups report that it continues to rape, maim and kill in parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, Central African Republic, CAR, and south-west Sudan.
In May, the US president Barack Obama signed a bill requiring policymakers to come up with a strategy for dealing with the LRA by the end of November.
Two weeks later, the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative, an influential group that has been at the forefront of a peaceful resolution of the conflict in northern Uganda, wrote an open letter to the US president, urging caution.
‘Military action has time and time again not only failed to end the conflict but caused it to spread into regions once immune to LRA violence resulting in further suffering of civilians,’ the letter read.
It continued by urging Obama to explore ‘non-violent actions’ that would help to resolve the violence afflicting countries in the region.
The Acholi religious leaders claim that military efforts by the Ugandan government have in the past failed to comprehensively defeat the LRA.
In fact, in many instances, they have led to retaliatory attacks by the LRA on civilian populations in not only Uganda but now also Sudan, the DRC and CAR.
In 2001, the Ugandan army launched an operation to flush the LRA out of its hideouts in southern Sudan. The rebels retaliated by sneaking back into northern Uganda and carrying out numerous atrocities.
In December 2008, the Ugandan army, along with its regional allies, struck LRA hideouts in Garamba in eastern Congo. Again, the LRA retaliated by killing civilians, this time in the DRC and CAR.
‘If [the US] wants to fight Kony then this is bad because it will spoil our peace,’ said Margaret Ajok, 28, a resident of Rackoko village in Pader district, a view shared by many local people.
Elizabeth Acan, a 53-year-old widow from Paicho in Gulu, once at the epicentre of the conflict, said, ‘Although I want Kony tried by the ICC for the killings that he is [responsible for], I don’t support anything that proposes war to solve a problem because war spoils our future and the future of our children.’
Some, however, say the region has little to fear from an American intervention.
‘The [US initiative] will help consolidate the existing peace and reconstruction efforts taking place in northern Uganda,’ said Milton Odongo, deputy resident district commissioner of Gulu. ‘It will also help the government of Uganda to hunt for the LRA terrorists.’
Odongo does not think that there is any danger that military action against the LRA will bring a resumption of hostilities. ‘The peace in northern Uganda is irreversible,’ he said.
At Unyama Trading Centre, not far from Gulu, Nelson Labeja, 65, summed up the anger many people feel towards the LRA.
‘If possible, I want Kony shot dead because you cannot arrest an armed man like him,’ he said.
THE SHAPE OF US STRATEGY
At the moment, it remains unclear what the US strategy for apprehending LRA commanders will look like. The bill suggests that it will have two components – one to respond to humanitarian needs and the other to provide military, economic and intelligence support for disarming the LRA.
Ledio Cakaj, a field researcher in Uganda for the Enough Project, which campaigns against human rights abuses, thinks that the greatest contribution the US will be able to make will be in terms of better equipment and intelligence.
‘In a perfect world, if we really wanted to see the end of the LRA immediately, then we should send specially-trained elite forces, be they American, British or any other western force to finish the job,’ said Cakaj. ‘Practically speaking, given how the US army is stretched in Afghanistan and Iraq, US soldiers on the ground are not going to be an option.’
There have been numerous attempts to apprehend LRA commanders, but, according to Cakaj, these have been hampered by a lack of resources, particularly helicopters.
Most recently, at the start of July, the Ugandan army reportedly shot and killed one of Kony’s bodyguards in Djemah, a town in CAR. Kony, however, managed to escape.
Simon Oyet, a member of parliament for Nwoya County in Amuru district, welcomes US support for apprehending members of the LRA, but thinks that it should go beyond just providing equipment and money to the Ugandan military.
‘Uganda does not have the capacity to arrest Kony,’ he said. ‘This can only happen with US support to reinforce the Ugandan army militarily by having men on the ground. If [this doesn’t happen] the arrest of Kony will remain a dream. I also have worries that, if the Americans give money to the Ugandan army, it will be grossly abused and we will have the same old story.’
But he does think that the US initiative sends out a positive message.
‘The [US] bill will restore confidence in people of northern Uganda that the LRA conflict will one day come to an end,’ he said. ‘And, to the LRA, the bill has sent out the message that they are now a world problem being confronted globally.’
