International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Tag Archives: international criminal court

Russia Withdraws Support From The ICC

A day after the court published a report claiming/classifying the Russian annexation of Crimea as an occupation, Russia has stated that it is formally withdrawing it’s signature from the ICC.

On Wednesday 16, November, the Russian foreign minister announced and carried out the orders of the president Vladimir Putin, “saying the tribunal had failed to live up to hopes of the international community and denouncing its work as “one-sided and inefficient””. The court has been accused of being one-sided numerous times and over the past couple of weeks; many countries have shown their displeasure with the court by withdrawing.
Russia signed the Rome Statute in 2000 and has been cooperating with the court, but it has not ratified the treaty, thus they were not in the courts jurisdiction, Even though this move is symbolic it will not change or effect the courts actions much. Instead they are taking the court’s credibility aw694940094001_5181416872001_what-does-vladimir-putin-hope-to-accomplishay.

“This is a symbolic gesture of rejection and says a lot about Russia’s attitude towards international justice and institutions,” said Tanya Lokshina. of Human Rights Watch. “On a practical level it will not make much difference, but it is a statement of direction: it shows that Russia no longer has any intention of ratifying the treaty in future or of cooperating with the court.”

Russia changed its view on the court as early as 2008,after the ruling to investigate the war between Russia and Georgia, to bring justice to the victims.

The ICC Commissioner says that there is no substitute to the ICC, and he hopes that countries will start realizing how important it is. “By withdrawing from the Rome Statute, leaders may shield themselves with immunities – but it will be at the cost of depriving their people of the protection of a unique and essential institution,” he warned.

The U.S Announces its take on the Crime of Aggression

In 2010 the ICC held a Review Conference in Kampala that would suggest an amendment to the Rome Statute that would allow for the ICC to prosecute crimes of “aggression. The American Society of International Law gathered to discuss this amendment at their annual meeting earlier this month. Not surprisingly, the U.S stance on the expansion of the ICC’s power was negative; the panel sited three reasons to oppose the crime of aggression that would take effect in 2017 if ratified.

First the ASIL raised concerns that a crime of aggression would deter member countries from aiding in joint military action for risk of legal prosecution. They claim that these military endeavors could be the actions needed to prevent the very crimes that the ICC wishes to stop like atrocity crimes. The ASIL argues that mobilizing allies to intervene in humanitarian catastrophes is difficult enough as is, and an addition legal deterrent would hinder the process further.

Second the US is worried that the aggression law would limit the international communities ability to resolve conflicts. The idea is that if two countries are willing to end a conflict through mutual cooperation, the crime of aggression law could upset this balance by forcing the leaders of the countries involved to be prosecuted for their crimes. The ASIL speculates that the ICC could insist that these crimes be investigated at any cost and thus disturb fragile diplomatic efforts.

Third the ASIL points out that the ICC is struggling as is to apprehend defendants and “sustain a record of effectiveness” in prosecuting atrocity crimes and an added responsibility would be too much for the ICC. The panel also pointed out that crimes of aggression would be deeply political and could compromise the court’s obligation to impartiality.

While the ASIL brings up valid points, It seems that this report is another example of the US shying away from the ICC in fear of its own prosecution. No doubt the US could be considered to have committed crimes of aggression in territories within the courts jurisdiction so the ASIL’s stance is not surprising. Here is the report do you think the ASIL is genuinely concerned with the state of International Law or its own self interests?

Amnesty International declares Hamas committed war crimes during Gaza War

In a report released Thursday, Amnesty International stated claims to war crimes committed by Hamas during the Gaza War. The focus of these claims is centered around the violence against Israeli and Palestinians through the use of indiscriminate projectiles. In their press release, Amnesty International declares, “Palestinian armed groups displayed a flagrant disregard for the lives of civilians.” Due to the nature of the indiscriminate projectiles, many of the rockets launched during the Gaza War did not accurately reach their targets and thus, many civilians, both Israeli and Palestinian, were injured and killed.

Although there were killings on both sides of the conflict throughout the entire war due to these rockets, the Palestinian government has tried to lay blame on the Israeli military for these acts of indiscriminate projectile use. Despite these claims, however, Amnesty International’s investigations led to a resounding conclusion that these projectiles were used by both parties in the war. Furthermore, Amnesty International is looking to hold Palestinian conflict groups accountable for other humanitarian law violations including storing supplies and weapons in UN schools and inciting conflict and attacks in civilian-dominated spaces.

In an effort to improve the current political and civilian situations in both Palestine and Israel post-conflict, Amnesty International is calling for both nations to begin cooperating more freely with the United Nations and the International Criminal Court. Despite similar encouragements in the past and now with this newly released report, both Hamas and the Israeli government have not actively responded nor engaged in meaningful dialogue for resolution with neither the United Nations or the International Criminal Court.

Sri Lanka Resists International Intervention. When does State Sovereignty Become Irrelevant?

