International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

ICC: Universal Ratification

While discussing the current state of the ICC and the history of its ratification, Professor Tiemessen mentioned the coalition of civic society groups who continue to work to establish and improve the operations of the ICC.  One of the primary goals remains to increase the number of countries who ratify the ICC.

I was curious what groups participated in this large conglomeration of NGOs and the movement towards universal ratification.  Looking through the Coalition of the International Criminal Court’s website, the core goals within the “Universal Court with Global Support” campaign are (1) Ratification and Implementation, (2) Cooperation Agreements and Enforcement, and (3) Recruitment of ICC Staff.  The structure of these goals operate much like other NGO missions, however, I think it might be interesting to question the goal of universal ratification overall.  Is universal ratification a necessary, proper, and/or important ICC goal?  Is striving for this goal a constant or is there an optimal minimum?  Finally, does the distribution of ratifiers matter (e.g. African, developed countries, etc.) and should even distribution across socio-economic and/or geographic lines be a more “important” goal than a singular drive towards universal ratification?  (I don’t really have answers to any of these questions, but I think they are interesting to pose.)

To start the conversation, I want to present this quote from an article I read: Two months ago, the UN’s Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon encouraged all Member States to ratify the Rome Statute saying that, ““I am convinced that the solution of broadening the reach of the Court is not disengagement, but universality.”  He continued, “Only once the Rome Statute has been universally accepted can the Court be as effective as we would wish it to be, with a truly global reach.”

Ban Ki-moon certainly thinks that universal ratification is the most necessary step to guarantee the ICC’s success.  Universal ratification would increase the ICC’s legitimacy, jurisdiction, funding, prosecuting strength, and access to skilled staff.  There are few apparent negatives surrounding the goal of universal ratification.  The most obvious negative is the threat universal ratification might have on the legitimacy (regarding the reputation of “powerful” ratifiers and increased politicization of the ICC).  In any case, I wanted to pose the question and see what types of ideas arise out of an analysis of the importance/necessity of universal ratification.


3 responses to “ICC: Universal Ratification

  1. Alana Tiemessen February 3, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    As a side note, another important part of the CICC’s work is to ensure that states who have signed the Rome Statute also go through the proper steps to implement it. The CICC helps states with drafting the implementing legislation, updating laws on the crimes, etc. There’s not a great track record on implementation in Africa so far, and civil society does critical work here.

  2. thewendyway February 4, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Since state cooperation for the ICC has proven to be contingent on favorable political environments, for both ratifying and non-ratifying countries, I don’t think that universal ratification is necessary to the goals of the ICC. Even official ratifying states’ have vary in their degree of cooperation when the ICC is actually put to the test in their country. For example, in Kenya (ratifying country) there have allegedly been measures to prevent victims from testifying. (Recent article about this:

    However, from today’s class lecture on the problems the ICC faced with Rwanda and their case against Ntaganda, I can definitely see procedural benefits since the ICC does not have universal jurisdiction and adding more countries would widen the ICC’s scope (i.e. getting the process started faster since the ICC won’t have to wait for Security Council referral). But again, sometimes even non-ratifying states show support for the ICC when it’s politically favorable; for example, as we learned in lecture today Rwanda did facilitate Ntaganda’s transfer to the Hague.

  3. jhgmitch February 6, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    Universal ratification is the end goal because it would give the ICC universal jurisdiction. It would also legitimize the court and help it avoid the “Intl Colonial Court” criticism.

    Continued growth of Rome Statue ratifiers is highly desirable, but (as thewendyway points out) what is more important is coming up with strategies to avoid the kind of obstructionism we are seeing with the Kenyatta case.

    Another good thing is that for ever new ratified state, you have a sort of multiplier effect because a non-ratifier state has to abide by the house rules. So you don’t have to wait for universal ratification to see near-universal effects. There has been understandable panic about Obama’s administration recycling “Bush era tactics” on Mark Kersten’s blog; the tactic was the US’s strong-arming countries to sign legally questionable agreements that Americans cannot be prosecuted by the ICC for actions committed in those countries. But in a way the Americans’ questionable tactics is a positive thing. It shows that the world’s most powerful country is taking the ICC seriously; even if they are ultimately making pure power politics calculations, they still feel it is necessary to find a way to do so that looks sort of legal under the Rome Statute–by so doing, they legitimize the ICC and grant it greater power.

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