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The International Criminal Court. Picture: SUPPLIED
The International Criminal Court. Picture: SUPPLIED

Having read volumes of articles and opinion pieces on the International Criminal Court (ICC) document [regarding the arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and commissioner for children’s rights Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova], we weren’t surprised by another one, “Sacrificing South Africa to Protect a War Criminal” (Editorials, April 13-19) 

We cannot comment on legal aspects of the matter in this format.  

To assess the overall picture, it is important to know that the process of the approval of the ICC document was accompanied by internal machinations. As follows from the ICC press release, the ICC prosecutor submitted an application for arrest warrants to pre-trial chamber (PTC) 2 on February 22 2023. On February 21, a PTC judge from the Democratic Republic of Congo was hastily replaced with a representative from Costa Rica. 

Moreover, it was reported by the media that exactly the day before the prosecutor applied to the PTC for the arrest warrants, prosecutor Karim Khan’s brother, Imran Ahmad Khan, was released from prison, where he was serving a sentence for sexually assaulting a minor. [See editor’s response, below.]   

The editorial claims, among other things, that the “ICC doesn’t change its stance when a self-righteous fist is waved its way”. But that’s what the ICC has done many times. In fact, it has been rightfully criticised for its openly selective justice.

Some African officials previously accused the ICC of unfairly prosecuting African leaders and of the court even being established with this single purpose. (According to the ICC’s website, the court has “investigated” 31 cases so far, with all those prosecuted being African.) In 2017, the AU issued a resolution encouraging member nations to withdraw from the ICC.  

The ICC’s unprincipled stance became absolutely evident when it attempted to undertake an investigation into US war crimes in Afghanistan and was threatened with financial sanctions and criminal charges against its officials if it proceeded. “If the court comes after us, Israel or other US allies, we will not sit quietly,” then White House national security adviser John Bolton said, adding: “The ICC is already dead to us.” 

This is when UK lawer Karim Khan was appointed the ICC prosecutor in 2021 instead of Fatou Bensouda from Gambia. [See editor’s response, below.] It showed “political cautiousness” and proposed to shift focus of the investigation from the US military to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.  

And the ICC came back to life!

However, we do not rule out the possibility that the US might “kill” the court again once it accomplishes its propaganda mission against Russia. 

Ilya Rogachev
Ambassador of Russia to South Africa


* The editor responds: Imran Ahmad Khan was released after serving nine months in prison, in accordance with his sentence. In September 2021 a judge ordered him to serve 18 months, “half on custody, released on license for the remainder of the term”, in line with UK rules. 

The address in which Bolton threatened the ICC was made in September 2018. In April 2021 US President Joe Biden removed that threat, and lifted sanctions imposed on certain ICC personnel in 2020. Karim Khan was appointed only later, in September 2021, and only when Bensouda had competed her mandate as ICC prosecutor.

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