For their part, the Ugandan government welcomes US support.
‘The critical economic assistance that will come with it will improve the life of the common man in northern Uganda, which is not in a conflict situation anymore,’ said Ugandan army spokesman Felix Kulayigye. ‘US support will also come with technological assistance for Uganda in the fight against the LRA. Everything has an end. Kony will also have his end.’
Out of 13 arrest warrants that have been issued by the ICC, only four have so far been executed.
As a judicial body, the ICC does not have a way of enforcing indictments itself, and therefore has to rely on the cooperation of countries – not only member states, but increasingly those that remain outside the signatories to the international court.
Some of the most influential countries in the world have still not signed up to the Rome Statute. These include the US, Russia, China and India.
During the recent ICC review conference in Kampala, ICC president Sang-Hyun Song described the cooperation, both of member states and of non-member states, as ‘the weakest link in the Rome Statute system’.
‘Four of 13 arrest warrants have been executed… What makes cooperation the weak link in this system is that the ICC lacks the means to enforce it,’ said Song.
ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo says that the initiative taken by Washington shows how those countries, which for the time being remain outside the ICC, can nonetheless contribute towards the successful functioning of the court.
‘Joseph Kony is still committing crimes and he must be arrested,’ he told IWPR. ‘We appreciate the US and other countries in supporting the territorial states to bring about his capture. This is of the utmost importance. Humanity has to help the victims by stopping these crimes.’
Moreno-Ocampo added that there have been positive signs that non-member state parties are increasingly willing to cooperate with the court.
He highlighted the example of Russia, which he claims has been freely providing ‘substantial information’ to the ICC’s investigation team about what happened in the conflict in Georgia in August 2008.
One ICC source also suggested that US cooperation will be crucial for the probe into violence in Kenya, since many of those likely to be indicted have links to the US.
‘We’re starting to see great cooperation from state and non-state parties alike, and this is a very positive development,’ said Moreno-Ocampo.
Moses Odokonyero is an IWPR-trained reporter. Blake Evans-Pritchard, IWPR Africa Editor, contributed to this report.
This article is part of a series of articles produced by IWPR-trained reporters to coincide with the ICC review conference, held in Kampala between May 31 and June 11. This series aims to go beyond the negotiations that took place in Kampala, assessing what the issues raised during the conference mean to those communities that the ICC is supposed to serve.”
KAMPALA, 10 June 2010 (IRIN) – The International Criminal Court (ICC) is beginning to deliver justice to survivors of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, but the world has yet to fully commit to ending impunity for the gravest crimes, according to participants at a conference reviewing the court’s legal foundation.
“The Rome Statute has been described as the greatest advance in international law since the UN Charter,” Oby Nwankwo, executive director of Nigeria’s Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre, said in Uganda, where the 31 May-11 June conference is taking place. “While the ICC has its shortcomings, it provides a backstop to impunity.”
Established by the Statute on 1 July 2002, the ICC now has 111 state parties, 18 judges, and field offices in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda, Central African Republic (CAR) and Chad. It is conducting investigations in the DRC, Uganda, CAR, Kenya and Sudan, and has issued 13 arrest warrants for eight cases.
But critics say the Court has taken too long to conclude cases and is too focused on African countries. Describing the ICC as “European-driven, African-focused and irretrievably flawed”, David Hoile of the African Research Centre said its “claims to international jurisdiction and judicial independence are institutionally flawed and the Court’s approach has been marred by blatant double standards and serious judicial irregularities”.
The Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies cited the uneven and imbalanced landscape of global politics as a factor. “For Africa, a key concern is the relationship between the UN Security Council and the ICC, specifically the Council’s powers of referral and deferral,” a summary of an ISS symposium on “The ICC that Africa wants” stated.
“The skewed international power of the UNSC creates an environment in which it is more likely that action will be taken against accused from weaker states,” it added.
An analyst, who requested anonymity, said this view had been amplified by the 2008 high-profile indictment of Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir. “That indictment has driven a wedge between supporters and opponents of the Court,” she told IRIN. “It has led to all manner of accusations, clouded the ICC’s record and continues to elicit controversy.”
