Much like the Ferguson police department, the ICC seems to prefer to indict only black men

The list of indicted people is here.

Much is being made of South Africa’s failure to arrest Sudanese President Bashir, as he fled back home today.

By the letter of the law the nation of Mandela should have arrested Bashir. I would have liked to see this happen, but there are several reasons I will not chide the South African government for its failure.

The main one is that the International Criminal Court will have legitimacy only if it is seen as effective, impartial, and universal. Unfortunately it has failed on all three.

On effectiveness, most of the ICC’s investigations, indictments, and court cases have been shambolic.

On impartiality, the fact that only Africans are indicted is obviously political. Nations with power and patrons do not get indicted, I imagine because one of the big nations vetoes it officially or unofficially. This completely de-legitimizes the whole court. This one isn’t really the ICC’s fault, though the principled thing to do might be to resign over interference rather than just keep trying to arrest more black people.

Finally, universality. From none other than a Bashir press conference today:

So long as the world’s largest countries do not sign on, the moral weight of ICC indictments will not weigh heavily on countries like South Africa. Especially when they’re asked to do very risky, domestically unpopular things like arrest a nearby head of state at a diplomatic event.

To paraphrase an old saying, when we point our finger at South Africa this week we should remember there are three fingers pointing back at us.