Bring Mugabe to The Hague

BY TINO ZHAKATA HARAREhague_court - Zimbabwe's beleaguered non-governmental organisations and charities have appealed to the International Criminal Court, ICC, to prosecute President Robert Mugabe and government officials who they say have been responsible for widespread crimes against humanity over the past six years.

The plea by the National Association of Non-Government Organisations, NANGO, coincides with a call by the London-based International Bar Association for the United Nations Security Council to authorise an ICC investigation into Mugabe’s alleged crimes. But calls for the prosecution of Mugabe, widely seen as the supreme architect of Zimbabweans’ unprecedented suffering, have done little to provide hope to the country’s impoverished and embittered populace. “I don’t believe anyone can do anything to Mugabe, so talk of him being arrested [for human rights abuses] might just be a waste of time,” said Sifundiswa Ndlovu, an unemployed man whose five-room home in a Harare working class suburb was destroyed last year in Mugabe’s notorious Operation Murambatsvina [Operation Drive Out the Rubbish]. Ndlovu, 57, has suffered several times over. First, he survived Mugabe’s Operation Gukarahundi, in which more than 25,000 civilians were killed in Matabeleland. Then the construction firm he worked for folded and he eked out a meagre living selling second-hand goods at a flea market. Then the home he shared with his wife and four children was destroyed in Operation Murambatsvina. Similar ordeals experienced by millions of Zimbabweans led to the appeals from Zimbabwe’s civil society and the International Bar Association for the ICC to open a criminal investigation against Mugabe alongside those it has already begun in northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Ituri province and Sudan’s Darfur region. NANGO, calling for Mugabe’s prosecution in The Hague, pointed out that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had sent a special envoy, Anna Tibaijuka, to Zimbabwe to investigate the human costs of Operation Murambatsvina. Zimbabwe’s outspoken Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube and South Africa’s Cardinal Wilfred Napier have both branded the Mugabe administration guilty of crimes against humanity, particularly by withholding food aid from large sections of the population, and urged the Security Council to take responsibility for the situation and take action. George Charamba, Mugabe’s press secretary, poured scorn on the calls for ICC action against the Zimbabwean president. Since Zimbabwe was not a signatory to the Rome statute, it was not therefore legally bound by its dictates, said Charamba. He dismissed the International Bar Association as just one of a raft of bodies around the world that are trying to put pressure on Zimbabwe’s ruling party in the hope of reviving the troubled opposition Movement for Democratic Change. However, Charamba was making a common error about the powers of the fledgling ICC, which is a creation of the UN. Although it is true that Zimbabwe, like the United States, has not signed the Rome statute, it is a fact that the Security Council has the power to indict Mugabe and order his arrest the moment he sets foot in any country which has signed the treaty. “Exercising its wide discretionary powers, the Security Council could specifically name Mugabe as an ongoing threat to the peace of the [southern African] region and authorise an ICC investigation, even though Zimbabwe has refused to accept the court’s jurisdiction,” said IBA’s Mark Ellis. The groundwork for a possible indictment of Mugabe at The Hague is perhaps at last being laid following a scathing report by a commission of the African Union, grouping all Africa’s states except Morocco, which strongly condemns Zimbabwe’s president for abusing his people’s human rights “with impunity”. The African Commission for Human and People’s Rights, ACHPR, at its latest meeting in the Gambia, said the AU is not doing enough to force Mugabe toaddress “a very desperate situation in Zimbabwe”. The commission, whose chairman is former Mali President Alpha Oumar Konare, is scheduled to present its report at the AU summit in Khartoum this week. – IRIN

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