But asked how he could effect an arrest against Bashir, Prosecutor Louis Moreno Ocampo was bullish. “Arresting Bashir is a matter of time; the Court is permanent, so it can wait,” he told reporters. “The current challenges faced by the Rome Statute are not a product of failure, they are a product of success,” he said. “The Court is today fully operational, executing its judicial mandate and far exceeding expectations.”
Asked if he had a plan B, Ocampo said: “The states decide the law, I only apply it.”
His upbeat assessment was shared by ICC President Judge Sang-Hyun Song. “The system of international justice has developed faster than expected,” he said. “The threat of prosecution at the ICC has already deterred some criminals… the [Kampala] conference will review ways to increase domestic capacity.”
At the conference, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was asked if the ICC was toothless. He responded: “We are witnessing the birth of a new age of accountability. We hope to take stock of the Court’s progress and strengthen it for the future.”
He hailed the presence in Kampala of the US, which was participating as a non-state party for the first time. “I understand the US is very seriously reviewing its decisions,” he added.
Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary-General, defended the Court. “When I meet Africans from all walks of life, they demand justice: from their own courts if possible, from international courts if no credible alternative exists,” he said. “The ICC does not supplant the authority of national courts. Rather, it is a court of last resort, governed by the principle of complementarity.”
The Kampala conference is characterised by lively debates on the impact of the Rome Statute on survivors and affected communities; complementarity, cooperation, peace and justice; and the crime of aggression (although there is no agreement on its definition).
Various speakers called for more support for the Court. “Words are cheap, it is in providing the court with support that the rubber meets the road,” Richard Dicker, international justice director at Human Rights Watch, said. “State parties need to do a great deal better… unless governments actually make arrests, the ICC cannot deliver justice to victims of mass atrocities.”
Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai struck a more cautious tone. “At community level, there are a lot of expectations about the ICC, but it can only do so much,” she said.
Civil society organizations called on states that have signed the Rome Statute to enact comprehensive implementing legislation. Only five African countries have done so: Burkina Faso, CAR, Kenya, Senegal and South Africa. “Such legislation makes genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity crimes under domestic law and provides cooperation with the ICC,” they said in a statement.
They also called for the promotion of victims’ rights, including compensation. “Hundreds of victims are already participating in situations and cases before the ICC… [but] lack of execution of arrest warrants, lengthy proceedings and limited cases are only a few of the areas where the victims have expressed disappointment and frustration with the ICC,” they noted.
Survivors attending the meeting urged the Court to ensure adequate compensation. “When I came back, I could not find my parents and I am told they were all killed during the war,” said David Etilu, 16, who was abducted at nine by the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and taken to Garamba, northeastern DRC.
“I am alone, without a sister or brother. I have nowhere to stay. My expectation of this conference is improved life, where I will get what I need in life,” he told IRIN at the conference. “ICC and the government should find the means to educate me, how I can be accommodated and other things that a human being requires in life. Those are all that I need.”
But Kristin Kalla, acting executive director of the Trust Fund for Victims, said resources were limited. The Fund has taken up projects in northern Uganda and the DRC worth four million Euros (US$4.8 million).
“Funding is still limited to take up every person [who] qualifies and we are appealing to member states and other donors and the private sector to come in and help because this is the moment to have something to show to the victims,” she said.
Ocampo echoed calls for compensation. “The victims do not have to wait for convictions to be assisted. This is something we are discussing – how to continue the process and assist victims at the same time.”
Ahead of the opening ceremony, survivors of the LRA conflict in northern Uganda said the court was selective in the application of justice. The survivors, some disabled, others former displaced persons and abductees, child mothers and those who lost relatives, met ICC President Song in Gulu district on 29 May. They called on the ICC to investigate Ugandan soldiers who may have committed crimes during the conflict.”
(Quelle: IRIN News.)
