The Many Layers of South African Hypocrisy on the International Criminal Court

June 23, 2015 | Eugene Kontorovich
About the author: Eugene Kontorovich is a professor at George Mason University Antonin Scalia School of Law, director of its Center for International Law in the Middle East, and a scholar at the Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem.

South Africa recently declined an opportunity to execute a warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Omar al-Bashir, the genocidal president of Sudan. Eugene Kontorovich notes the many layers of hypocrisy at play here:

[F]ew other countries reflect the Palestinians’ warped view of international law as [does] South Africa. It has become one of the Jewish state’s most vocal critics, always couching its criticisms in language of law and rights, while embracing monsters like Robert Mugabe, the scourge-for-life of neighboring Zimbabwe. One cannot help being struck by the number of South Africans, especially jurists, at the forefront of international legal efforts against Israel (especially at the UN), including [those] seeking prosecutions at the ICC—Richard Goldstone, John Dugard, Navi Pillay, Desmond Tutu. . . .

So it’s easier for a crate of Jordan Valley dates to get served with process for war crimes in South Africa than the perpetrator of one of the world’s greatest genocides. . . .

Ironically, Bashir’s impunity may only push the ICC to take a harder line on Israel. One would think that genocide . . . would generate enough international consensus and pressure for its prosecution to get a fugitive arrested. . . . But apparently genocide is not enough. So the ICC prosecutor will cast about for a role that will make the court generally useful and appreciated by the international community, [by seeking] out the lowest common denominator of international demand for prosecution. And that’s not prosecution for genocide, but for houses for Jews in Jerusalem. Even the Palestinian Authority and South Africa can get behind that.

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