Sri Lanka seems to be one of the less frequently discussed topics in international justice, despite a civil war that raged for 26 years, ending in 2009 with the government forces aided by the Indians defeating the Tamil Tigers. In January, a new government swept into power, and now it is attempting to delay, or even completely undermine the United Nations’ inquiry into war crimes committed during the civil war; the inquiry is set to be released in March as of now. The inquiry is supposed to be the catalyst of a debate at the next meeting of Human Rights Council, which will be held in March. The Council, after the meeting, can then contemplate measures to hold perpetrators accountable; the Council can actually defer to the ICC as well.

The Sri Lankan government’s position is that it can punish those accountable using its own system and commissions. A commission had already been established during the war to look into human rights abuses, including missing persons. However, this commission never made any of its proceedings or reports publicly available, despite organizing hearings. Furthermore, no prosecutions were carried out by the commission.

This begs the question: when does state sovereignty become irrelevant in terms of international justice? The Sri Lankan government has seemed rather reluctant in the past to carry out any kind of reconciliation. Should the international community intervene or give Sri Lanka another chance to carry out justice on its own?


Could Putin face international justice?

This article, written by former Bosnian foreign minister and ambassador to the United Nations Muhamed Sacirbey, explores the potentiality of Russian President Vladimir Putin being deterred from his actions in Crimea and Ukraine by the threat of international justice.  Over the past few days, an overwhelming majority, 93% to be exact, of Crimeans voted to secede from the Ukraine and join Russia, a political move that has incited protest from Western powers and perpetrated the application of sanctions on more than two dozen Russian officials.  This development has also jeopardized the future of Ukrainian Tartans, who have moved back to their homeland of Crimea and are now under the ominous shadow of ethnic cleansing under Putin’s  movement of Russian Imperialism. This has started the discussion of whether or not the International Criminal Court has the ability to put a stop to this.

As we learned in lectures, a few qualifications must be met before the ICC is able to take action.  First, the crimes must be of a systemic nature and fall into one of the categories listed in the Rome Statute. Second, either Ukraine or Russia must be unable to try the perpetrators in their own national courts. Sacirbey makes the case that the threat of ICC prosecution may be the most effective way to contain Putin’s territorial ambitions in Central Asia and Eastern Europe.  However, I see certain difficulties in this strategy going forward.  First, I don’t think enough has happened yet for the ICC to get involved.  Yes, it is the most high profile international justice issue in progress right now and yes, one could say that the annexation of Crimea is a breach of national sovereignty, but there have not been any war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide committed yet.  Second, I think it would be incredibly difficult to get Putin to come out and answer for his crimes with the public threat of international criminal justice.  As we saw in the ICTY, Radovan Karadzic was able to use his national support to go into hiding for years.  I think the same case would be for Putin on a larger scale.  This is certainly a developing issue; the temporary Ukrainian government has already declared that it will not accept Crimea’s secession, so I think we will have to wait and see if the ICC will gain enough leverage to get involved and stop Russia’s expansion.

Is the ICC discriminatory towards Africa?

In keeping with this week’s concentration on the ICC, I found this article from the New York Times Book Review, which is to be published next week.

This article addresses the claim that the ICC is discriminatory towards African leaders, as it has only prosecuted Africans in its 11 year history.  This accusation is particularly applicable today, as the ICC is encountering resistance from the Kenyan Government during their prosecution of their former President, Uhuru Kenyatta, for the 1,100 murdered and 650,000 displaced during the elections in 2007-2008.  The Kenyan Government has appealed to the UN Security Council and the African Union and sent diplomats to various African nations in an attempt to incite a mass withdrawal of African participants in the ICC, a move which would undoubtedly cripple the ICC; of the ICC’s 122 participating states, 34 are African.

The author of the article, Kenneth Roth, lists the many reasons that the ICC has only prosecuted Africans until now: many African nations enlisted the assistance of the ICC to try their former leaders, the high level of support the ICC has been shown by African nations, and the supposed predilection of its former chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo of Argentina, to pursue arrest warrants rather than engage the court in long legal battles.  However, the supposition that the ICC is discriminatory towards Africans is a more concrete criticism of the ICC, which is interesting because the readings we did this week had to do with the tough balance that the court must walk between its own power and respecting state sovereignty, a more theoretical dilemma than the one presented by the Kenyans today.

The ICC and Egypt

An interesting addition to the ongoing discussion on the future of Egypt – The Muslim Brotherhood is asking the International Criminal Court to investigate crimes committed in Egypt. The legal team of the Muslim Brotherhood, composed of top international criminal lawyers from Britain, is alleging that the military has committed mass crimes against humanity.

Given that Egypt is not a member-state of the ICC, the only way for the case to be eligible, either the Security Council will have to refer it or the Egyptian government itself will have to involve the ICC and recognize it’s jurisdiction. Both of these options are unlikely, thus, the MB’s legal team has decided to launch a wide reaching publicity campaign and file cases around the world, hoping for some success. The end goal of this would be that the ICC would prosecute the military and in doing so, recognize the legitimacy of the Morsi administration.

