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The International Criminal Court expands its powers on its twentieth anniversary

It is the first time since Nuremberg that the leaders who provoke a war will be judged, a landmark that does not avoid criticism of the court for being too fixated on Africa

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The International Criminal Court expands its powers on its twentieth anniversary

The 20th anniversary of Rome Statute, founding text of International Criminal Court (ICC), is being celebrated on Tuesday with something more than festivities. It involves inclusion in its jurisdiction of crime of aggression, which implies "planning, preparing, initiating or executing an aggression that by its character and gravity violates Charter of United Nations". It is first time, since Nuremberg and Tokyo trials, after Second World War, that an international tribunal will be able to judge leaders responsible for causing a war. The court has gained powers, but remains a target of criticism for its alleged inclination towards crimes perpetrated in Africa. And fact that United States, Russia, China, India and Israel do not appear among its members.

The crime of aggression has taken eight years to join trunk of worst crimes of international justice, formed by genocide and war crimes and against humanity. The aggression will only enter into force for Member States of ICC, based in The Hague (Nerlands), which have ratified or accepted — 35 of total of 123 — amendments to Rome Statute that include it.

In figures
  • 26 cases.
  • Eight convictions.
  • Three defendants with trial underway.
  • 15 arrest warrants for suspects in Libya, Sudan, Kenya and Uganda.
  • An open inquiry into Georgia over war against Russia in 2008.

The UN Security Council will be able to refer a case of this type to court without obstacles, but three of its five members are China, Russia, and United States. This political barrier adds to attitude of or two, France and United Kingdom. "It is sad that y have preferred not to ratify and to be removed from crime of aggression. Both countries were in Nuremberg trial, when winners of Second World War subjected law to defeated German aggressor. And yet France and United Kingdom do not do same with rules about rule of law that do demand ors, "he warns.

The Rome Statute turns 20 years, although court opened its doors in 2002, and all defendants or defendants — 26 cases, eight convictions and three defendants with trial underway — come from African countries: from Sudan to Libya, and from Mali, Côte d'ivoire to Kenya. As a result, African Union (AU) adopted a non-binding decision in 2017 calling for withdrawal of its members from ICC. Burundi announced that same year, despite fact that prosecution's investigations into possible crimes against humanity are ongoing. South Africa and Gambia followed ir wake, but revoked decision. The President of Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, also said he was leaving. He does not want interference in his particular fight against drugs.

There have been in court historical sentences, such as 14 years in prison imposed in 2012 on Thomas Lubanga, former Congolese war lord, for recruiting child soldiers. Also fiascos, as resignation to judge in 2014 to Uhuru Kenyatta, president of Kenya, accused of crimes against humanity by indirect responsibility in death of 1,300 civilians. Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor, denounced bribery and threat of witnesses, but could not muster enough evidence and renounced trial.

The latest was a surprise: The provisional release, this June, by Jean-Pierre Bemba, Congolese vice-president. He was sentenced in 2016 to 18 years ' imprisonment for war crimes and against humanity, perpetrated in Central African Republic by Congo Liberation Movement (MLC). The militia were at ir command, but Appeals Chamber repealed penalty because "he could not be attributed crimes." Bensouda, who had achieved first conviction for rape as a war crime, complyed and regretted decision. It was worst setback since his inauguration in 2012.

"The criminal court has noble intentions, but as great Powers have not ratified Statute, work carried out must be seen under prism of what has been achieved so far. Although re have been problems and disappointments, special courts, such as Yugoslavia or Rwanda, will not be replaced. That is why we must support it, says British jurist Geoffrey Nice, chief prosecutor of trial against former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic. of a work visit in Kosovo, he added on phone that "while court lacks funds and a police force, one could take great [criminals] to justice." "For example, with case of Freedom Flotilla [when navy of Israel accosted in 2010 six vessels with humanitarian aid for Gaza and re were nine dead activists and 30 wounded]. The prosecution decided that it was not enough and closed case, " says laconic. In his opinion, prosecution is a post under pressure, "and first chief prosecutor, Argentine Luis Moreno Ocampo, seemed more interested in politics; He didn't leave office in good shape. " "Bensouda is better, but it seems to also take into account influence of international forces. We have to wait. Look at Tribunal for former Yugoslavia. In end he managed to judge a good number of most responsible of Balkan wars.

For Donald Ferencz, an American jurist, founder of Global Institute for Prevention of aggression, case of Bemba is "disturbing and difficult to understand," he says in a telephone conversation from United Kingdom. He is special Adviser to Working Group on amendments to Rome Statute on crime of aggression. And he is son of Benjamin Ferencz, chief prosecutor of Nuremberg Military tribunal who judged 24 SS Nazi officers ( Einsatzgruppen) for murder of a million people in Soviet Union. Donald Ferencz now recalls that very creation of an international criminal court "was agreed at Nuremberg." "Therefore, with its imperfections and countries that ignore it, it has opportunity to fulfill legacy of those trials on aggressive warfare."

Preliminary exams and open investigations

I. F

The accusation of setting himself alone in great criminals of Africa is strongly refuted by Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor of International Criminal Court. It points out its preliminary examinations (Afghanistan, Colombia, Gabon, Guinea, Iraq/United Kingdom (in context of Iraq War from 2003 to 2008), Nigeria, Palestine, Philippines, Ukraine, Venezuela). It also points to case of Palestine, newly incorporated into court, and which has denounced Israel for crimes linked to occupation.

In open research re are a majority of African countries (Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Darfur (Sudan), Central African Republic, Libya, Côte d'ivoire, Mali, Georgia, Burundi). On a personal level, she remembers that she is from Gambia, and if greatest crimes are committed today on her continent, she will pursue m.

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