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Home Op-Ed Columns Opinion on Page One The Uhuru blueprint: What if PH had stayed in ICC?

The Uhuru blueprint: What if PH had stayed in ICC?


Recently, the Philippines withdrew from the ICC, opting for the path of the US, Russia, China and India. To focus on a new economic future and the battle against drugs and corruption, the Duterte government shunned the Uhuru blueprint.

ON March 17, the Philippines withdrew from the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has sought to investigate allegations that President Duterte had committed “crimes against humanity.”

The charges were pushed by controversial critics associated with former President Aquino’s Liberal Party and its allies, which – after the 2016 election meltdown – have sought domestic political change increasingly through international pressure.

Fast-forward to an imagined future: If the Philippines had not withdrawn from the ICC, Duterte’s government could have faced the Uhuru blueprint.

The Uhuru blueprint
In 2010, then-ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo charged then-Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, along with five other government leaders, as an indirect co-perpetrator in the violence that followed Kenya’s 2007-2008 post-election violence. Ocampo accused them of “crimes against humanity.”

Despite the ICC process, Uhuru was elected Kenya’s president in 2013. He is a popular politician and the son of the legendary anti-colonial leader Jomo Kenyatta. However, the opposition led by Raila Odinga hoped to benefit from his demise.

Reportedly, Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement was named after the Ukrainian “Orange Revolution,” which billionaire George Soros had supported. Soros’ Open Society also funded the pro-Odinga key NGO and Kenyan think tanks to stop President Uhuru from the 2013 general election. And yet, after a three-year juridical chaos, the ICC charges were dropped in March 2015 for lack of evidence.

Another show began ahead of the 2017 elections. In August, the bank account of Odinga’s daughter was frozen, and a pro-Odinga NGO received more than $5 million from the Soros Foundation. In September, Uhuru was reelected for a second term. Odinga challenged the outcome in the Supreme Court, which ordered a new election. Oddly enough, Odinga withdrew from the October election, which resulted in Uhuru’s crushing electoral victory.

Instead of democratic competition, Odinga traveled to London where he met former UN Deputy Secretary General, Lord Mark Malloch Brown, the PR muscle behind Cory Aquino’s election win in 1986 and the Aquino family since then; and the chair of Smartmatic, whose election technology has unleashed controversies in many countries, including the Philippines. In 2007, Malloch Brown was named vice chairman of Soros Fund Management and his Open Society Institute.

The Uhuru case undermined the ICC’s credibility, wasting resources and causing gratuitous political turmoil. It also cost Kenya as the ICC’s lingering process began to penalize the perceived legitimacy of Kenya’s political leadership.

When Uhuru served as deputy PM, Kenya’s growth surged to more than 10 percent in the early 2010s. During the ICC debacle, it more than halved to 4 percent in 2012 stabilizing thereafter at a lower level. Concurrently, the Kenyan shilling weakened from 80 to more than 100 to the US dollar, plunging more than 25 percent.

Several ICC cases suggest a similar sequence: First, the target country enjoys promising development. Political destabilization ensues in the name of “people power.” Financial speculation penalizes economic growth and currency stability, causing capital outflows. If new leaders take over, privatization of public assets tends to follow. Development potential weakens.

While only a probable future, even an imagined Uhuru blueprint leaves one apprehensive. Without withdrawal from the ICC, it could have recurred in the Philippines, especially as some of the key actors are identical (Soros, Malloch Brown) or comparable (transnationally supported NGOs and think-tanks, Smartmatic interests).

The ICC liabilities
In Kenya, the ICC effort to prosecute President Uhuru led to the parliament’s call for withdrawal from the ICC and the 2013 African Union summit in which Uhuru accused the ICC of being “a toy of declining imperial powers.” There is good reason for frustration. For a decade or two, the ICC has gone after the poorest countries mainly in Africa, which has suffered the most from colonial plunder.

The ties of ICC prosecutor Ocampo to Soros-supported organizations stem from early 1990s, when the billionaire infused funds into a prominent real estate backer of the lawyer’s NGO in Argentina. Then, Ocampo worked for Transparency International, a corruption watchdog that has been criticized for bias against developing countries. A decade later, he joined a roundtable of Soros’ Open Society called “Restoring American Leadership – the ICC.”

When the UN Security Council assigned Ocampo to investigate war crimes in Libya, he reportedly shared confidential information with the French government, which was bombing Libya. After he indicted Gaddafi in 2011, he signed a lucrative $3-million contract to advise the Libyan oil billionaire Hassan Tatanaki, presumably to protect him from potential ICC prosecution. Reportedly, he also profited by routing monies to offshore companies in tax havens, as evidenced by the Panama Papers.

Importantly, the ICC’s ability to investigate and prosecute is severely restricted by its mandate. It can only prosecute crimes after its creation in 2002—which conveniently suspends the worst genocides, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression – the four key international crime categories.

Today, there are more than 120 state parties to the Rome Statute. Over 30 countries have signed but not ratified the statute, and there are more than 50 non-signatory countries.

The ICC is financed “primarily” by its member states. About two-thirds of its budget comes from only 10 countries, especially Europe’s former colonial powers. Additional funding is provided—but not detailed—by “voluntary government contributions, international organizations, individuals, corporations, and other entities.” The net effect is a moral hazard. The ICC is not immune to external influence.

The US, Russia, China and India are not ICC signatories. In Southeast Asia, neither wealthier countries (Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia) nor emerging economies (Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos) have signed the Statute.

The Philippines and the ICC
Unlike his peers, President Aquino signed the Statute in February 2011, right before he aligned Manila’s foreign policy with President Obama’s security pivot to Asia—in contrast to almost all BRIC and Asean economies.

Since 2016, the effort to have the ICC intervene in Philippine matters has been further fueled by the domestic meltdown of the Liberal Party and the exploitation of human rights issues abroad, to advance political agendas at home.

Since its creation, the ICC’s credibility and judicial independence has been deflated.

The world needs a truly international criminal court, not one that targets the most vulnerable members of the international community.

Dr. Dan Steinbock is the founder of Difference Group and has served at India, China and America Institute (USA) Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (China) and EU Center (Singapore). For more, see https://www.differencegroup.net/

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