News that Al Jazeera Media Network has taken the racist, apartheid government of Israel to the International Criminal Court at The Hague for the killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh is welcome news for all peace and justice loving citizens around the world. The hope will be that Al Jazeera succeeds in its endeavour to seek justice on behalf of Shireen and her family.
The submission to the ICC will also include Israel’s bombing of Al Jazeera’s office in the Gaza Strip in May last year, as well as its frequent incitement and attacks against the network’s journalists working in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The ICC remains a very divisive topic. It is one of the most prominent failures of the UN since the international organisation was created in the wake of the Second World War. One of the reasons for this is simply because it has allowed itself to be used by the arrogant, imperialist West as a tool to punish those — usually in the Global South — who refuse to toe the Western line. There is clearly a racist agenda at play.
Why are those countries which talk a lot about taking other countries or their leaders to the ICC not members of this sadly discredited body? Why is it that the ICC is only called upon to clean up when and where the big boys in the Western club have messed up?
Let’s consider what is currently going on in Ukraine, for example. There are calls for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be taken to the ICC and charged for war crimes, barely three months into the war. Yet we have all witnessed what has been going on for years in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, but everybody has kept quiet. Numerous war crimes have been committed in these countries, and hundreds of thousands, if not millions — the true casualty figure will probably never be known — of people have been killed, yet there has never been any serious calls for the ICC to prosecute those responsible.
Shamefully, whenever the possibility has arisen of prosecuting Western officials for war crimes and crimes against humanity, their governments have openly threatened the ICC prosecutors with sanctions and even arrest. This outrageous attitude has divided the world, but people of conscience can see this for what it is: a farce. So farcical, in fact, that the arrogant West no longer even tries to disguise its disgraceful double standards and hypocrisy. Ukraine? The occupation is wrong and must be fought. Palestine? The occupation is a “dispute” about land, and the occupation state of Israel must be supported at all costs.
There is now a growing concern that the ICC, established through the adoption of the Rome Statute of 1998, is not only flawed institutionally and irreparably, but has also been politicised. It has thus failed to live up to the hopes and visions of its founding fathers.
The ICC was established after a long process of negotiations inspired by a post-World War Two vision of the need to ensure that the perpetrators of the most egregious crimes known to humanity would not enjoy impunity and immunity. That they would be brought to trial before an independent, apolitical, international juridical body. Regrettably, and despite the best intentions of its founders, the very independence and impartiality of the court – so central and obvious for any such vital and important body — was flawed from the outset by linking it constitutionally with the UN.
The United States has opposed signing and ratifying the Rome Statute because if it does so then the ICC will be able to hold US military and political leaders accountable for their actions according to the global standard of justice. In other words, the US would not be able to protect its citizens who stand accused of crimes against humanity, such as knowingly killing innocents caught in crossfire, for example.
Yet, the US still claims that it wants to protect the human rights of people around the world. The contradiction is obvious if the ICC is incapable of putting US citizens on trial when they are accused of harming those very same people all over the world.
There is another reason why the US shies away from ratifying the Rome Statute and becoming part of the International Criminal Court. Washington is scared to let evidence be heard in open court which would allow American citizens hear what has been done to ordinary people the world over by their armed forces and in their name. The leaders in the land of the free and home of the brave can never allow that to happen. Their notion of freedom doesn’t extend to seeking justice for those whose lives they have cut short in such great numbers with unimaginable brutality.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.