Last week, the massacres in Egypt reached grim new heights – and so did the narcissism and self-delusion of the Western human-rights industry.
Amnesty International called for the United Nations to carry out a ‘full and impartial investigation’ of the massacres. In the Guardian, calling for the prosecution of Egypt’s security forces at the International Criminal Court (ICC), human-rights lawyers Michael Mansfield and Tayab Ali declared that ‘Egyptians, NGOs and human-rights lawyers are organising themselves to bring the prosecution of perpetrators of international crimes using the legal principle of universal jurisdiction’. Calls for ICC intervention into the Egyptian tragedy are increasingly commonplace among human-rights activists and sections of the commentariat.
These demands suggest, at best, a profound ignorance of the workings of the ICC. For over a decade, the ICC has found itself ridiculed for issuing mistimed indictments, and it has been exposed as failing to enforce its own laws. That the human-rights lobby believes it could now successfully intervene in Egypt, and fix things there, is just embarrassing.
Egypt has not ratified the Statute of Rome, meaning that the ICC does not have statutory jurisdiction there. This does not, however, prevent the potential intervention of the ICC. Libya hadn’t ratified the Statute of Rome, either, and that didn’t stop the indictment of the Gaddafis at the height of the Libyan Civil War. Some human-rights lawyers have pointed to the example of Omar al-Bashir, the president of Sudan, as evidence that even those politicians supported by large sections of their populations – as the unelected military-backed rulers of Egypt claim to be – cannot escape the claws of the ICC. This is an odd example, though, given that al-Bashir was indicted in 2009 and has spent the past four years holding the ICC in contempt.
It is possible for the UN Security Council to refer a ‘situation’ to the ICC chief prosecutor, who can then issue an indictment. Alternatively, a troubled country can refer itself for assistance from the ICC, or the ICC can simply launch a prosecution on the basis of ‘communications’ from affected parties. Of course, the Egyptian military is not going to refer itself to the ICC, and there is no evidence to date of any ‘communications’ with the court from those being repressed in Egypt.