International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Tag Archives: Security Council

UN Special Representative Stresses Role of Sexual Violence in Conflict

In her latest report on sexual violence in conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, Special Representative of the Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, stressed that sexual violence has been implemented “as a ‘tactic of terror'” meant to target ethnic and religious minorities, as well as homosexuals, bisexuals, and transgender individuals. Bangura’s report discusses sexuSRSG in Central African Republical crimes committed by non-State actors, including ISIL, Boko Haram, and Al-Shabaab. These crimes include the abduction, rape, and selling of women and girls into slavery. Bangura also argues that these terrorist groups have been using sexual violence in order to forcefully displace mass amounts of people so that they can use their land for it’s resources or for growing narcotics. Bangura’s report derives from information gathered by UN peacekeeping and political missions, NGO’s, and Member States.

As far as what the international community can do about this, Bangura asserts that the Security Council will have to work with Member States to develop an effective response that will quash this increasing threat. Bangura also notes that it is especially crucial that countries with pervasive sexual violence make a political commitment to dealing with the issue, acknowledging that progress to this end has been made in the DRC, Columbia, Somalia, and Cote d’Ivoire.

Bangura, in an interview previewing the report, also stressed the importance of community and religious engagement in not only helping to understand the nature of the violence, but also in helping the victims get the healing they need. Tackling the issue, according the Bangura, involves capacity-building, technical support, reforming laws, and collaborating with the judiciary to ensure that sexual violence crimes are investigated, perpetrators are prosecuted, and victims are given essential psychological, medical, legal, and livelihood support and services. This is really where a country’s political will come in.

What will be interesting to see is how the international community responds to these allegations made against these terrorist groups, especially since they are non-State actors. Bangura herself notes that this will be a challenge, as these groups are different than the non-State actors that the UN has formerly dealt with. What makes them difficult to deal with is that they are well-organized, have developed structures, have lots of land spread out in many countries, and use up-to-date technology to communicate with their members. To deal with these innovative groups, the UN and the rest of the international community will have to develop new tools and strategies.

Another interesting part of this report is the implication of establishing that sexual crimes have been committed by these actors. While sexual violence has often been viewed as a lesser crime in comparison to other atrocities, there is some precedent for elevating sexual violence crimes to the highest status of crimes, such as we have read about in post-genocide Rwandan justice. Will sexual violence crimes committed by these terrorist groups be elevated to such high status if these groups are ever brought to justice? The answer to this remains to be seen.

ICC Calls for Security Council Action in Sudan

Yesterday, the ICC released a statement calling for the Security Council to take some action to enforce their referral of the Sudan situation, made in 2005.  The Court requested the UNSC take “necessary measures” to enforce compliance, and said without UNSC support, the referral would “never achieve its ultimate goal, namely, to end impunity.”  The Pre-Trial Chamber II found that Sudan failed to cooperate with the Court in refusing to arrest Bashir, and emphasized that as a member of the UN, Sudan has the obligation to “cooperate fully with and provide any necessary assistance to the Court and the Prosector pursuant to this resolution.”  Sudan failed to cooperate by refusing to engage in talks with the court, failing to execute pending arrest warrants, and failing to notify the Chamber that the warrants would not be executed.

This is at least the eighth time that Chief Prosecutor Benousoda has requested enforcement assistance from the Security Council.  It is interesting that the statement readily admits that without support from the Security Council, the court alone will not be able to end impunity.  By expressly pointing out Sudan’s failures of compliance and explaining the Court’s inability to arrest Bashir without Security Council support, the Court admits its own lack of enforcement power, which may actually bolster its legitimacy.  By highlighting the ways in which Sudan violated its obligations to the Court, the blame is put on the Security Council for failing to follow through and enforce their referral.  The fact that Bashir has not been brought to the Hague and put on trial is not the fault of the ICC, but the international community.

China officially declares that it will fight UN efforts to refer North Korea Case to ICC

The Chinese Government announced Monday that it would oppose any UN effort to bring the case against North Korea in front of the ICC. Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying was quoted as saying that China opposed the potential referral because “issues concerning human rights should be solved through constructive dialogue on an equal footing”. It was widely expected that China, as a strong ally of North Korea and a member of the security council, would stand against any UN action regarding North Korea.


China’s support of North Korea in this regard is yet another example of the complicated role that politics plays in the realm of international justice. China is North Korea’s key ally, and provides much of the and and trade that is currently propping up a country already experiencing widespread famine. According to a Channel NewsAsia report, China’s support of North Korea is in part due to fears that if the North Korean state collapses, the chaos could spill southward across their own border, and that instability in the Asian continent could allow for the US to bolster its presence.


