The deeply politicised International Criminal Court, of which none of the three global superpowers (China, Russia, US) are members, has long been associated with the prosecution and persecution of African leaders. In fact 90% of all defendants brought before the ICC have been Africans. In 2016, the Gambia, South Africa and Burundi announced their intention to withdraw from the court, but later changed their decision in the face of internatinoal pressure. In South Africa, the issue is particularly sensitive as in spite of the clearly anti-African bias of the ICC, South Africa has tended towards a commitment to international organisations, no matter how ineffective, owing to the spirit of reconciliation which formed the basis of Nelson Mandela’s post Apartheid government.
But the unjust double standards of the ICC which has seen African leaders sitting before a court, deprived of any dignity, while countries with larger militaries, vastly more weapons and a track record of large scale international war crimes have never been brought before the ICC, leaves the Court’s reputation in tatters.
Few Asian states are members of the ICC. Once The Philippines leaves, only Cambodia, Bangladesh, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, South Korea, Mongolia and Japan will remain as full members. In terms of ASEAN, once The Philippines leaves, Cambodia will remain the only ASEAN member to remain a full member of the ICC.
For Africa though, the ICC’s clutches have been difficult to escape and far from escaping justice being an advisable position, the ludicrous way in which the ICC began a preliminary investigation into Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is demonstrative of the kind of unfair treatment than African states and leaders have suffered at the hands of an ICC which is more of a neo-colonial circus than anything resembling an attempt to bring actual war criminals to justice.
President Duterte’s war on drugs is as far from a “crime against humanity” as one can get. Duterte is helping to eradicate the scourge of narcotics that has ripped communities apart and turned areas of the country into a war zone where the reality of human rights is non-existent. In fighting drugs, drug culture, the drug trade and the financing of terrorism implicit in the drug trade, Duterte has done more to promulgate the basic human rights and social progress of his countrymen than any other leader in recent Philippine history.
Indeed, the ICC’s investigation into Duterte, which will now go nowhere due to the ICC shortly losing its jurisdiction over The Philippines, was symptomatic of a larger hybrid war against Duterte from a variety of state and non-state actors. Africa as a whole has been subject not just to months or years, but centuries of imperial exploitation which continues to this day in the form of corporate exploitation of African resources, African leaders who act as puppets of wealthy foreign regimes and a banking culture which has strangled Africa with debts that cannot realistically be repaid.
When Duterte stated that he rejects the “colonial mentality” with which the US treats The Philippines, he could have also been speaking for African leaders who for centuries have suffered under an even more pronounced version of this same colonial mentality.
In his commitment to rapidly withdraw from the corrupt ICC, Duterte will be setting an important precedent that can and should be followed by a majority of African states. The ICC, however noble its founding principles, has manifested itself as just another tool of neo-colonialism in an age where the multi-polar approach to trade, security and international justice, far outweighs anything that can be offered from remaining subservient to the institutions of former imperial masters.