In a strongly worded Nov. 5 op-ed in The New York Times, SUNY Buffalo Law School Dean Makau W. Mutua defended the International Criminal Court and urged President Obama to continue U.S. support for the court amid pressure to defer a key case in Kenya.
The ICC is investigating alleged crimes against humanity in Kenya, where rampaging mobs led to the deaths of more than 1,100 people following a disputed presidential election. One of the defendants in the case, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, has called on African nations to withdraw from the court, calling its actions racist.
Now, in an editorial published just four days following Mutua’s piece, the 19-member editorial board of the Times has joined in defense of the international court. “While the court may be flawed, it is the last resort to deliver justice for victims of conflict in countries that lack the capacity or will to do so themselves,” the editorial asserted.
Mutua, an internationally recognized scholar of human rights, noted that African Union leaders have asked the United Nations Security Council to put off for a year the case against Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto. “The two men have said they would cooperate with the court’s work but have intensified a diplomatic offensive, begun in 2011, to try to stop justice,” Mutua wrote. “If the Obama administration caves in … it would represent a legal and moral abandonment of victims of violence and their survivors, and give criminal suspects more time to intimidate, bribe or even kill witnesses.”
The United States could use its veto power in the Security Council to stop the proposed deferral and let the court proceed with its work. Mutua urged that course, a recommendation shared by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan of Ghana and former South African President Desmond Tutu.
Mutua, SUNY Distinguished Professor and the Floyd H. and Hilda L. Hurst Faculty Scholar at the Law School, chaired a 2002-03 task force that recommended a truth commission for Kenya. He also was a delegate to the National Constitutional Conference, which produced a contested draft constitution for Kenya. His books include Kenya’s Quest for Democracy: Taming Leviathan (2008), and he has conducted numerous human rights, diplomatic and rule of law missions to countries in Africa, Latin America and Europe.