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A Defiant African Union

By Farooque Chowdhury

04 July, 2011

African Union's decision to ignore International Criminal Court's arrest warrant against Libyan leader Gaddafi manifests a resistance to imperial NATO's design being imposed on Africa . The African resistance is getting generated in the background of a changing geopolitical reality with a declining trend of a section of capital. The AU defiance is actually against the world masters, especially NATO, the masters' military arm.

In its Malabo summit, the AU called on its members to disregard the arrest warrant issued for Gaddafi. The July 1 decision states that the warrant “seriously complicates” AU's efforts to find a solution to the Libya imbroglio. After a day of deliberations on Libya , AU invited the belligerent sides to talks which is expected to begin soon in Addis Ababa . The Libya-case was referred by the UN Security Council to the ICC in late-February, 2011.

An AU official has described ICC as “discriminatory” that only goes after crimes committed in Africa while ignores those committed by Western powers in countries including Afghanistan , Iraq and Pakistan . The AU motion recommended to its 53-member states not to “cooperate with the execution of this arrest warrant.”

The court that stands for justice at the top of the world is not without limits, flaws, and alleged designs. Competitions in geopolitics get reflected in its actions, and speed of work. The court that tries to lift itself up atop all to judge actions around peace and humanity regularly faces questions of partiality. Its acceptability is also questioned by major actors, who, on the other hand, try to manipulate laws of the world at their chosen moments.

The so-called unipolar world is going through a biased quest for “justice”, some of which sound tale- ancien : blood spangled Palestine, Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, crude diplomacy in Kosovo, drone adventures over Pakistan sky, MNCs fuelling civil strife, sectarian riot and genocide for minerals and energy, atrocities and mass murder by private contractors employed by state, defacing of environment at planetary level by MNCs, murderous crude connections of capital, and similar “sacred” acts (being) carried out by shameless-faceless lords of the world.

There are countries constantly propagating for human rights, peace, etc. still no longer intend to become states parties to the 114-member ICC, and, as such, they have no legal obligations arising from their former representatives' signature of the Rome Statute related to the international court. To prosecute the “crimes of aggression”, ICC has to wait up to at least 2017.

Two geopolitical actors' attitude to the ICC is important. One is moving with renewed military vigor in Africa while the other one is making significant deals in the “dark” continent. Their collusion and collaboration sometimes appear “strange”, especially in the Security Council on Libya issue.

The US , not a member of the ICC, has strong concerns about the definition of the crime of aggression. The Clinton Administration signed the Rome Statute in 2000, but did not submit it for Senate ratification. The Bush Administration stated that it would not join the ICC. Hillary Clinton, as a candidate in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries on Feb. 13, 2005 said: the US has global responsibilities creating unique circumstances. “[W]e are more vulnerable to the misuse of an international criminal court because of the international role we play and the resentments that flow from that ubiquitous presence…” (Remarks of Senator Hillary Clinton, German Media Prize Dinner) In 2002, the US threatened to veto the renewal of all UN peacekeeping missions unless its troops were granted immunity from prosecution by the Court. In a compromise move, the Security Council passed a resolution on July 12, 2002, granting immunity to personnel from ICC non-states-parties involved in UN established or authorized missions for a renewable 12-month period, which was renewed for 12 months in 2003 but the SC refused to renew the exemption again in 2004, after the US troops abusing Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib came to light. (“ The Ambiguities of Security Council Resolution 1422 (2002) ”, The European Journal of International Law . Vol.14, No.1; Jim Wurst, “ICC: UN Security Council Resolves Immunity Debate”, UN Wire ; “Q&A: International Criminal Court”, BBC News , March 20, 2006 )

China having few overseas military commitments is still not concerned with its troops coming under jurisdiction of the ICC. But, as Professor Lu Jianping , Law School of Renmin University and Professor Wang Zhixiang , Law School of Hebei University, write, China cannot avoid ICC's jurisdiction in other parts of the world. China considers that ICC's jurisdiction is not based on the principle of voluntary acceptance; complementary scope provides the court the power to judge a state's ablity or willingness to conduct proper trials of its own nationals; crimes against humanity are prohibited in time of peace; the inclusion of the crime of aggression within the jurisdiction of the ICC weakens the power of the UN SC; there is scope to influence the ICC politically. (“ China 's Attitude towards the ICC”, Journal of International Criminal Justice , Vol. 3, No. 3) Moreover, the emerging global actor considers that the ICC goes against the sovereignty of nation states, and the use of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction has not been explicitly outlawed.

Despite these “reservations” or bargaining points by world players the court now acts in unison with NATO. It fails to take into consideration NATO bombings on civilian population.

Libya-aggression by the complex military coalition has exposed: incoherence at the centre of the world system, limits of power of the world powers, consequences of pseudo-friendship, adventurism and undemocratic practices, struggles for and in the name of democracy, and significant shifts in geopolitics. Failings of confident NATO-air strikes led the aggressors to attempts for physical annihilation of a leader of a country that took toll from his family. Initial AU offer for dialogue was brushed out by the Benghazi band bent on auctioning Libyan oil.

Of course, the Gaddafi regime has moved a long way from the days it nationalized the country's oil, kicked out foreign bases and funded the African National Congress at a time when Nelson Mandela was branded a terrorist. But, there is another reality. Time reports: “it's patently clear that” there are “sizable” number of Libyans, who are “passionately committed to his [Gaddafi] regime and willing to fight for it.” ( April 8, 2011 ) Reports in Countercurrents provide much vivid picture of reality: Libyan people getting mobilized to face NATO aggression.

In this backdrop, comes the AU stand on the ICC's attempted, and NATO instigated, coup de grace ”.

Lumumba and Nkrumah are “forgotten” figures; Bandung-days have faded away; vibrant non-aligned movement is only a memory now. But, as Samir Amin writes: “A new epoch of chaos, wars, and revolutions emerged. In this situation, the second wave of the awakening of the nations of the periphery (which had already started), now refused to allow the collective imperialism of the Triad [the US , Europe and Japan ] to maintain its dominant positions, other than through the military control of the planet.” (“The Trajectory of Historical Capitalism and Marxism's Tricontinental Vocation”)

With limitations within economy and of the classes, and the society and politics these shape, AU members alone cannot determine the flight-path of Libya incidents. MNCs with their strong foot dug deep in African mines and wells command much resources (financial, political, diplomatic and physical) and army of allies and underlings (from gangs of marauders to generals), own capacity to manipulate society, politics, media and brain, continuously sow seeds of conspiracy and division within the ranks of resisting social forces. But, there is scope for creating space in between competing capitals.

It should not be considered that the AU's stand on ICC issued warrant is going to be the final, flawless move. However, it is a diplomatic gain of Gaddafi regime. At the same time, it only signifies a long journey's beginning, beginning of a dream, a dream Nkrumah had: Africa Must Unite (title of one of his books).

Dhaka-based freelancer Farooque Chowdhury contributes on socioeconomic issues.




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