Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Libya: Burkina Faso and Niger Back Gaddafi's Victims

Elise Keppler, Human Rights Watch


Muammar Gaddafi
 There is good news in the world of international justice: Burkina Faso and Niger have said unequivocally that they will not give safe haven to former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi - who may be seeking a new place to call home. The two governments cited the outstanding warrant issued for him by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes committed against the Libyan people.

These two African countries should be commended for affirming their commitment to cooperate with the ICC in the arrest of suspects. Since the court is a decade old and more than 110 member states strong, one might expect such concrete expressions of support to be routine. But in Africa they have in recent years become more the exception than the rule.

African governments played a major role in the establishment of the ICC as a crucial court of last resort when national authorities are unable or unwilling to prosecute grave crimes. They were active at the Rome diplomatic conference when the ICC's treaty was negotiated in 1998.

Since then, the majority of African states have joined the court and African states have asked it to open investigations into several situations. African judges and prosecutors work at the court and African states played a strong role at the court's 2010 review conference, which took place in Kampala. In June this year, Tunisia became the newest African Union state to join the court.

But the ICC has become contentious among some African leaders in the wake of arrest warrants for Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir in 2009 and 2010. Some leaders have exploited the warrants by arguing that the ICC targets Africans and engineering calls by the African Union (AU) on member states not to cooperate in the arrest and surrender of al-Bashir and Gaddafi.

It is true that officials associated with powerful states have been less vulnerable to prosecution on the international stage, allowing impunity for crimes committed in places such as Chechnya and Gaza. This unevenness needs to be addressed, in part by increasing membership in the ICC.

But the ICC is not targeting Africans. Most ICC investigations in Africa came about due to voluntary requests by African governments to the court or referrals by the United Nations Security Council, and not as a result of some coordinated initiative by the court itself to pursue cases against Africans. Recently, the new president of Côte d'Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara, asked the ICC prosecutor to investigate crimes committed during the country's devastating post-election violence on the basis that the Ivorian justice system is not currently capable of handling these cases.

Some African ICC states parties - Botswana and South Africa in particular - have made it clear that they do not support and cannot abide by AU decisions that will frustrate the court's work and have affirmed they will arrest ICC suspects on their territories. But many other states have remained silent or passive in the face of attacks on the court. Even worse, a few - Chad, Kenya and Djibouti - have welcomed al-Bashir onto their territories without arrest.

Bringing ICC suspects into custody is one of the keys to effectively prosecuting cases, which require the presence of the accused. Disregarding arrest warrants is an affront to victims of the heinous crimes the ICC is prosecuting. Al-Bashir is wanted on charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity for his role in brutal attacks on Darfuri civilians. Gaddafi is wanted on charges of crimes against humanity for his role in attacks on civilians, including peaceful demonstrators, in various locations in Libya. Both al-Bashir and Gaddafi are presumed innocent and have the right to a fair trial. But they should not be shielded from the court.

Civil society across the African continent has consistently spoken out on the need for African governments to stand behind the ICC to promote justice for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Hundreds of groups from every sub-region on the continent have affirmed again and again their belief that the ICC has a vital role to play when African and other states are unwilling or unable to prosecute the worst crimes. They have implored their leaders to show strong, steadfast commitment to support and cooperate with the ICC.
By standing with those who are committed to ensuring that alleged perpetrators do not escape accountability, Burkina Faso and Niger have taken an important step to promote respect for human rights and the rule of law. More governments should  follow their example and take a stand for victims.

Elise Keppler is senior counsel with the international justice program at Human Rights Watch. She is active in an informal network of African civil society organizations and international organizations with a presence in Africa that collaborates on work related to the ICC and Africa.

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Inside Liberia with Bernard Gbayee Goah

Everyone is a genius

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

Drawing the line in Liberia

Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

If Liberia must move forward ...

If Liberia must move forward in order to claim its place as a civilized nation amongst world community of nations, come 2017 elections, Liberians must critically review the events of the past with honesty and objectivity. They must make a new commitment to seek lasting solutions. The track records of those who are presenting themselves as candidates for the position of "President of the Republic of Liberia" must be well examined. Liberians must be fair to themselves because results from the 2011 elections will determine the future of Liberia’s unborn generations to come - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's greatest problem!

While it is true that an individual may be held responsible for corruption and mismanagement of funds in government, the lack of proper system to work with may as well impede the process of ethical, managerial, and financial accountability - Bernard Gbayee Goah

What do I think should be done?

The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's Natural Resources
Besides land water and few other resources, most of Liberia’s dependable natural resources are not infinite, they are finite and therefore can be depleted.
Liberia’s gold, diamond, and other natural resources will not always be an available source of revenue generation for its people and its government. The need to invent a system in government that focuses on an alternative income generation method cannot be over emphasized at this point - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia needs a proper system
If Liberians refuse to erect a proper system in place that promotes the minimization of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government institutions, and individuals, there will come a time when the value of the entire country will be seen as a large valueless land suited on the west coast of Africa with some polluted bodies of waters and nothing else. To have no system in place in any country is to have no respect for rule of law. To have no respect for rule of law is to believe in lawlessness. And where there is lawlessness, there is always corruption - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah


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