By Owei Lakemfa
THE International Criminal Court, ICC, on March 17, 2023 added a comic dimension to the tragic war in Ukraine by issuing warrants of arrest for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Maria Lvova-Belova. The ICC, a body notorious for the persecution of people in the bad books of the European Union, EU, and its allies, is accusing Putin of “unlawful deportation of population…from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation”.
It claims that: “There are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Putin bears individual criminal responsibility for the aforementioned crimes (and) for his failure to exercise control properly over civilian and military subordinates who committed the acts, or allowed for their commission…”. The ‘court’ is also accusing 39-year-old Ms Lvova-Belova of the same alleged crimes. The ICC also said “there are reasonable grounds to believe that each suspect bears responsibility for the war crime of unlawful deportation of population…from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation, in prejudice of Ukrainian children”.
The ICC warrants do not disclose what it means by deportation of population. Does it refer to the Prisoners of War or the hordes of mercenaries Russia captured and moved to its territories? Or is it populations of Russian-speaking Ukrainians who were evacuated from war zones just like those moved or evacuated from Ukraine to neigbouring countries like Poland? Can Ukrainian President Zelensky be accused of deportation of populations to other European countries?
These are in the realms of speculation, but what is not speculative is that asking countries around the world to arrest the Russian President is a sick joke. Any country that tries it can be annihilated; it would be the same as arresting a sitting United States President. These countries are not superpowers for nothing. So, the ICC’s quixotic moves can only be in the service of its EU owners.
I must, however, say that this is a new low for the ICC whose specialty is the arrest and persecution of African leaders who refuse to toe the path set for them by the West. The war in Ukraine is one that pitches Russia against the EU and the latter owns the ICC. Since its 2002 establishment, the EU has been responsible for 63 per cent of all ICC funds. In 2009, for instance, just five members of the EU: Spain, Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom, UK, paid 44 per cent of the ICC budget. In 2020, the main funders of the ICC were Germany, France, Japan, and the United Kingdom.
So the ICC jumps when the EU asks it to do so; the only question it would ask is: ‘How high boss?’ Therefore, the ICC has neither independence nor self-esteem, and certainly does not command the respect even of its owners. Let me give an example. When the ICC in 2021 strayed into investigating Israel for its on-going genocide against the Palestinian people, its sustained murder of civilians, including children, and the continuous theft of Palestinian land, then UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson firmly told the ICC to back off as it was exceeding its bounds. Although the ICC probe also covered rockets fired by Hamas and other Palestinian groups into Israel, the British Prime Minister in a letter declared that: “This investigation gives the impression of being a partial and prejudicial attack on a friend and ally of the UK.”
Apart from the EU and some of its allies like Japan, plus the horde of African countries pressured by the EU to join the ICC, no self-respecting country has joined; not China, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Russia, Sudan, Syria; not even the US whose allies built the contraption. In fact, the US which has gone to war almost non-stop for two centuries and has most military bases in the world, would not allow even murderous American mercenaries like those of Blackwater, to be tried outside its own courts.
The same 2002 the ICC was born, the US Congress in warning it against investigating its war crimes across the globe, including places like Afghanistan and Iraq, passed the American Service-Members’ Protection Act. The Act banned financial assistance to any member country of the ICC which may want to hand over US personnel. The law also authorised the US to use force to free any American that may be held by the ICC. The Americans went on to force dozens of countries to sign bilateral agreements not to handover over any American to the ICC. To counter the ICC’s joke, the Russia Investigative Committee countered with its own symbolic investigation of the ICC prosecutor and judges who issued the warrants of arrest. It said neither Putin nor Lova-Belova were criminally liable and that Heads of State in the world enjoy absolute immunity under a 1973 UN Convention.
Almost all cases brought to the ICC concern Africans and their then-sitting Presidents like Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and his then Vice President (now President) William Ruto, and Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d’ Ivoire. President Gbagbo’s case is illustrative of the way the ICC functions. There was an electoral dispute between Gbagbo and opposition leader Alhassan Quatara with each claiming to have won the elections. The latter’s rebel army with the backing of French and United Nations troops, marched on the Presidential Palace on April 11, 2011 and captured Gbagbo who became a Prisoner of War. But he was not treated as such neither was he accorded his right to be tried in his country. Rather, the foreign troops contrary to UN protocols on a President’s diplomatic immunity, bundled Gbagbo out of his country and deposited him in an ICC jail for five years without trial while his rival was installed as the country’s President. He was subsequently subjected to a charade in the guise of judicial trial and after another three years, declared innocent.
The ICC was simply used by the EU to remove an uncooperative African president, and after incarcerating him for eight years, set him free while his rival was in power in Cote d’ Ivoire doing the wishes of the Europeans, including subverting Africa’s move for a common West Africa currency. Even after he was declared innocent, the Europeans still prevented Gbagbo from returning home until their stooge was ready to cage him. The African Union, AU, realising that the ICC is primarily an instrument of neo-colonialism, on January 31, 2017 asked the 34 African countries who signed up to the ICC to make a collective withdrawal. Lives are being needlessly lost in Ukraine, what the world needs is a negotiated peace settlement not a clownish performance by an howling lapdog.