Within a week, the ICC scored a hat-trick when three of its customers suffered various setbacks that resulted in one landing before it for trial. First, Muammar Gaddafi's elusive son, Saif al-Islam, was arrested in Libya and days later, former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo was shipped off to The Hague to face justice on a day when one of the ICC's most prominent customers, President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, suffered an ICC-related embarrassment in a Kenyan court. The Sudanese strongman must have felt deep humiliation, given his knee-jerk and drastic reaction to the ruling by the Kenyan judge that should he set foot in the East African country, he will be apprehended and handed over to the ICC. Within hours of the judgement, al-Bashir pulled out his ambassador from Nairobi and sent the Kenyan ambassador to Sudan packing. This is thankless behaviour towards a country that has been shielding the Sudanese president from prosecutors in The Hague.
Contrary to expectations, Kenya feted and hosted Bashir last year and ignored the warrant of arrest issued by the ICC. While it is not likely that Bashir or Saif al-Islam will be in the dock at The Hague any time soon, the ICC prosecutors must be on a high after they netted Gbagbo. The ousted Ivorian leader is the first former head of state to fall into the hands of ICC prosecutors as the cases of Charles Taylor of Liberia and Slobadan Milosevic of Yugoslavia were handled by UN special courts.
It is likely that Bashir's fate at the Kenyan court and Gbagbo's dispatch to Holland will once again be met by claims that the ICC seems to be targeting Africans. But the truth is that Gbagbo was handed over to The Hague by his own government while the decision on Bashir was made by an African court after it was approached by the Kenyan branch of International Commission of Jurists. Contrast this with the Saif al-Islam case where the Libyan authorities have decided not to honour the ICC warrant of arrest because they want to try Gaddafi's ruthless son at home. The ICC's only involvement in all these cases is the issuance of warrants of arrest against these men who are accused of crimes against humanity and genocide. Let it also be noted that the Africans who have thus far been in the dock at The Hague have been shipped there directly or indirectly by their own governments while some voluntarily handed themselves over. Despite accusations that the ICC is meting out selective justice, it is encouraging to see that suspected criminals who would have previously gone scot-free in Africa are now being brought to book. For decades, Africa has been a paradise for cruel dictators, bloodthirsty tyrants and mass murderers. However, with the ICC hanging like the Sword of Damocles over their heads, they will think twice before they carry out their murderous programmes.
"Justice and power must be brought together, so that whatever is just may be powerful, and whatever is powerful may be just."
- Sir Blaise Pascal,
French Mathematician and philosopher