An ICC investigation and potential conviction of North Korean Officials is sure to generate the instability that China fears. Jared Genser, an international human rights lawyer and North Korea expert, was quoted in the South China Morning Post as saying that “There is no doubt that legally such a referral would be highly justified and appropriate. But it is also bound to infuriate China.” 


The potential of China’s opposition to prevent the referral from reaching the ICC is the latest proof of one of the biggest flaws in the setup of the ICC–its politicisim.  The influence of powerful states–particularly Security Council members and economic powerhouses like China–can still be used to shield injustices from legal accountability.

The ICC & Security Council: Can They Work Together?

Last week, Mark Kersten posted to Justice in Conflict about recent discussion within the UN Security Council (SC) regarding the relationship with the ICC. Admittedly, there are inherent tensions between the SC and the nature of the Court (such as questions of sovereignty, institutional independence, financial responsibilities, etc.) but many of these questions and tensions cannot go unanswered much longer.

The SC has referred 2 cases to the ICC since its inception 10 years ago (Darfur, Libya) which (one would assume…) delegates authority of investigation and prosecution to the Court. Though, Kersten points out that the language within these referrals, particularly the Libyan referral, “undermines the Court’s independence, impartiality and, thus, its legitimacy.” Article 16 of the Rome Statute, referenced in Resolution 1970, “allows the SC to stop ICC investigations and prosecutions for 12 months (renewable yearly), the referral explicitly excludes the ICC from investigating or prosecuting any citizens of states which are not members of the ICC.” These limitations on the ICC’s ability to conduct a thorough investigation coupled with the potential threat of ceasing all investigations, as Kersten rightly concludes, undermines the Court’s independence and legitimacy.

A further issue to be considered, and is also raised by Kersten, is the issue of funding. The SC has referred two cases to the ICC and simultaneously refused to provide funding to conduct investigations. Even the President of the ICC’s office mentioned this issue in a public statement, “Clearly it will be difficult to sustain a system under which a referral is made by the Security Council on behalf of the UN, but the costs of any investigation and trial proceedings are met exclusively by the parties to the Rome Statute.”

As stated above, the SC recently discussed the relationship of the Court and the Council, but many of these particular issues in question were unaddressed. Although the ICC is a young institution, it will quickly find that it cannot sustain to have referrals from the SC without the cooperation, in funding and policy, to independently pursue international justice.

What do you think the future of the Security Council and the ICC look like?

The Politicized Referral of Libya

When the UNSC referred Libya to the ICC under Resolution 1970, there were multiple indications that the motivations behind the referral from UNSC member nations were highly politicized.

First, Resolution 1970 excludes non-ICC state parties. This supports many previous complaints that the ICC is only interested in persecuting crimes in certain nations and that similar crimes within the same context cannot be tried in other nations who did not ratify the Rome Treaty.

Second, the referral includes a reference to Article 16 of the Rome Statue, which allows the UNSC to suspend an investigation or prosecution by the Court for 12 months.

Third, the ICC is only able to try crimes in Libya that occurred after February 15, 2011. There are many issues raised by this narrow time frame given to the court, but the biggest is that certain records of the relationship between the US and the UK with Libya prior to February 2011 cannot be used in any of the ICC proceedings.

This is a problem because there was significant evidence that the United States and the United Kingdom were closely involved with the Gaddhafi regime, including in the torture of Gaddhafi regime enemies.

Many scholars have argued that the relationship between the US and the ICC has begun to improve in recent years, but does this highly politicized referral by the UNSC indicate otherwise? Is it possible that the United States didn’t vote to refer the Libya situation because it believed that the ICC was the best body to investigate the crimes, but rather because it believed that the provisional referral would protect the United States from any scrutiny over their relations with the Gaddafi regime prior to the uprising?

Rwanda and UN Security Council

Last week, it has been reported that Rwanda will hold one of the five non-permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council. In his interview for NPR with the Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, one of the things brought up by host Michael Martin is that a “firm hand” is necessary in government to stave off ethnic conflict. Mushikiwabo’s response is that yes, in fact, it is and that President Kagame has been one of the better leaders to help Rwanda gain its current success. I find this to be somewhat of a conflict of interest, especially when viewed side by side with Victor Peskin’s account of victor’s justice in the case of the ICTR. Fearing indictments of the officials of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, Kagame’s government banned travel for the witnesses asked to testify in the hearings. According to Peskin, “The government’s decision to bar witness travel was one of the most damaging acts of noncompliance in the history of both ad hoc tribunals” (225, Peskin). Rwanda’s actions received little criticism and the UN Security Council was slow to respond to the official appeal of the government’s actions.

How is it, that a country so set on working against the UN-sanctioned Tribunal meant to help fix the terrible wrongs that occurred, is welcome with open arms into the UN Security Council?

Is justice counter productive?

One recent news article pertaining to the ICC caught my attention in particular. It highlights the role the UN Security Council plays in assisting the ICC in its tasks.