By Samar Al-Bulushi and Adam Branch
THE ICC’S ENFORCEMENT CRISIS
Nearly eight years since its establishment in July 2002, and with its first major review conference just around the corner, the International Criminal Court (ICC) faces a number of challenges. The fact that it has prosecuted only Africans has provoked charges of neocolonialism and racism; its decision to indict certain actors and not others has triggered suspicion of the court’s susceptibility to power politics; and its interventions into ongoing armed conflicts have elicited accusations that the ICC is pursuing its own brand of justice at the cost of enflaming war and disregarding the interests of victims. Each of these concerns is likely to provoke heated discussions at the review conference in Kampala next week.
But there is another aspect of the court’s role in Africa that will require scrutiny going forward: enforcement. Lacking its own enforcement mechanism, the court relies upon cooperating states to execute its arrest warrants. The ICC has found, however, that many states, even if willing to cooperate, often lack the capacity to execute warrants, especially in cases of ongoing conflict or when suspects can cross international borders. Moreover, the African Union (AU) has rejected the ICC’s arrest warrant for its most high-profile target, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, and ICC supporters worry that the AU will continue to challenge the court’s authority, especially when the court targets African leaders. The court today thus faces an enforcement crisis: out of 13 arrest warrants issued, only four suspects are in custody. Apparently, having concluded that African states are either unwilling or unable to act quickly or forcefully enough to apprehend suspects, the court has begun to seek support from the one country that has shown itself willing and able to wield military force across the globe: the United States.
The ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor is leading this effort. In June 2009 at a public event in the US, Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo declared the need for 'special forces' with 'rare and expensive capabilities that regional armies don’t have', and said that 'coalitions of the willing', led by the US, were needed to enforce ICC arrest warrants. More recently, Special Adviser to the Prosecutor Beatrice Le Fraper du Hellen declared to CNN, 'We have our shopping list ready of requests for assistance from the US government', which, she asserted, 'has to lead on one particular issue: the arrest of sought war criminals. President al-Bashir, Joseph Kony in Uganda, Bosco Ntaganda, the "Terminator in Congo" — all those people have arrest warrants against them, arrest warrants issued by the ICC judges, and they need to be arrested now.' She said that the ICC needed American 'operational support' for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda and the Central African Republic (CAR) 'to assist them in mounting an operation to arrest him [Kony]. They have the will—so it’s a totally legitimate operation, politically, legally—but they need this kind of assistance. And the US has to be the leader.'
The ICC’s entreaties are a response to an apparent re-assessment of US-ICC relations undertaken by the Obama administration and to the inception of a new US policy of pragmatic, ad hoc engagement with the court. Indeed, in recent months, the US government has declared its interest in working more closely with the ICC — not with the intent of becoming a party to the Rome Statute (the ICC treaty), but to help execute arrest warrants. In late March, Stephen Rapp, US ambassador-at-large for war crimes, stated that: 'The United States is prepared to listen and to work with the ICC and go through requests that the prosecutor has.' He continued: 'There may be obstacles under our law. But we’re prepared to do what we can to bring justice to the victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Uganda, and Sudan and in the Central African Republic.'
And State Department Legal Adviser Harold Hongju Koh declared in March that the US is seeking cooperation with the court as a non-state party observer: 'The Obama Administration has been actively looking at ways that the US can, consistent with US law, assist the ICC in fulfilling its historic charge of providing justice to those who have endured crimes of epic savagery… We would like to meet with the Prosecutor at the ICC to examine whether there are specific ways that the United States might be able to support the particular prosecutions that are already underway.' A recent Council on Foreign Relations report echoed these sentiments, recommending that the Obama administration not ratify the ICC treaty, but 'consider boosting its cooperation with the court in such areas as training, funding, the sharing of intelligence and evidence and the apprehension of suspects'.
This proposed alliance between the US military and the ICC has elicited little reaction from the human rights community despite the devastating consequences it may produce. At heart is the question of what it will mean for justice and the rule of law if the ICC comes to rely heavily on the military capacity of a single state — a state with its own military agenda and interests in Africa — as its enforcement arm, in particular when that state declares itself above the very law it claims to enforce. The ICC appears to be trading its independence in return for access to coercive force, a Faustian bargain that will be made at the price of the court’s legitimacy, impartiality and legality, and the Western human rights community seems to be accepting this bargain as a necessary price to pay to encourage any US engagement with the court. But the price paid by the ICC will be trivial compared to the very dangerous possibility that this alliance could help justify and expand US militarisation in Africa, in particular in conjunction with AFRICOM (Africa Command), at a dramatic cost to peace and justice in the continent.
US INTERESTS IN THE ICC
US overtures for pragmatic engagement with the ICC in Africa should be understood in the context of increased US military engagement in Africa, particularly the new military command for the continent, AFRICOM. Since the US announced the creation of AFRICOM in 2007, activists have sounded alarm bells about its implications. Recalling the Cold War legacy of intervention that contributed to the militarisation of African states and the funding of proxy forces, they are concerned that AFRICOM will serve as a vehicle to expand the 'war on terror' into Africa, to secure US access to Africa’s oil and to challenge China’s increasing commercial and political influence. They cite dwindling development aid as contrasted with massive increases in foreign military financing via AFRICOM as evidence of the US government’s prioritiation of narrow security interests over democracy, the rule of law and African interests more broadly. Gender rights activists have highlighted the potential for AFRICOM to undermine efforts to demilitarise African communities, particularly those emerging from conflict. Considering the US track record of destructive interventions in Africa during the Cold War and the US military’s disregard for international law in Iraq and Afghanistan, Africans have reason to be wary of greater US military involvement on their soil. The possibility that AFRICOM might add justice enforcement to its repertoire is therefore a genuinely troubling development, and the ICC risks becoming the latest pawn of US military strategy on the continent.
For one, just as the US invokes counter-terrorism as a basis for military assistance to African states, it may come to use international justice enforcement to justify increased militarisation of select African armies. This fits well with AFRICOM’s general strategy: in place of direct intervention (which would trigger unwanted scrutiny), the US prefers to rely on proxies to carry out its military agenda. As the US attempts to expand its sphere of influence in Africa through local 'partners', the ICC may inadvertently justify the militarisation of African states in the name of international law enforcement. History provides a chilling lesson in the impact of US military aid to Africa — more than US$1.5 billion worth of weapons were transferred to the continent during the Cold War, most of it to authoritarian and repressive regimes whose legacies are painfully felt in ongoing cycles of violence and instability in many African countries.
Secondly, ICC arrest warrants could provide the US with justification for the direct use of military force where desired. In the words of the prosecutor’s special advisor, the ICC offers a convenient way to make military action (such as the pursuit of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)) 'a totally legitimate operation, politically, legally', without having to overcome the political and legal obstacles in the way of Security Council authorisation for the use of force. Like the impunity that characterised the US and UN 'humanitarian' intervention in Somalia in the 1990s, political and human destruction wreaked by US military actions under ICC cover will be dismissed as 'collateral damage' in the name of international law enforcement. It is probably safe to predict that the US will avoid ICC scrutiny for any use of military force as long as the ICC depends upon US military capacity.
And US allies in Africa could enjoy similar impunity thanks to the Bush-era bilateral immunity agreements guaranteeing US citizens protection from ICC prosecution and, in some cases, guaranteeing that the US would not hand over individuals from those African countries to the court. An April 2010 Congressional Research Service report on AFRICOM confirms that the Obama administration has no intention of reversing these immunity agreements.
Instead of bringing the US back within international law, the proposed US ‘engagement’ with the ICC would thus allow the US to declare itself above international law while using international law for its own interests. The human rights community must not be complicit in this charade and must hold the US and the ICC to account.
POLITICISATION OF THE ICC
If the ICC partners with US military power, the politicised 'justice' that the ICC effects will not only create a geography of impunity in Africa, but will also lead to increased accusations of partiality against the court. And it is hard to imagine that the ICC, in its reliance on US enforcement capacity, would be able to avoid politicisation and not fall into the trap of prosecuting only those the US is willing to capture, regardless of crimes committed.
The vast discretion afforded to the Office of the Prosecutor by the Rome Statute and the lack of transparency that characterises the prosecutor’s decisions as to whom to prosecute and why is unlikely to provide any check on this type of politicisation. Luis Moreno-Ocampo has shown himself willing to take full advantage of the discretion provided him, practicing immense selectivity in his investigations and prosecutions. Even if the prosecutor were to try to prosecute US allies, the US could exert its influence by threatening to revoke funding or support for the court or by interfering with its internal workings. US meddling in supposedly independent international criminal tribunals has been documented elsewhere, including having Carla del Ponte removed from her position as prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 2003 when she sought to investigate the US-allied Rwandan government for war crimes. If the ICC is seen as working hand-in-glove with US interests in Africa, its legitimacy may end up fatally damaged.
