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At UN, Rwanda blocks role for Criminal Court

A handout photo provided by the Kenyan Presidential Press Service shows newly sworn in Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (L) shaking hands with Rwandan President Paul Kagame (R) on April 9, 2013 in Nairobi. (AFP PHOTO)

UNITED NATIONS: Rwanda won a behind-the-scenes battle Monday to keep the U.N. Security Council from recommending any role for the International Criminal Court in solving conflicts, violence and human rights abuse in Africa, saying the Hague-based court "condemns crimes committed by some but not others."

Rwanda is angry that the ICC has indicted Bosco Ntaganda and Laurent Nkunda, M23 rebels in eastern Congo, who are reported to be backed by Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

Analysts have speculated that Kagame may not want to see Ntaganda testify at The Hague court because of his knowledge of military deals and illicit mineral extractions between Congo and Rwanda.

The Security Council held a broad general debate Monday over ways that the U.N. system and other global players can help solve Africa's problems, but Rwanda opposed adoption of a non-binding statement that would recommend that the Hague-based International Criminal Court be part of the solution. Council statements must be adopted unanimously, and Rwanda blocked consensus.

French Ambassador Gerard Araud said that "The International Criminal Court must be able to punish perpetrators of the most serious crimes. There can be no peace without justice. And that is why we regret the absence of a reference to the International Criminal Court" in the council's statement. He had led six other council nations in trying to laud the ICC for ending impunity for global crimes.

Rwanda presides over the Security Council this month, and Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo came to New York to steer the debate.

She told reporters after the debate that the ICC is "a court that is not practicing justice, but more politics. We believe that the time for Africa to be subjected to a wagging finger, punishing finger from the West, is over."

She told the council: "We do not believe that the International Criminal Court, as it operates today, fulfills a constructive role in preventing conflict. Rather than delivering justice and preventing impunity, the practice is that the International Criminal Court has shown itself subject to political manipulation from outside conflict zones, as well as between vying factions within them. We cannot therefore support an International Criminal Court that condemns crimes committed by some but not others, or imposes itself on democratic processes, or the will of sovereign people."

She issued a similar denunciation last month after eastern Congo's M23 rebel leader Ntaganda surrendered to the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda. He later was flown to The Hague to stand trial for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court.

A United Nation panel of experts last year said that both Rwanda and Uganda commanded and supported Congo's M23 rebels. Both countries deny the charge.

ICC investigation of the links could lead to charges against Kagame himself.

The ICC, the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal, came into being in 2002 and the treaty that created it has been ratified by 121 nations. Prosecutors have so far indicted suspects in seven different countries, all of them in Africa including Congo, Sudan, Kenya, Libya and Ivory Coast.

 

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