Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is outside the reach of the International Criminal Court because Zimbabwe is not a signatory to the Rome Statute which set up the court so it would require a United Nations Security Council Resolution to haul him to The Hague.
This is almost impossible according to British Minister of State Foreign and Commonwealth Lord Howell of Guildford because a Security Council resolution needs the approval of all five permanent members- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China- but Russia and China are not likely to support such a move.
Britain and the United States tried to push Zimbabwe through the UN after the disputed 2008 elections so that it could be placed under UN sanctions but this was blocked by Russia and China.
Lord Howell was responding to a question by Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead in the House of Lords yesterday.
She asked the minister whether he did not agree that Mugabe should be investigated and indicted by the ICC for the Matabeleland massacres of the 1980s, the state-sponsored violence against political opponents, and the ongoing atrocities in the diamond fields at Marange.
Lord Howell said while he did not dispute what the baroness had said, the reality was that Zimbabwe was not a party to the Rome statute and to get an ICC charge against Mugabe would require a UN Security Council resolution.
“That means getting past all five of the permanent members. We know what the view of some of the permanent members is: they should not take such action,” he said.
“Until we can get past this problem of the permanent five, and particularly the reluctance of China and Russia, to name two, to see these matters taken up by the UN and remitted to the ICC for charges, these people who have committed most unsavoury acts-the noble Baroness mentioned Mr Mugabe as one-are outside the reach of the ICC.”
This was the second time the issue of Zimbabwe and the ICC was brought up in the House of Lords in less than a year.
The ICC recently convicted former Liberian leader Charles Taylor for war crimes committed while he was ruler of that country from 1997 to 2002.