British Foreign Minister Lord Howell of Guildford told the House of Lords this week that the International Criminal Court which was established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes against humanity has no jurisdiction over Zimbabwe because it is not a signatory to the Rome Statutes that govern the court.
He was responding to a question by Lord Maginnis of Drumglass who had asked what Britain was doing to refer a Central Intelligence Organisation operative Philip Machemedze to the ICC for his crimes against humanity.
Machemedze is reported to have admitted to kidnapping and torturing people in Zimbabwe when he was employed as a bodyguard for former Zimbabwe Minister Enos Chikowore between 1996 and 2000.
Machemedze has just been granted asylum in the United Kingdom amid cries from the British media which says he should have been deported back to Zimbabwe.
“Zimbabwe is not a party to the Rome Statute so the International Criminal Court (ICC) has no jurisdiction over events which have taken place in that country,” the British Foreign Secretary said on Wednesday.
“For the ICC’s Prosecutor to initiate an investigation in these circumstances would require either a referral by the United Nations Security Council, or the acceptance of ICC jurisdiction by the government of Zimbabwe.”
Several moves to get the United Nations Security Council to condemn Zimbabwe or to impose sanctions on the country have been thwarted by Russia and China which each has veto powers over Security Council resolutions.
There have been several calls that President Robert Mugabe and his lieutenants should be brought before the ICC for crimes against humanity. This has also led to speculation that Mugabe and his security forces are refusing to cede power because they are afraid they would be hauled before the court which is based in The Hague in the Netherlands.
Machemedze who went to the UK in 2000 with his wife because he had had “enough of the torture”, is reported to have admitted smashing the jaw of a Movement for Democratic Change activist with pliers before pulling out his tooth and stripping another naked and threatening to force him to rape his daughters if he did not give information, according to The Telegraph.
He is also reported to have confessed to electrocuting, slapping, beating and punching “to the point of being unconscious” a white farmer suspected of giving money to the MDC, and to “putting salt into the wounds” of a female MDC member.
Another paper, The Daily Mail said Machemedze and his wife were living off Britain’s state benefits. The paper claimed he was still employed by the CIO.