How Trump has made the world's wickedest men - and Zuma - very happy indeed
The US has emboldened dictators around the world by officially spitting in the face of the International Criminal Court
Former president Jacob Zuma was most likely having a party this weekend. Why? It is because Zuma’s criticism of and attempts to destroy the International Criminal Court – a body that has since 2002 tried to bring war criminals, despots and dictators to justice – was endorsed by US President Donald Trump last week.
Trump’s national security adviser, John R Bolton, said in a widely reported speech: “I want to deliver a clear and unambiguous message on behalf of the president of the United States. The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court. We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to the ICC. And, certainly, we will not join the ICC. We will let the ICC die on its own.”
This is music to the world’s worst dictators and despots.
Bolton’s words mean that the “court of last resort”, the one place where dictators who fooled their own compatriots could not escape scrutiny and justice, has now been thrown to the wolves by the US (itself always a reluctant signatory to the treaty that formed the ICC).
And so Zuma, a major proponent of the dissolution of the ICC, wasn’t the only one celebrating. President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, a man indicted for allegedly killing 300,000 of his fellow Africans, was probably also getting down. President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, accused of presiding over the killing of several thousand alleged drug dealers and addicts, was also probably popping champagne. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, possibly joined in with his own festivities.
Who else would have been partying this past weekend? Oh yes, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin was also probably downing vodka shots and cracking a smile or two. Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza, who in 2015 decided to flout the country’s constitution and run for a third term while brutally suppressing opposition voices, was probably also doing the famous Agasimbo dance.
All these characters identified the ICC as an enemy. It’s easy to see why: an effective and empowered ICC stood to send a large chunk of them to jail.
Why would Zuma join this dodgy lot to celebrate? Remember that in June 2015 Zuma aided and abetted al-Bashir, a fugitive from the ICC, to escape arrest in SA. Zuma and his administration not only helped al-Bashir, but they defied the laws and courts of our own country to do so.
On Sunday, June 14 2015 the Pretoria High Court handed down an order that al-Bashir – who was in SA for an African Union summit – not be allowed to leave the country until the court had dealt with the application to have him arrested. On Monday the 15th the court then handed down its order that al-Bashir indeed be arrested.
Between the Sunday and the handing down of the order on Monday the SA authorities were supposed to comply with the court order that the man had to remain here. Instead, the Zuma administration used our intelligence services, the air force, the police and the army to smuggle al-Bashir out of the country.
After shamelessly breaking the law the Zuma administration and the ANC then joined the chorus of discredited, undemocratic, dictatorial leaders who slammed the ICC and demanded that it be shut down.
The ANC, a party that had once been a champion of the idea that dictators and others who violated human rights across the globe should be brought to book, was at the time a Zuma poodle. The ANC said that “the ICC is no longer useful for the purposes for which it was intended – being a court of last resort for the prosecution of crimes against humanity”.
So what now?
Despots and dictators have been emboldened since the rise to power of Donald Trump in the US. Now they know that they have Trump’s backing to defy the one body that could sanction them and bring them to justice. The generals of Myanmar, who have persecuted the Rohingya Muslims, must be in rapture. After all, who shall speak for their victims now?
The ICC will most likely now weaken and die. The poor and powerless, the weak and defenceless, will have no one to turn to. The bad guys are winning.