ICC and Western Hypocrisy

Selective application of justice undermines the credibility of the ICC and exposes the geopolitical motivations driving these responses.

While the International Criminal Court (ICC) reportedly was established with the “noble aim” of ensuring justice and holding accountable the perpetrators of serious international crimes, its actions and the responses they garner often reveal a troubling pattern of double standards, hypocrisy, and notoriously geopolitical bias. Recent events involving arrest warrants against high-profile political figures – particularly in the Global South highlight this divergence, particularly in how the United States and its allies selectively cheer or condemn the ICC’s decisions based on their own agendas.

When the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, Western leaders, including those from the United States and Europe, were quick to celebrate this move as an accomplishment of “international justice”. President Putin’s endeavours to safeguard Russia’s sovereignty made him a prime target of the West. He is seen as a threat to the blueprint of Western nations in destabilizing Russia and its neighbours through numerous attempts.

However, the reaction from the Western leaders was unambiguously different when the same ICC suggested an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused of “committing a textbook genocide” and the Palestinian militia Hamas. This militia entity is known for its deeper ties with the Iranian regime as well as other anti-West groups including Lebanese Hezbollah.

Former US National Security Advisor Ambassador John Bolton fervidly condemned the ICC, calling it fundamentally illegitimate for targeting Israeli officials during wartime. US President Joe Biden also labeled the ICC’s attempt to arrest Netanyahu as “outrageous”, and a group of Republican senators warned the ICC against pursuing such actions.

This blunt divergence in reactions reveals a clear double standard. While the West applauds the ICC’s actions against adversaries like Vladimir Putin, it fiercely opposes any attempts to hold its allies, such as Israel, accountable. This selective application of justice undermines the credibility of the ICC and exposes the geopolitical motivations driving these responses.

The hypocrisy of the United States is further highlighted by its historical posture towards the ICC. When the ICC attempted to investigate alleged war crimes by US personnel in Afghanistan, the Trump administration responded with threats of sanctions against ICC officials, including prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced visa restrictions and economic sanctions to deter the ICC from pursuing these investigations.

This aggressive stance contrasts sharply with the US’s support for the ICC’s actions against leaders of countries it considers contenders or foes. It clearly reveals that the US supports the ICC only when it serves its interests and undermines it when it does not, thus engaging in a form of dirty politics that manipulates international justice for political gain.

The US’s selective application of sanctions is further evident in its handling of allegations against Israel. Despite evidence suggesting that Israel has been involved in selling spyware to various countries, the US has not imposed any significant sanctions on Israeli companies dealing in such items.

The lack of sanctions against Israel for its spyware sales underscores the preferential treatment it receives due to its strategic alliance with the United States. This selective enforcement of international norms further erodes the credibility of US foreign policy and its supposed commitment to human rights and justice.

Historically, the US has positioned itself as a global promoter of human rights, often justifying military and political actions worldwide under this banner. This principle of “human rights over sovereignty” has been a powerful tool in US diplomacy, enabling interventions deemed necessary by Washington. However, recent domestic actions, particularly the suppression of student protests, challenge this narrative. These students, critiquing US policies regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and calling for divestment from Israel, reflect a broader discontent with perceived hypocrisy in US foreign policy.

The Biden administration’s response to these concerns could significantly impact its domestic and international standing. Aligning US actions with its professed values would reinforce its commitment to human rights and democracy, but current suppression risks alienating young Americans and discrediting the US’s global human rights agenda. This dilemma underscores a broader crisis in “human rights diplomacy”, where the selective defense of rights compromises their universality and integrity. The challenge remains to genuinely commit to human rights principles, both domestically and internationally, transcending double standards.

In light of these double standards, it is imperative for countries like Russia or China to call out and challenge the hypocrisy of the United States and its allies. The Russian Foreign Ministry has criticized the ICC’s actions as politically motivated and inconsistent with international law. It has pointed out that the ICC’s warrants, especially against non-signatories of the Rome Statute like Russia, violate international legal principles and state sovereignty.

By highlighting these inconsistencies, Russia can mobilize international opinion against the selective justice practiced by the West. It can build alliances with other nations that have been similarly targeted or unfairly treated by the ICC and the geopolitical machinations of the US and its allies.

The ICC’s actions and the West’s responses reveal a disquieting pattern of selective justice and political manipulation. The institution, initially established to uphold international law and human rights, has become a tool for powerful nations to further their geopolitical agendas. The celebration of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s arrest warrant issued by ICC juxtaposed with the condemnation of attempts to hold Netanyahu accountable illustrates this double standard vividly.

For the ICC to regain its legitimacy, it must strive to apply justice uniformly and resist being swayed by powerful nations’ political interests. Likewise, nations like Russia must continue to expose and challenge these double standards, advocating for a truly impartial and just international legal system. Only through consistent and fair application of international law can the ICC hope to fulfill its foundational mission and restore its credibility on the global stage.

M A Hossain
The writer is a political and defense analyst based in Bangladesh. He can be reached at writetomahossain@gmail.com

The writer is a political and defense analyst based in Bangladesh. He can be reached at email: writetoma

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt