South 2 North

Is the International Criminal Court racist?

South2North talks to members of The Elders and influential global leaders about the ICC’s perceived bias against Africa.

No subject is off limits – Redi Tlhabi talks frankly to inspiring and intriguing personalities from across the world.

This week, in part two of South2North‘s town hall meeting at the District Six Museum in Cape Town, we sit down with a few more influential global leaders and members of The Elders.

Redi Tlhabi is joined by two Nobel Prize winners – former US President Jimmy Carter and former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari – as well as Mary Robinson, the first female president of Ireland and a former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Redi asks Robinson if the International Criminal Court (ICC) is racist, given the fact that almost all of its cases have involved African countries or leaders.

“There is a view at the moment that Africa is being singled out …. It’s important that the system is seen as fair. There are problems now of perception and we have to address that,” Robinson said.

Using the recent conviction of former Liberian President Charles Taylor by a special international tribunal as an example, Carter points out: “Most of the people brought to justice so far have been delivered by their own people.”

Ahtisaari says it is harder for African leaders to excel, not just because of the additional issues they face but because they lack the kind of institutional support he had while at the helm in Finland: “It’s much more complicated to be a president in Africa because in many countries the institutions that are absolutely vital to run a country are not there.”

An audience member asks whether or not universal child rights can be guaranteed. Ahtisaari explains that the policies in Finland protect equal rights for all, laying down a strong foundation for all children’s rights.

“I come from a part of the world where egalitarian policies are the norm. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor; you get a decent education, decent healthcare, and possibilities in life. I think it’s extremely important that these egalitarian policies are carried out throughout the world.”

Another audience member asks if the Arab Spring was about the youth in particular rebelling against a leadership they perceived to “talk left and walk right”.

Ahtisaari answers: “If anyone in their right mind thought the outcome would be democracy in those societies, then they were dreaming. Democracy is not born overnight. I wish they had waited longer for the elections.”

Carter calls for patience with new democracies: “We have to be patient with these countries who are struggling for freedom. It took a year to get a constitution in Egypt; it took America 12 years to get theirs, so the Africans are doing very well compared to the Americans.”

At the end of the show, Richard Branson, who co-founded The Elders with Peter Gabriel, called them, “an incredible group of global statesmen who put their egos behind them, politics behind them, who have no axes to grind, and who aren’t trying to get elected. The Elders have played a wonderful role in the last six years”.


South2North can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Friday: 1930; Saturday: 1430; Sunday: 0430; Monday: 0830.