Posted by: sean | April 18, 2009

ICC and the “big power agenda to recolonize Africa”

Mamdani, in his new book, describes the ICC as “a Western court to try African perpetrators” (p. 355 – notes) and concludes his book by stating, “In its present form, the call to justice is really a slogan that masks a big power agenda to recolonize Africa” (p. 300). Given this rhetoric, which assumes that international bodies must also necessarily be tools of “a big power agenda,” it’s important to remember that three of the world’s biggest powers aren’t even members of the ICC: the US, China and Russia. It’s also important to take a look at the actual makeup of this “White Man’s court,” as Bashir is fond of calling the ICC.

Kevin John Heller has an interesting post on Opinio Juris on exactly this point:

I have been extremely critical of the ICC’s exclusive focus on Africa, both in my published work and in lectures — including one I gave at the ICC.  But I think it is completely absurd to claim that the ICC’s regrettable focus on Africa somehow reflects racism or “masks a big power agenda to recolonize Africa.”  The ICC has many flaws, but being a puppet of the big powers isn’t one of them.  Three of the permanent members of the Security Council are not members of the Court: the US, Russia, and China.  And of the Court’s 108 members, approximately 65 are from the Global South,16 are from Eastern Europe, and only 23 are from Western Europe or North America (and that includes such traditional imperialist powers like San Marino, Andorra, Ireland, and Malta).

That is a remarkable degree of geographic diversity — and it is reflected in the diversity of the Court’s personnel:

Judge Sang-Hyun Song, President (Republic of Korea)
Judge Fatoumata Dembele Diarra, First Vice-President (Mali)
Judge Hans-Peter Kaul, Second Vice-President (Germany)

Judicial Divisions
Elizabeth Odio Benito (Costa Rica)
Akua Kuenyehia (Ghana)
Erkki Kourula (Finland)
Anita Ušacka (Latvia)
Sir Adrian Fulford (United Kingdom)
Sylvia Steiner (Brazil)
Ekaterina Trendafilova (Bulgaria)
Daniel David Ntanda Nsereko (Uganda)
Fumiko Saiga (Japan)
Bruno Cotte (France)
Joyce Aluoch (Kenya)
Sanji Mmasenono Monogeng (Botswana)
Christine van den Wyngaert (Belgium)
Cuno Tarfusser (Italy)
René Blattman (Bolivia)

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Prosecutor (Argentina)
Fatou Bensouda, Deputy Prosecutor (The Gambia)

Not exactly a big-power lineup.  Indeed, it takes one hand to count the number of colonial powers represented among the Court’s leadership.



  1. The big piece of missing information in this post is the fact that permanent members of the Security Council can in fact refer cases to the ICC — as they did in Bashir’s case — even when they are not members.

    So your list is exactly Mamdani’s point. The United States is wielding the court as a political tool whose legitimacy it does not, apparently, believe in.

    Thus the cries of hypocrisy.

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