The ICC has also been weakened by member countries refusing to enforce its statute.
The most notorious case concerns Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is accused of genocide in Darfur. When al-Bashir visited South Africa in 2015, South African President Jacob Zuma’s government ignored its legal obligation to arrest him.
Following criticism of its behavior, South Africa and other African members have threatened to quit the ICC.
Leading countries with the capacity to make a difference in places such as Myanmar or, for example, war-torn South Sudan, are also frequently guilty of failing to uphold international treaties, human rights conventions and resolutions that they previously signed up to through the UN system.
A total of 143 countries backed the convention on the prevention and punishment of genocide, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948. At the time, the Holocaust was still a recent event, but memories fade and so, too, it seems, does political resolve.
A more recent and egregious example of international backsliding is the failure to honor the principle of the collective “responsibility to protect.” Shamed by the failures in Rwanda and the Balkans in the 1990s, a UN world summit meeting in 2005 agreed all countries have shared responsibility to prevent and respond to the most serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.
The summit agreed that the principle of state sovereignty carried with it the obligation of the state to protect its own citizens. If a state was unable or unwilling to do so, the international community was empowered to act.
In Myanmar, where about 870,000 Rohingya have been forced to flee to Bangladesh and up to 10,000 people have been killed so far, their government has not only failed to protect them, it also appears directly culpable.
This is precisely the sort of situation the 2005 UN declaration was intended to prevent. It promised, if and when such crises occurred, that member states would take “timely and decisive action, in accordance with the UN charter.”
All over the world, this solemn promise is being broken on a daily basis.
(c) 2018 The Guardian