Realism and the ICC
December 4, 2012
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International relations scholars as well as ordinary people have accepted that the international system is anarchic in nature, meaning there is no actor above states capable of regulating their interaction. Thus, states must arrive at relations with other states on their own, rather than it being dictated to them by some higher controlling entity. Moreover, many believe that the international system exists in a state of constant antagonism. States are also the most important actors in this system, and they are unitary and rational pursuing self-interest.
Yet, in this anarchic system, it is unclear where the ICC stands. It is an institution that operates outside of the sovereignty of states on a complementarity principle. While it operates a “back-up,” it can intervene without the consent of sovereign states because overarching international individuals believe that sovereign states are inadequately running their government or judicial procedures.
Despite the fact that states are rational actors who should be able to perceive when to call in international reinforcements, the ICC overrides their sovereignty when it gets involved. For example, in the Uganda case, it is clear that the state authorities thought themselves to be capable of handling the LRA commanders, yet the ICC still indicted Joseph Kony and four other elite LRA commanders. Are there abuses that are able to transcend sovereignty to necessitate international involvement? Also, what criteria does the ICC examine when it decides to intervene in national conflicts?
The vagueness of the Rome Statute and its articles is the main cause of frustration among sovereign nations, particularly the transitional ones. They often feel powerless before the ICC and the UN Security Council that is often behind it. Additionally, if the ICC as an institution were to create more binding, explicit provisions for its involvement in internal conflict of sovereign nations, perhaps it would build credibility. That way, its actions would not look arbitrary to other states. Further codification and explanation of the ICC will alleviate individual national concerns as to its violation of the anarchic system. Otherwise, it looks like the individual prosecutors behind the ICC and the UN Security Council are targeting states they deem irrational and incapable of using their own mechanisms to solve conflicts.