The most recent incident to bring the legitimacy of International Criminal Court into question was The Hague’s decision to acquit former Ivory Coast dictator Laurent Gbagbo.
The ruling to let off Gbagbo came mid-January, when the ICC ruled that the former president of Ivory Coast was to be released and charges of crimes against humanity dropped after the court decided he had no case to answer.
But three months after the release of Gbagbo and his co-defendant Charles Ble Goude (one of Gbagbo’s former ministers) were let off the hook, criticism of the court’s decision is still lingering.
Gbagbo and Goude went on trial in January 2016. They were accused of involvement in murder, rape, persecution and other inhumane acts of violence on a massive scale. The story began back in 2010, in the aftermath of a disputed presidential election. A slew of international observers including the U.S., France, the United Nations, and the African Union, all sided with Gbagbo’s rival Alassane Ouattara, and recognized him as the legitimate new president. Gbagbo, emboldened by the fact that the country’s security apparatus remained loyal to him, refused to relinquish control. What ensued was a months-long crackdown on Gbagbo’s political opposition. Death squads roaming the country, mass killings, and the wonton pillaging of villages and towns that opposed the former president all plagued the Ivory Coast for nearly half a year, until Gbagbo was finally deposed in April 2011 by a coalition of troops loyal to Ouattara and French forces.
If even half of the accusations against Gbagbo are true —and there is ample evidence against him— Gbagbo is a bonafide war criminal. Yet the ICC has decided to let him go. The reasons behind his acquittal remain murky at best.
Last September, the question of ICC’s legitimacy came to the forefront after the court brought up the possibility of prosecuting U.S. troops for their actions in Afghanistan. The announcement triggered a scathing reaction from several American officials, most famously from National Security Advisor John Bolton. Then, the ICC was called out for sticking its nose in other nations’ business. Now we’re seeing the court seems incapable of the one thing it is supposed to do: Bring war criminals to justice.