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Omission of Non-Western Values in ICC Shows How Biased It Is, Expert Says

CC BY 2.0 / Greger Ravik / International Criminal CourtInternational Criminal Court headquarters
International Criminal Court headquarters - Sputnik Africa, 1920, 27.09.2023
On Monday, it was reported that Uganda's government is investigating allegations that the state's former Special Gender Advisor to the International Criminal Court was involved in financing the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), an extremist group from northern Uganda, known for its human rights abuses.
Underrepresentation of non-Western values in the International Criminal Court (ICC) indicates how "biased" the institution is, Senior lecturer at History and Political Studies Department at the South African Nelson Mandela University, Ntsikelelo Breakfast told Sputnik Africa, adding that it is "very much important" to integrate these values in the court.
"I mean, the issue of integrating Islamic values and other religious values into the ICC, I think is very much important. The fact that there has been that omission signifies how biased the ICC is, in my view," the expert said.
He also noted that usually, countries accused of human rights violations, are those, that "do not adhere to Western values," and they are ordinarily labeled as "undemocratic."

"If you look at the countries that have been accused of human rights abuses, countries that have been accused of terrorism, it's normally countries that do not adhere to Western values, like countries in Asia, countries like Iraq, but it's those countries that don't subscribe to liberal democratic values. Those are the countries that normally tend to be chastised to be undemocratic and so, which makes democracy an ideological construct and a political issue," the researcher underlined.

Moreover, the expert argued that it is necessary to incorporate non-Western values in the court in order to "understand outlook [of the peoples from Global South] in context."
"Everything is a context, and context is everything. We need to understand people's outlook in context. But as things stand, if you look at the values that the ICC represents, they are values that are inclined to liberal democracy and the dominant religion, which is practiced by many in the Global North, as opposed to what people in Asia and other parts of the world subscribe to," he noted.
Commenting on the accusations of the Ugandan former advisor to the ICC, Brigid Inder, Breakfast said that "it's quite sad that a person who has been giving advice to [...] the ICC on matters of genocide, on matters of wars, on matters of human rights abuses, has been found wanting or is being investigated. "
In this Nov. 7, 2019 file photo, the International Criminal Court, or ICC, is seen in The Hague, Netherlands. - Sputnik Africa, 1920, 26.09.2023
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However, the expert added that he was not surprised by the situation since "throughout history the ICC has been applying double standards."

"I mean, for instance, you have other countries that have violated international law and the culture of human rights that have never been brought into question or have never been investigated. It's always countries of the global South that are under the spotlight. So the issue of double standards is not something that is shocking in my view," he stressed.

Explaining why the court is focusing on Africa while "turning a blind eye" to perpetrators in many other regions of the world, the researcher highlighted that the ICC is one of the "strategic multilateral institutions," established by the Western states after the Second World War "to entrench its hegemony," and "to propagate American ideas"
"They were part of the establishment of the United Nations and also the Bretton Woods institutions. And those institutions have always been used as a platform to propagate American ideas such as, for instance, the application of market fundamentalism and the application of liberal democracy," Breakfast revealed.
To support his statement, the expert mentioned that former President of the United States, George Bush had never been brought to the ICC for human rights abuses, conducted during his invasion in Iraq.
In addition, the researcher highlighted that the US, the United Kingdom and other Western countries "are not signatories of the ICC, but they expect other countries that have signed up for the Rome Statute [of the court] to abide by their rulings and the orders."

"So, the argument that the ICC has been turning a blind eye to human rights violations of the countries of the global North while putting the countries of the global South under the spotlight, that argument is not far-fetched, it's not an invalid argument. I think it's a valid argument. If you look at the people who have been persecuted, who have been brought to the fore for allegations, they are people normally who come from the global South," Breakfast elaborated.

Speaking about the limitations of countries that are part to the ICC, the expert underlined that, the member states of the court, "cannot defy an order that comes from the ICC, "have to abide by it," even if it is disputable.
Continuing his thought, he cited the example of "a big debate" in South Africa prior to the BRICS Summit in late August, concerning the ICC's arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin, which triggered the African country to consider leaving the institution.

"You have to abide by it. You know as well as I do that there has been a big debate in the build-up to the BRICS conference that was held in South Africa – I'm just using that as a case in point – whereby an order was issued that if Putin sets his foot in South Africa, he must be arrested. And that issue generated a lot of debate to the extent that the ruling party, which is the ANC, wanted to terminate their membership because they've also signed up to the Rome Statute," the researcher noted.

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Moreover, Breakfast stressed that "interestingly," the Western countries that "have not signed up for [the court's statute] themselves, [...] expect others who are members of the ICC to abide" to its decisions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin participated in the BRICS summit via video conference.
In mid-March, the Hague-based ICC, which has jurisdiction in South Africa, issued an arrest warrant for Putin in connection with the alleged illegal transfer of children from the combat zone in Ukraine to Russia.
The Russian side has repeatedy stressed that the warrant has no legal power in the country and that the court's ruling is wrong and unfounded, as Russia had in fact only transferred children from combat zones voluntarily and returned them once their homes became safe once again.
Recently, the Russian Interior Ministry announced that it had put the president of the ICC, which is seeking the arrest of Putin, on the wanted list.
In conclusion, Breakfast explained why so few countries choose to withdraw from the ICC despite its disadvantages. underscored that most states signed up to the Rome statute to "brand themselves" as democratic countries, including South Africa, according to the researcher, which means that signing out would show them "in a bad light."

"So the point I'm making is that most countries, they signed up to the Rome Statute because they wanted to brand themselves as countries that espouse democracy, human rights. So now the narrative becomes that when you want to pull out, you are no longer practicing a democracy. So countries now don't want to be projected in a bad light to be moving away from democratic traditions. No wonder they would rather fight on the inside instead of walking out of the Rome Statute," Breakfast noted.