International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Tag Archives: Rome Statute

Palestinians Formally Join ICC


Palestine has been able to formally join the ICC as the 123rd member after their signing on and ratification to the Rome Statute in January. Their main intention is for justice against Israelis starting from June 13th 2014 in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The longstanding controversies between the two groups have caused many criminal justice atrocities including the death of over 2200 people. Yet one of the issues is the timing of the ICC, which has been known to provide justice, but in a very slow and methodical manner. While the Palestinian people are currently excited and ready for their justice to come, the process that may take years may frustrate them and diminish their current momentum.

Though Israel is not part of the ICC, the atrocities committed on Palestinian soil are up for examination as a potential war crimes. Though on the surface this may be perceived as victors justice, Palestine is also being examined for their own persecutions of Israelis, therefore both parties are eligible for convictions by the ICC. Additionally, the United States is criticizing the ICC for allowing Palestine to join, as they are not a sovereign state yet this is an important step for Palestine to seek statehood.

Côte d’Ivoire Dodging its ICC Obligations

Even with the recent news of Congolese warlord Germain Katanga’s conviction in The Hague, the relationship between the ICC and some of its member states continue to be strained. Earlier this week, the ICC turned down a request by the Ivorian government to postpone its surrender of  Charles Blé Goudé, a staunch ally of former President Laurent Gbagbo and longtime head of a violent, pro-Gbagbo militant group. Following the devastating crisis in 2011, President Ouattara immediately and willingly surrendered Gbagbo into the custody of The Hague until enough evidence could be gathered for a trial. However, despite the governments eagerness to send Gbagbo to the ICC to be tried for his crimes, it seems as though that fervor has cooled significantly in the case of Charles Blé Goudé.

Although the ICC has issued an arrest warrant for Blé Goudé that states that he has committed four counts of crimes against humanity, the Ivorian government has yet to respond or take any actions towards surrendering Blé Goudé to them. Despite the fact that he has been been in government custody since  he was forcefully extradited from Ghana in January 2013, the Ivorian government has absolutely refused to follow through with its ICC obligations. Instead, Côte d’Ivoire has purposefully enacted a very narrow reading of the Rome Statute in order to temporarily suspend the arrest warrant by trying to decide if the trial should ultimately be set in Côte d’Ivoire or not. However, now that the ICC has officially rejected the Ivorian government’s request for such a suspension, it will be interesting to see how the government responds. Being a member state of the Rome Statute, and thus bound by certain duties to the ICC, the government can either give up Blé Goudé or challenge the admissibility of his case going before the ICC, as they did with former First Lady Simone Gbagbo. What can the ICC do to ensure that the Ivorian government follows through on their commitment to the Rome Statute and surrenders  Blé Goudé? Does the government have the capacity to give him a (fair) trial in domestic courts? Will this event have any affect Gbagbo’s own trial in The Hague in the future if relations between the Ivorian government and the ICC deteriorate even further? What change occurred in Ivorian-ICC relations between Côte d’Ivoire’s willingness to pack Gbagbo off to the ICC and the recent dodging of their obligations?


How is the Palestinian UN vote more than symbolic?

Following the General Assembly vote to upgrade Palestine from permanent observer to non-member observer state defined by pre-1967 borders, there are new political ramifications to consider. Though the international community as a whole has furthered the legitimisation of the two state-solution, it has come at the cost of Israel’s political autonomy. Amidst peace negotiations, Palestinian Authority President Abbas’s bid for statehood has evoked opposition from Israel:

  • It has threatened to withhold crucial tax revenues it collects on behalf of the PA and restrict movements of its officials from the West Bank.
  • On 14 November, a position paper leaked from Israel’s foreign ministry proposed “toppling” Mr Abbas.
  • Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Lior Ben Dor said that if President Abbas continued with the bid, he would be in breach of the 1993 Oslo Accord, under which the PA was established.

While I do think it is a valid objective to override Israel’s sovereignty (not disregarding the fact it sprung from an IGO itself) for the sake of a transitioning Palestine, I can also understand why the U.S. government (see Secretary Clinton) has branded the vote counter-productive in the context of peace vs. justice. Because the Oslo Accords were established in the spirit of a bilateral agreement, the role  of external actors in validating Palestine’s statehood has pre-empted negotiations and has thus antagonised Israel. In terms of practical significance, Israel is now less willing to cooperate in political stability (newly authorised construction of settlements in occupied territory) and has gone as far as saying the vote will “hurt peace”  since “This is a meaningless decision that will not change anything on the ground. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear that there will be no establishment of a Palestinian state without a settlement that ensures the security of Israel’s citizens… By going to the UN, the Palestinians have violated the agreements with Israel and Israel will act accordingly.”

Another matter of interest is how Palestine’s UN-appointed statehood will be interpreted under Article 12 of the Rome Statute which looks to the Secretary General and General Assembly to clarify statehood parameters in contested cases. The ICC prosecutor previously argued that court jurisdiction on PA was contingent upon non-member observer status but Palestine may now re-attempt ICC membership. Consequently, Palestine could pursue legal action for forced displacement of populations; no matter how long this process could take to come into realisation, the issue remains that Israel views the possibility as a credible threat presently, when peace has not been reassured. It seems then that Palestinian sovereignty is a justice imperative but the sequencing is less than ideal for peace.

Ocampo interview after finishing his term as prosecutor

This interview touches on several several of the topics that we have discussed in class including the US not joining the Rome Statute, Fatou Bensouda taking the role of prosecutor and the focus on Africa amongst other topics. Interestingly Ocampo was nominated by the FIFA to lead an ethics committee focusing on corruption. It is yet unknown if Ocampo will end up in this position but it will be interesting to see if even if he does not obtain the position, will he in any way continue to be involved with the ICC.

