Round Table Remarks

Tamila Ipema | USA

Round Table Remarks

I would like to take a moment and thank our brilliant speakers for their discussions of the two very important topics on colonialism and neocolonialism and how we need to continue to work together in order to find a just and equitable solution to address the past harm and the continued harm to indigenous cultures in the name of justice and common good.

Professor Samuel Ntewusu told us about how colonialism and neocolonialism, in the name of justice and common good, continue exploitation of natural resources in Ghana and how this needs to be reversed in order to ensure equity in development. Professor Ntewusu considers social justice to be that which is concerned about fairness in relations between individuals in society and equal access to wealth, opportunities and social privileges. He told us that the presence of several European miners mining gold has triggered social injustice and inequality in Ghana, where land is taken away from the farmers and mining has caused environmental disasters as well as harm to cultural and spiritual life of people of Ghana, and social justice was thereby compromised.

I think we all agree that the harm that is done to the environment, and in cultural and spiritual level, could never be reversed completely despite all the efforts. But stopping the further harm and reversing some of the unjust practices becomes extremely important.

As Professor Ntewusu told us, the decolonization of Ghana only occurred at a political and not an economic level. The laws of Ghana were never changed to hand over resources to chiefs and traditional rulers. The continuous involvement of institutions such as the IMF and World Bank and other financial institutions in decisions involving mining seems to work against issues of justice and the common good.

Thank you, Professor Samuel Ntewusu, for bringing awareness to this important topic and we hope that some of these practices are reversed, bringing true equity and justice to previously colonized nations and people.

In the US, in the state of California particularly, where I am from, our Governor has started efforts in returning to the tribes some of the land that belonged to the native Americans and was forcefully taken from them. Also, in January 2022, 500 acres of redwood forests were purchased for 3.5 million dollars by a non-profit environmental group called Save the Redwoods League, and was returned to ten different native tribes in California who care about preserving the forest to preserve it as its guardians. These isolated acts alone will never undo the harm that was done to the tribes and to the environment, but it is an equitable move in the right direction. It’s not just the protection of the land that matters — it’s also the restoration of the property to descendants of its original inhabitants, which also holds great cultural significance for the tribes.

This afternoon, we also heard from Profesdor Eric Blumenson who told us how the universal justice and indigenous reconciliation mechanisms collide, and about the anti-colonial direction for the international criminal court.

Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean share a common history of slavery and colonialism in the hands of nations generally referred to as “The West”.

As you might know, in 1998 ICC was established to ensure that war crimes and crimes against humanity do not go unpunished. This international criminal court was created as an impartial system of justice to mainly address human rights violations in the world.

The Rome Statute’s preamble says:

“To put an end to impunity for perpetrators of these crimes and thus contribute to the prevention of these crimes”.

This international system of justice is characterized by the Puerto Rican socialist, Ramón Grosfoguel, as “hierarchical, capitalist, Christian centric, patriarchal, colonial, modern, western, and Eurocentric”.

This matter of whether the ICC is colonial is of particular interest for MIA Swart, who is South African. And the issue has been a “burning issue nationally”, as South Africans are deeply concerned over how many of the institutions within their country are deeply colonial, she said.

This system of justice is also described by others to being politically correct, carefully avoiding power politics by navigating around the world’s superpowers and their allies.

And we are all familiar with the stance that the prior US administration took against the ICC by threatening sanctions against any nations supporting the court against the U.S. and its allies, for its investigations into allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan.

Of course, countries considered superpowers such as U.S., Russia and China are not signatories to the Rome Statute and court does not have jurisdiction over them. And the court also lacks true enforcement power.

In the past years the majority of cases brought before the court are from the African nations who are signatories. And this has also raised a lot of criticism, particularly because many of the judges at ICC are from former colonial powers and the court is located at The Hague, Netherlands, a former colonial power itself. Also, several countries in recent years have withdrawn from ICC when their leaders were brought before the court. Other nations are also withdrawing or have started the withdrawal process by citing continued colonialism as the basis for their withdrawals (Burundi and Philippines; and South Africa and Gambia who have since rescinded their withdrawals).

I think we are all in agreement that much work needs to be done to increase the credibility of the international criminal courts of justice, particularly now that the court faces more criticism and turmoil than ever.

Professor Blumenson raises an important point that “the international court could provide assistance that strengthens a state’s capacity to provide justice through its own institutions”. “And, the more states are empowered to do justice themselves, the less the Court will be subject to complaints about ethnocentric bias itself”. Thank you, Professor Blumenson, for sharing your views with us.

Thank you for your time.