EXPANSION OF AFRICOM
The appointment of AFRICOM as the ICC’s police officer in Africa may, along with providing cover for US military operations and for the militarisation of African states involved in ICC enforcement operations, also help establish a long-term US military presence on the continent. After US forces have set up bases or surveillance centres as part of a law enforcement operation, it will be easy for that military presence to remain long after the actual 'enforcement' operation has ended. Once US drones are circling overhead hunting ICC suspects, these drones could easily keep circling, collecting intelligence and carrying out 'targeted assassinations' when required.
One recent incident may provide a taste for what is to come through an AFRICOM-ICC alliance. In December 2008, a military operation coined 'Operation Lightning Thunder' was carried out principally by the Ugandan military with training and financial support from AFRICOM against the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army, the top commanders of which have outstanding ICC arrest warrants against them. The operation failed to capture the LRA leadership, however, and led to over 1,000 civilian deaths and the displacement of up to 200,000 Congolese.
Despite the devastating consequences of that operation for civilians, the US Congress recently passed legislation authorising intensified US-led military action in the region 'to apprehend or otherwise remove Joseph Kony and his top commanders from the battlefield'. The legislation includes no commitment to upholding the ICC’s arrest warrants, but Senator Russ Feingold, a co-sponsor and vocal advocate of the bill, stated that the effort to stop the LRA is 'exactly the kind of thing in which AFRICOM should be engaged'. In its latest report on the LRA, the International Crisis Group supported the bill and called for long-term US military engagement in the region: 'Uganda and the US should see that getting rid of Kony may win them praise and be politically valuable, but removing the LRA requires going further. They should prepare now to continue operations after Kony is caught or killed,' with mechanisms to 'review the operation every four months to assess civilian casualties and increase civilian protection measures accordingly,' signalling the projection of a long-term US military deployment in the region, a deployment justified originally as part of an effort to apprehend the LRA leadership.
The presence of US military on African soil raises a number of concerns for those communities where they are deployed. Former US Army Colonel Ann Wright warned against deploying US soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, citing the high number of rape and violent sexual assault cases in the US military and by US military personnel against women and girls in areas around US military bases. As she stated, 'If the women of the Congo should Google, "US military — sexual assault and rape", I suspect they will decline the offer of assistance from the African Command.'
Similarly, given the massive civilian devastation wreaked by recent US military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is likely that most Africans would say 'no thank you' to the offers of justice from the barrel of American guns. This is especially the case given that many of these law enforcement operations may be carried out not by uniformed US soldiers, but by US-contracted private security firms who anticipate a boom in business thanks to AFRICOM. Given the near total lack of accountability that private contractors have enjoyed in Iraq and Afghanistan, this should also give human rights and peace advocates considerable pause for thought.
Finally, regardless of how the proposed cooperation works out in practice, there is the underlying issue that, for people in many areas of the world, the idea that US military force is the chosen instrument of global justice makes a mockery of the violence and devastation they have suffered at the hands of US military intervention. The ICC’s pandering to the US military is an insult to all those in the US and around the world struggling to hold the US military and its mercenaries accountable. The quest for global accountability will only become more difficult if the US military is appointed by the ICC as the chosen agent of global justice instead of being a force that itself needs to be held accountable.
PRESERVING THE RULE OF LAW
In order to ensure that any future ICC-US cooperation builds, rather than undermines, the rule of law, human rights activists, in particular at the ICC Review Conference, have a right and responsibility to make several demands:
- First, that the US sign and ratify the Rome Statute as a signal of its commitment to the rule of law
- Second, that all US-initiated bilateral immunity agreements be nullified
- Third, that if the ICC works with the US while the US is not a state party, it should do so in an open, transparent and accountable manner.
