By Niklas Jakobsson
Last week, social media was buzzing with reports that the International Criminal Court might launch a probe into South Africa’s Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini. The whole thing kicked off when a Nigerian group passed on documents to the ICC, claiming Zwelithini used hate speech to encourage his people to perpetrate crimes against humanity.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) was the group that sent the initial communication to the Court. In it, they asked the Office of the Prosecutor to use its “good offices and position to investigate allegations of hate speech by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, which has resulted in killing, violence and discrimination against Nigerians and other African citizens living in South Africa, as well as the complicity/negligence of the country’s law enforcement agencies to prevent these crimes against civilian population”.
So is the Court heading in to a new country? Opening up a new preliminary examination? That seemed to be the general consensus on social media as the story quickly moved from SERAP sending a communication to the Court, to the organisation dragging the Zulu king to the ICC.
There were a few “lighter” versions of media sensationalism as well.
In an opinion piece for the Mail and Guardian, Christopher Gevers takes probably the most sober approach to the media frenzy that began just over a week ago.
“It may too early to be calling for The Hague to step in (as some intellectuals have done on social media). But it is worth pointing out that, if that time comes, South Africa’s jurisdiction over such crimes hinges on the National Prosecuting Authority being willing and able to prosecute them.
Failing which, the International Criminal Court would be able to step in and request the extradition of the alleged perpetrators to The Hague and South Africa, as a party to the Rome Statute, would be legally obliged to accede. “
The main man in the story, Goodwill Zwelithini, seems to brush off the “threat” of an ICC investigation and refuses to comment on anything relating to the Court until he is called to stand in the docks at The Hague.
The Article 15 communication sent by SERAP is far from the only one the ICC has received in the last few weeks. Social media and news (yours truly included) has a tendency to blow these communications out of proportion whenever they are made public. The ICC response which sparked a lot of the media buzz around the SERAP communication is a standard acknowledgment of receipt sent out whenever an Article 15 communication is made.
- Is the media making too much of Article 15 communications?
- Should the Court stop accepting these communications?
- Do you know of any communication that has benefited the Court in a case or trial?
Lead image: An anti-xenophobia activist stands chained in front of a banner to march against the recent wave of xenophobic attacks in South Africa (Photo: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP)
The Weekly Hubble features the most popular or controversial international justice story of the past week and reactions on social media to the news.