Although the article mainly discusses the joint effort of the UN and the ICC in ensuring that war crimes/crimes against humanity don’t go unpunished–providing the example that the UN Security Council referred two cases to the ICC regarding alleged crimes in Libya and Sudan’s Darfur region–its main point is not what struck me most.

Instead, the following statement most piqued my interest: “While the ICC’s contribution is through justice, not peacemaking, its mandate is highly relevant to peace as well…”

This quote by ICC President Sang-Hyun Song made me wonder, are justice and peace totally separate entities? How should we define these two terms? And with regards to whom? Does defining them with regards to different groups of people change their definitions?

An at-a-glance assessment of human rights, justice, and peace may lead one to assume that the benefit of attaining justice would be the onset of peace–that bringing about justice for those incriminated in a given case would not only bring about peace to the affected individuals, but also to the larger topic area of concern. If we sit down to actually deliberate the meaning of these two words, though, and assuming that it is true that the ICC manages the justice/injustice of an issue and are not harbingers of peace, we can extend the conversation into how justice for one party may not be justice for another. Meaning, that because justice for one is injustice for another, it is likely that a spiral of turbulence/violence may ensue even after the ICC has done its job of punishing those at fault (in its point of view). Even if a human right is “inalienable” or “universal” in nature, somewhere, somehow, it is being violated because a group of people is advocating for the opposite of this particular right.

This leads me to believe that finding more global definitions for these words–justice and peace–are crucial to the realm of human rights. Assessing to whom they pertain in a given situation, and accurately assigning their responsibility to entities like the ICC, could help to ensure that we are after both justice and peace at all times. Simply seeking justice could be counterproductive. Who even are our current peacemakers?

Syria Unrest: Death Toll Rising

In this article from the BBC, the authors detail the death toll rising to over 7,500, with an estimate 100 civilians per day,  since last March when security officials launched a “crackdown” on the situation altogether.  Of particular interest in this article is that Secretary Hilary Clinton is moving to suggest that President Bashar al-Assad fits the definition of a war criminal which would change circumstances and make it easier to take swift action in the region (after being denied by the Security Council recently.)  An emergency meeting of the UN Human Rights Council was held in Geneva, and preparations have begun to submit a formal complaint to the ICC.  Such proceedings will certainly give the US what they want- as far as forcefully getting involved in Syria- without having Russia and China sign on.  The ICC could be used as an independent avenue.

“Russia and China veto UN Resolution on Syria”

Seen here in the article from alJazeera, they describe a reported mass killing that happened the night before China and Russia vetoed the Security Council Resolution on Syria.

“The diplomatic developments come with activists reporting on Saturday that a Syrian army assault on Homs’ neighbourhood had killed more than 200 civilians since Friday night.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights cited witnesses saying 217 people had been killed in Homs, 138 of them in the Khaldiyeh neighbourhood.”

I found this passage to be particularly resonant with our recent discussion of Srebrenica in class. They later qualify the report by adding that the deaths came during an “assault on the opposition stronghold.” A question I had in response to this report is where the line is drawn according to international law itself and the politics of negotiating international conflicts between what is “too much”? Will 200 deaths of civilians and around 500 injured in one night be enough to ensure that some form of legal action is taken after the immediate conflict is over? Or will it depend entirely on how the conflict is brought to a resolution?

UN Security Council to vote on Syria resolution

UN Security Council to vote on Syria resolution

The UN Security Council is expected to vote later on Saturday on a resolution backing an Arab League peace plan for Syria, amid reports of more than 200 people killed by shelling in Homs.

Russia plans to veto Syrian resolution if considered “unacceptable”

As unrest in Syria continues and shows no apparent signs of slowing, the U.N. Security Council has finally decided to meet and come up with a draft resolution to address the crisis and seek to have Syrian President Bashar Assad cede power.  The decision to come together and develop a resolution comes after nearly an 11-month struggle of the Syrian people against the Assad regime and plenty of pressure from Western nations and the Arab League.  However, there are concerns that Russia and China, who have both resisted the push to develop a resolution, will continue to be an obstacle.  “If the text is unacceptable for us we will vote against it, of course.” Russian U.N. envoy Vitaly Churkin told reporters in Moscow.  The Chinese Ambassador to the U.N. Li Baodong voiced their concerns in saying: “China is firmly opposed to the use of force to solve the Syrian problem and resolutely opposes pushing for forced regime change in Syria, as it violates the United Nations Charter and the basic norms guiding the practice of international relations.”  The U.N. Security Council is meeting in a closed session working on a resolution this afternoon, so we’ll have to wait and see if anything meaningful comes out of the session.

What do you think, will Russian and Chinese opposition lead to a neutered resolution?  Or will they just veto whatever happens to be drafted?