The question of Iran’s interest in joining the International Criminal Court (ICC) is being presented again by its new policy of greater openness to the rest of the world and its current dealings with the west. AMICC constituents may as a result encounter this development in their advocacy. Iran has publically voiced its support for the Court numerous times and could benefit from ratifying the Rome Statute. Iran vigorously participated in the negotiations of the Rome Statute and is a signatory. In the 2010 ICC Review Conference in Kampala, Iran sent a delegation to participate and once again expressed its support for the Court.
For the first time in decades, political channels between Iran and the United States are open. While the two countries work towards finding a solution to Iran’s nuclear program, the international community now watches to see if the unlikely duo will cooperate to combat the Islamic militant group in Iraq. Despite its faults, Iran is a relatively stable country in a region marked by chaos. In recent history, Iran fell victim to war crimes committed by Saddam Hussein, it has long felt that he was not held accountable for his crimes. Today, Iran faces another threat by an extremist Sunni militant group. Ratifying the Rome Statute would aid in preventing impunity for crimes that this group is committing.
Participation in the Court would also serve another new Iranian goal: acceptance internationally as a responsible country. If Iran truly desires to productively participate in international relations, it must demonstrate to the world that it is trustworthy. Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, described President Rouhani’s policy as one that “values accountability, transparency, and honesty in dealing with the populace and implies a willingness to reform and improve existing policies.” Becoming a member of the Court would aid in accomplishing such a goal by making its peaceful intentions clear. However, if Iran were to join the Court, the country would thereby accept the Court’s jurisdiction which would hold it accountable for the crimes it commits.
In 2017, the Court is likely to acquire jurisdiction over the crime of aggression. Iran has repeatedly voiced its support for the inclusion of the crime of aggression in the Court’s Rome Statute. Officials from both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Judicial Power have described crimes of aggression as “the most important international crimes.” During the Iran-Iraq war, which Iran considered a war of aggression, Iraqi forces killed at least 300,000 Iranians and injured more than 500,000. Despite multiple pleas to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) by the Iranians, the UNSC never found that Iraq had started a war of aggression. Iran’s support for the ICC’s jurisdiction over the crime of aggression is the result of its resentment of Saddam Hussein’s impunity. Had such a court been available to Iran, it would not have had to rely on the UNSC for justice.