“Why Do Countries Commit to Human Rights Treaties?”

When we were discussing why countries would voluntarily ratify or commit to treaties like the Rome Statute in class on Thursday, this article I read, titled “Why Do Countries Commit to Human Rights Treaties” by Oona A. Hathaway, a professor in Yale Law School, came to my mind. I would like to briefly summarize what she says in the article and talk about its implications for our topic. I saw that many people have commented on the U.S.’s position with the ICC, and I hope this post can offer a different perspective.

Hathaway argues that “states take into account the likely costs and benefits of complying with a treaty (as determined primarily by legal enforcement and collateral consequences) when they decide whether to commit to a treaty” (590). Here, domestic legal enforcement refers to “the degree to which those outside the government can enforce the state’s legal commitments,” while collateral consequences are “reactions of domestic or transnational actors to the state’s decision to commit to the treaty” (593, 595).

Based on her statistical analysis, Hathaway concludes that among those states that have robust domestic legal enforcement (such as stable democracies), the states with higher human rights violations are less likely to ratify the relevant treaties (608). Once those states commit to the treaty, the domestic population may force the state to change its behavior in regards to human rights. Surprisingly, those states that do not have such strong domestic legal enforcement of treaties are not less likely to sign the treaties because of the weak domestic force to change its behavior (608). Those states with poor human rights records and weak domestic enforcement may gain diplomatic leverage, economic aid, or other collateral benefits from signing the treaty, with little cost of changing their behavior (595).

Among collateral consequences, some proved to be more powerful than others. Number of human rights NGOs actually yielded mixed results for different treaties, which may diverges from norm-based theories of states’ commitment (598). Although human rights NGOs may push the state to sign the treaty, such powerful influence of NGOs might be the reason that some states don’t sign the treaty, as the domestic legal enforcement cost (609). Hathaway also finds that newer states are more likely to commit to human rights treaties, all other things being equal, possibly because they “have no existing track record to help or hurt them in their efforts to attract foreign capital, trade, aid, and political support” and therefore may “take actions that signal an intention to become good international citizens” (597). They may also have more to gain from investment, trade aid, and political support (597). Lastly, the regional ratification rate also matters, as those states surrounded by other states that committed to the treaty are more likely to sign, as there may be collateral benefits to be gained from by demonstrating their “commitment to these shared norms and thereby smooth relations with other countries within the region” (597).

What does this mean to the topics of our class? We have seen many cases where even those states that are state parties to the ICC do not cooperate with the ICC, and this may be explained by what Hathaway describes as weak domestic legal enforcement (I understand it may be a huge understatement of the complicated political situations and calculations in those countries). It is at least evidenced by the fact that they do not have influential human rights NGOs to affect its state behavior. I think it may also explain the U.S.’s such strong opposition against the Rome Statute. It can be argued that U.S., because of its unique role in the world, may have poor “human rights records” by committing certain crimes that the Rome Statute addresses. It might be under enormous pressure from both domestic legal enforcements and face collateral cost if it commits to the Rome Statute. It may be the U.S.’s best interest to entirely deny the legitimacy of the ICC to avoid the cost from collateral consequence of not ratifying the treaty (and signaling that it is a state that does not hold up international justice) and avoid the legal enforcement cost from ratifying it. And even if U.S. is becoming increasingly supportive of the ICC, we could arguably predict that it will never ratify the Rome Statute because of the enormous legal enforcement cost from both domestic and international level (that would make it change its behavior in the world).

I am sorry that this is so long…There are some differences between the human rights treaties that Hathaway examines and the Rome Statute, but I thought it would be interesting to draw the parallel. I also may have interpreted “legal enforcement” more loosely to include general forces that lead states to comply with the treaty. Also, here is the link to the article if anyone is interested.

Where Politics Meets International Justice

Interesting Foreign Policy blog in response to a Romney comment made Monday night, underscoring the United States’ stance on the ICC:

French hand over Rwandan Rebel Leader to ICC

I know it was a few weeks ago, but I was reading through recent ICC news in the New York Times, and came across news regarding France expressing their right to universal jurisdiction. The French police arrested and detained a Rwandan rebel leader by the name of Callixte Mbarushimana, who fled Rwanda to Paris until the French police arrested him in October. The ICC wanted him on charges of rape, murder, torture and other atrocities committed during a terror campaign against civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Kivu region.

This is significant because it is another case showing the international community’s cooperation with the ICC and  human rights as a whole. I know in class a few people were questioning the overall reality of universal jurisdiction, and whether or not smaller less influential states would have the ability to exercise this concept. I cannot really answer the second part of that, but it is clear now that states like France support the ICC and the exercise of punishment for war crimes/crimes against humanity. So if universal jurisdiction is something that is not only allowed but encouraged, then this goes back to the same question…why would the United States feel as though they need to join the ICC? Being one of the most powerful states on the globe, and essentially being able to go in to any state necessary to either achieve a political or social goal hardly makes signing the Rome Statute very convincing. If they were to sign it, however, now instead of having the ability to exercise universal jurisdiction anyway without immediate penalties put on US nationals, they would be subject to international review.

Does the fact that states have to exercise universal jurisdiction because the International Criminal Court does not have the power to make certain arrests/detain certain individuals ultimately allow individuals to lose faith in the ICC as a judiciary? Can we really blame those who have been affected by war crimes or crimes against humanity that feel as though the ICC indicting people is not effective enough?