/ 28 September 2010

Goldstone defends international court

The criticism that the International Criminal Court (ICC) was against African countries was unfair, Judge Richard Goldstone said on Monday.

“It is unfair to say the court is being used against African countries,” Goldstone said at a lecture at the University of Johannesburg.

The ICC has opened five investigations into the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Uganda, Kenya and Darfur in Sudan.

Goldstone said however this would change in the near future as individuals in Latin America were also coming under investigation.

He added that the ICC only began its activities after officials in those countries had declined to open their own investigations.

In the case of Kenya, Parliament had refused to begin an investigation into post-election violence in 2007.

“It’s a court of last resort, not a court of first resort,” said Goldstone.

He also commented on Kenya’s hosting of Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir at a ceremony celebrating its new Constitution.

Al-Bashir has been indicted by the ICC for crimes in Darfur. As a signatory to the ICC treaty, Kenya was obligated to arrest al-Bashir, but refused to do so.

This is was contrast, said Goldstone, to South Africa, where al-Bashir was warned not to attend President Jacob Zuma’s inauguration.

“There is no action against countries that do not fufill their obligations under the treaty except to become pariah states,” he said.

AU asks for delay
Last week the African Union asked the UN Security Council to delay for a year the prosecution of al-Bashir on charges of genocide and other alleged crimes.

The AU said it wanted the delay because a trial of al-Bashir would interfere with efforts to end the seven-year conflict in western Darfur.

“The processes under way in the Sudan are too critical to the future of the country and the stability of the region and the continent as a whole to be allowed to fail,” the African Union’s UN observer, Tete Antonio, said.

Last year judges at the International Criminal Court issued a warrant against al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity. In July, the judges added three counts of genocide, the first time the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal has issued genocide charges. – Sapa, AP