Most important, it is up to all human rights and peace advocates to make clear that we will not allow the enforcement of international justice to be used as a cover for US militarisation of Africa and for the dangerous expansion of AFRICOM in the continent.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEW
* Samar Al-Bulushi is an independent researcher examining the influence of external actors on peace and justice debates in Africa. Adam Branch is assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at San Diego State University.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 See for example: Mary Kimany, 'International Criminal Court: Justice or Racial Double Standards?' Afrik.com, 16 December 2009 available hereat ; Hama Tuma, 'ICC and Omar Bashir no friends of Ethiopia-Contempt for Africa or Justice Served?' Afrik.com, 9 March 2009 available at http://en.afrik.com/rejoinder15397.html; Adam Branch, 'Uganda’s Civil War and the Politics of ICC Intervention,' Ethics and International Affairs, 2007, available at http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/~abranch/Publications/index_pub.html; Mayank Bubna, 'The ICC’s Role in Sudan: Peace versus Justice,' Eurasia Review, 28 April 2010, available here.
 George Lerner, 'Ambassador: US moving to support international court,' CNN US on-line, www.cnn.com/2010/US/03/24/us.global.justice
 George Lerner, 'Ambassador: US moving to support international court,' CNN US on-line, www.cnn.com/2010/US/03/24/us.global.justice
 Harold Hongju Koh, 'The Obama Administration and International Law,' Keynote Speech at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law, 26 March 2010. http://www.state.gov/s/l/releases/remarks/139119.htm
 Vijay Padmanabhan, From Rome to Kampala: The US Approach to the 2010 International Criminal Court Review Conference. Council on Foreign Relations Special Report No. 55, April 2010.
 See for example, 'African Voices on AFRICOM,' at
http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/47047 See also A. Sarjoh Bah and Kwesi Aning, 'US Peace Operations Policy in Africa: From ACRI to AFRICOM,' International Peacekeeping, 2008. See also Daniel Volman and Beth Tuckey, 'Militarizing Africa (Again),' Foreign Policy in Focus, 20 February 2008 at http://www.fpif.org/articles/militarizing_africa_again
 See Amina Mama and Margo Okazawa- Rey. “Editorial: Militarism, Conflict and Women’s Activism,” Feminist Africa Issue 10, 2008.
 See for example Rick Rozoff, “AFRICOM’s First War: U.S. Directs Large Scale Offensive in Somalia,” March 2010 available at http://bit.ly/cImpQn; see also Samuel Makinda, “The Rising Mercenary Industry and AFRICOM,” AfricanLoft, 29 January 2008, available at http://bit.ly/b1gaET
 William Hartung and Bridget Moix, “Deadly Legacy: U.S. Arms to Africa and the Congo War,” Arms Trade Resource Center, January 2000. See also John Stockwell, In Search of Enemies, Replica Books 1997.
 Ugboaja F. Ohaegbulam, U.S. Policy in Postcolonial Africa: Four case Studies in Conflict Resolution, Peter Lang: New York, 2004.
 Alex de Waal, Famine Crimes: Politics and the Disaster Relief Industry in Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997.
 Lauren Ploch, “Africa Command: US Strategic Interests and the Role of the U.S. Military in Africa,” Congressional Research Service, 10 April 2010, p. 11.
See Carla del Ponte and Chuck Sudetic, Madame Prosecutor: Confrontations with Humanity's Worst Criminals and the Culture of Impunity (Other Press, 2009) for details on this and also U.S. meddling in the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia.
 See Ronald Atkinson, ‘Revisiting Operation Lightning Thunder’, The Independent, 9 June 2009.
 Samar Al-Bulushi, “U.S. legislation authorises military action against the LRA in Uganda,”
Pambazuka News, 25 March 2010.
 International Crisis Group, “LRA: A Regional Strategy Beyond Killing Kony,” 28 April 2010, p. 15.
 Ann Wright, “With its Record of Rape, Don’t send the U.S. military to the Congo,” Huffington Post, 21 August 2009, http://huff.to/ajauJg
 AFRICOM: A New Military for Hire?” TransAfrica Forum, available at http://www.transafricaforum.org/policy-overview/us-militarization/africom
(Quelle: Pambazuka News.)