If the world is to become a fairer, more compassionate, tolerant and peaceful place, it needs institutions such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) to hold those who abuse power to account.
It needs a criminal court where all are held equally to account, regardless of their nations’ wealth, geographic location or particular history.
By refusing to submit to the jurisdiction of the court, some of the most powerful nations in the world have created an environment in which no world leaders feel the need to be held to account – least of all those who stand accused by the court of war crimes and crimes against humanity, as Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir does.
These powerful nations have created the rationale for the South African government to allow Al-Bashir into the country despite the international warrant of arrest hanging over his head, and then to allow him to travel home despite a South African High Court order to the contrary.
What that says about South Africa’s moral fabric (the same government has thrice refused to allow His Holiness the Dalai Lama into the country) is a moot point. It is the further eroding of the ICC’s ability to function equitably that will concern lovers of peace across the world.
A court that cannot uphold the principle of all being equal before the law lacks integrity.
The reason that the International Criminal Court is battling is neither Africa’s nor the court’s fault; African nations and lawyers played prominent roles in establishing the court, in 2002.
The reason the ICC is battling for integrity is because some of the most powerful nations in the world would rather there was no court than one that might one day hold them to account, too.
In a moral world, Al-Bashir would have the opportunity to defend himself in a court to which all nations should be equally accountable, regardless of their power.
Distributed for the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation by Oryx Media.