This example of transitional justice struck me as very interesting because this attempt by the Muslim Brotherhood has been met with skepticism across the board. If the ICC were to take this case, it would be a huge victory for the Muslim Brotherhood; however, western governments are reluctant to lend their support. Given that the Muslim Brotherhood has thus far been unsuccessful in creating a strong enough power base domestically within Egypt, due to the military, I am curious as to what potential external support will emerge over the next few months. Even though the ICC is unlikely to take this case, will the publicity and discussion received on the international sphere effect the domestic Egyptian perception of the Muslim Brotherhood’s cause and decrease support for the military?

A Legal Route to Indicting Assad?

Eight months ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insinuated that Bashar al-Assad is a war criminal; however, the US was reluctant to indict him, preferring to keep Assad’s exit route open as a mean to peace. But, as I said, that was eight months ago and this is now. Tens of thousands of Syrians have been killed in the conflict so far and the great powers remain in a diplomatic stalemate, with the US and the Gulf States backing the Syrian opposition, and Russia, China, and Iran backing or at least obstructing efforts to take action against the current regime. Indicting Assad has been dismissed as impossible by some because of Russia’s and China’s power to veto a Security Council referral to the ICC – a necessary proceeding considering the fact that Syria is not a State Party to the Rome Statute. But unlike Libya, Syria is a signatory to the Statute, which carries with it an obligation, as outlined in the Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaties (Article 18), “to refrain from acts which would defeat the object and purpose of a treaty.” Despite the fact that such a legal case would likely be destroyed in the political maelstrom that would follow and may even damage “the developing bond between the Court and UN Security Council as co-defenders of justice and peace” if it survived the onslaught, it does point to the fact that the veto power of two great powers does not necessarily need to make impunity an unalterable fact of life in the case of Syria.

If the legal route doesn’t seem tenable, there is more pressure to be put on China by the Gulf States on whom it is dependent for energy. Without China, Russia, now standing alone, might yield. You could also play diplomatic football with Russia and grant it leadership over a Security Council measure to indict Assad. Perhaps good press and widespread international recognition would prove convincing enough. It may be a historically unprecedented move, but going with the legal option I proposed, if all else fails and if it really is possible, would at the very least draw more attention to Russia’s and China’s obstinance and place even more pressure on them. In the meantime, immobility is not an option for those who do not wish to see the cause of international justice and the credibility of its institutions undermined.

Kenyans meet with Fatou Bensouda, the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC, to discuss their struggle

Since we had just discussed the role of the Chief Prosecutor within the ICC during class today, I thought this news today is very interesting:

Transitional Justice and the EU

On Friday, the European Union (EU) won the Nobel Peace Prize “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe” (source). Because this award touches on many concepts that the class has discussed in the past two weeks, I wanted to explore the role of EU in the realm of transitional justice.

About two years ago, ICTJ’s Laura Davis wrote a report titled “The European Union and Transitional Justice”. In summary, many of the EU member countries have experienced legacies of mass violence and the reconciliation process that followed. The EU is very committed to “promoting peace, to the protection of the EU’s rights and to strict observance and the development of international law.” However, the report also states that the EU has no strict policy on transitional justice. Rather, it has a three-fold plan to combat impunity, which is outlined on page 11 of the report.

It is interesting because the EU, despite being lauded this past Friday for the advancement of peace and reconciliation, has largely been a donor rather than an actor in the field of transitional justice. It provides political and financial support to the ICC, ICTY, ICTR, truth commissions, etc. The lack of a formal transitional justice policy raises concerns about how the EU addresses transitional justice. By providing so many sources of funding for different transitional justice institutions and ventures, the EU is essentially borrowing definitions of transitional justice from different places—this may lead to conflicting stances on transitional justice by the EU. As the report suggests, the EU should create its own policy and approach to transitional justice. On another hand, the EU encompasses a variety of countries with distinct cultures—perhaps the EU is doing its role as a facilitator and supporter of transitional justice and striking a balance between international norms and respect for local traditions and cultures? In this way, the EU avoids some of the problems outlined by Leebaw in the paper, “The Irreconcilable Goals of Transitional Justice” and allows other institutions, such as the ICC, to do what they believe is the best.

“UN General Assembly Condemns Syria Crackdown”

As of just a few hours ago the UN General Assembly gathered and voted  (137 to 12) on a non-binding resolution calling for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria to abide by the Arab League’s plan.  I follow U.S ambassador Susan Rice on twitter and she posted the news to her twitter feed as it was happening.  The article I have attached uses a lot of the wording and phrasing we have been speaking about in class, most notably is the section which discusses the accusation of “crimes against humanity.”  The article reads, “For his part, Ban Ki-moon, the UN general-secretary, said crimes against humanity had probably been committed by Syrian forces, echoing concerns of Navi Pillay, the UN’s human rights chief, who has called for the situation in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court.”

I think it is important to note that Russia and China once again voted against a passing of a resolution. In the case of a general assembly vote I do not think their votes are as crippling as they have been when it comes to the Security Council, but it is important to note that they have maintained their stance. However, the article does end on a hopeful note. France has declared they are willing to try to compromise with Russia in order to pass a Security Council vote. Hopefully Russia and France can come to a compromise that still has some teeth to it in order to help the Syrian people. We have discussed in class that China has largely been following Russia in its voting when it comes to this specific case.

“UN General Assembly Condemns Syria Crackdown”