22

Referring to this question, it appears as if the ICC is biased in favor of the West, since all the people it has punished were enemies of the West. But since crimes which can be prosecuted by the ICC are also committed by Western countries, or at least by allies of the West, I am wondering if there has ever been an attempt by the ICC to arrest any Western or pro-Western politicians for their crimes.

7
  • 9
    I down-voted because referring solely to that linked question, it does not at all appear as if the ICC is biased in favour of anyone… merely that Nebenzya hopes the audience might be innocent enough to mistake unsupported vitriol for fact. Oddly enough, that Soviet stance pretty-much mirrors the responses the late Shah of Iran somehow managed to keep a straight face while giving to the press in the 1970s - only Nebenzya is more vituperative. Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 0:08
  • 2
    @Robbie Goodwin "it does not at all appear as if the ICC is biased in favour of anyone…" And why then they punishing only enemies of the West? Have you posibly any counterexamples, as this is exactly what the question asking for.
    – convert
    Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 12:02
  • 1
    I've seen only one allegedly complete list of ICC warrants: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…. Does that cover this? Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 16:31
  • 3
    You mean has it issued warrants against western politicians? The ICC doesn't travel around the world arresting people.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 17:03
  • 1
    It’s likely any correlation has a different cause: anyone suspected of war crimes would likely by that fact alone make them an "enemy of the west". Also, many who are "enemies of the west" are also "enemies" (I.e., viewed similarly) of many non-western countries. Commented Mar 24, 2023 at 20:40

3 Answers 3

41

In 2020, the International Criminal Court(ICC) started an investigation into alleged warcrimes perpetuated by US soldiers in Afghanistan. So far, these investigations have not led to any indictments of any specific US politicians or soldiers, but the last US president seemed to consider it a serious threat.

The ICC is also investigating alleged warcrimes perpetuated by Israel against Palestinians.

3
  • 12
    U.S.: 'Hague Invasion Act' Becomes Law
    – sfxedit
    Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 16:56
  • 4
    Both of the mentioned investigations here are just preliminary investigations. This is just looking into complaints to see if there's an actual case there, not the prosecution of an actual case. That doesn't mean they won't proceed, but at least in the US's case its been in this same phase for more than a decade, so that doesn't look likely.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 14:32
  • 1
    Investigating but not actually finished and wrapped up and the suspects convicted, there clearly were war crimes in Afghanistan its just because of Money they kept on investigating... until everyone will forget about it.
    – Tardy
    Commented Apr 2, 2023 at 18:20
31
+200

Arguably, they have.

The ICC in its 2 decade history has only handed down about 53 indictments, and they were all related to what looks to me like a bit over a dozen different conflicts or events. So its arguable how statistically-significant any tendencies one finds in the data are.

With that caveat, it looks like the most pro-Western politician they have put out a warrant for was Mahmoud al-Werfalli, who was in charge of the Army of the Western-backed elected government of Libya during the post-Ghadaffi Civil War. This was mostly on the basis of that Army's execution of prisoners.

After that, we have the first 5 warrants the ICC ever issued, which were for figures involved in the Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army. This is a Dominionist group, with ties to evangelical Dominionist groups in the USA. They aren't officially in very good smell in most "western" nations. They are on the US Terrorist Watch List. However, most of their outside support and moral inspiration comes from that movement. Dominionists are big backers of US Conservative politicians, and thus the Republican Party.

There are also some other Christian vs. Muslim conflicts, where you'd think "The West" would perhaps be more sympathetic to the Christians, but the ICC has indited figures on both sides. This has happened particularly in Congo, Kenya, and Central Africa, for a total 21, or about 40% of their indictments.


Predictors

The "western" frame is a bad one because it really doesn't allow us to predict who will get indited. Lots of international bad actors that aren't beloved in Brussels, London, or Washington, are conspicuously absent from this list. So let's look at who is on the list. What do they have in common? I made a quick (I wish!) spreadsheet based on public data from Wikipedia, the ICC, and some other sources where need be.

One thing is that every one of them seems to be for a person holding or supporting an exclusive identity-based ideology (Some flavor of religious or ethnic nationalism), or it happened in the aftermath of a highly-contested election. So it looks like if you aren't a hard identity nationalist and don't cheat on your elections, you're probably safe from the ICC no matter where you live.

The second is that, prior to last year, a non-African had never been indicted. Sure, they made up for it with 5 Europeans since then, but still that's pretty dang glaring. A simplistic "East-West" framing simply does not fully explain this distribution.

The obvious first explanation is that perhaps Africa is where most of the relevant crimes are happening. Wikipedia lists 4 genocides since the ICC was formed, and 2 of them happened in Africa. Of the 123 wars and conflicts they list since 2003, 58 of them (47%) were in Africa. So its probably fair to say this accounts for a decent amount of the attention Africa is getting, but seemingly not all of it.

I'd thought to look at Democracy Index, on the theory that this could be a halfway decent proxy for places potential criminals may feel their victims are powerless enough for them to get away with their crimes, but frankly that map comes close to doubling as a conflict map1 There are certainly preliminary investigations in these other places, but for whatever reason they never seem to advance to actual investigations.

enter image description here

Another possibility is that African nations are just in a uniquely unstable region where the general public trusts international institutions more than local ones for dispensing justice in political matters. The ICC by policy steps in only if there's a complaint, and if local proceedings are felt to be not up to the task.

One other explanation that comes to mind is flat out racism. Its tough to resist comparing the ICC's propensity for prosecuting Africans to the American criminal justice system, which incarcerates African-Americans at quadruple the rate of its white citizens.


1 - interesting thing to investigate, but beyond the scope of this question.

12
  • 3
    It is perhaps worth being impressed that Putin's behavior became so egregious that he actually managed to pierce whatever the barrier here is.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 15:43
  • 12
    @Hackworth - I'm actually looking into that, and have yet to find anyone that I could firmly call pro-western or anti-western. If there's a common thread (other than being African), its ethnic nationalisim and warfare. They generally don't appear to be the kind of folks who care much about international relations one way or another. Putin's kind of unique there.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 16:12
  • 12
    ...which again just backs up the statement in this answer that pro/anti western feeling is just not a useful way to frame this.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 16:15
  • 3
    Another explanation is that African countries aren't influential enough to hassle/threaten the court, unlike what happened when the ICC went after Israel and the US. And like Russia is also trying to replicate, by the way. They indicted the court officials, politico.eu/article/… which exposes them even to extradition requests in countries like India (they won't extradite their own nationals to Russia, but would other countries' nationals, per Russia-India treaty.) Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 19:03
  • 2
    It's up to you, but the last bit could be made a bit less controversial by simply noting that e.g. Burundi or Gambia has levelled that accusation at the court. The comparison with the US internal justice is probably not so relevant, since the US is not part of the court. Maybe something like the situation in France rfi.fr/en/france/… or the UK ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2023/01/… ? Commented Mar 24, 2023 at 22:51
7

The US literally threatens to arrest ICC judges who hold trial against Americans. Read some of these comments from John Bolton:

"If the court comes after us, Israel or other US allies, we will not sit quietly," Bolton said.

"We will ban its judges and prosecutors from entering the United States. We will sanction their funds in the US financial system, and we will prosecute them in the US criminal system," he said.

"We will do the same for any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans," he said.

"The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court," Bolton said.

"We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to the ICC. We certainly will not join the ICC. We will let the ICC die on its own."

https://www.france24.com/en/20180910-usa-trump-threatens-arrest-icc-judges-american-soldiers-afghan-war-crimes

3
  • 2
    John Bolton is... not exactly a source of mainline centrist American political thought, much less mainline Western political thought. Commented Mar 25, 2023 at 20:19
  • @CharlesDuffy Regular voters of both parties hate John Bolton but he is absolutely representative of the USA political leadership. He's held top offices within US government for decades. Those quotes were made as the US official National Security Advisor. The Biden Administration is staffed with Bolton's allies, even if regular Biden voters hate that idea and don't want to acknowledge that. Bolton promoted Biden in 2020 and has large influence on the Biden Administration.
    – clay
    Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 15:27
  • 1
    Now American fell in love with ICC because it hate Putin now.
    – Tardy
    Commented Apr 2, 2023 at 18:22

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .