Thursday, July 17, 2014

UN International Justice Day Event Features ICC Problems As Well As Progress

Speakers frankly described both the ICC’s difficulties and its achievements in celebrating International Justice Day at the UN on July 17. ICC president Judge Sang-Hyun Song and Ambassador Tiina Intelmann , president of the Court’s ’s Assembly of States Parties, detailed, among other subjects the Court’s carrying out of the founding values it shares with the United Nations, its commitment to punish and deter atrocities,  its successful completion of its first cases, and its progress in involving victims in its work. Their praise framed unusually frank statements of the Court’s problems as it starts fully functioning. They especially emphasized in describing relations with member states the failure to enforce the Court’s arrest warrants, inadequate resources to carry the Court’s currently full case load, and reluctance to give the Court political support –especially in the face of attacks on it. The speakers were clear that the ICC itself bears much of the responsibility for these failings.

This candor actually made the celebration stronger and more profound. This candor by two senior officials showed the health of the Court in being able to constructively criticize itself as well its member states.  The audience came to see the Court of course as an object of approval, but even more as an institution actively improving itself.

Written by John Washburn

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Lubanga Final Conviction Prompts Praise and Criticism for First ICC Cases: Responses for U.S. Advocacy

Debate over the Court’s performance in its first generation of cases has mounted again after the end of the first case by the final conviction of Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga on June 24. With more convictions imminent, praise and criticism of that performance are likely to continue and become more pointed in the United States as well as elsewhere. Here are background and suggestions American ICC supporters may find useful in dealing with these as they come up in our advocacy.

The most important problems about the Court shown by these early cases have to do with enforcement of the Court’s warrants and orders, evenhandedness in investigating alleged atrocities by all sides in a conflict, slowness in conducting trials, the handling of evidence, and the complete absence of any cases from outside Africa. The ability of the ICC to deal with these questions varies with their origin: some come from the design of the Court in its Rome Statute, some from procedures and processes that the ICC created and can fix, and others are created by relations between the Court and nations which are either or both member states or the scene of crimes. Also, we need to keep in mind that this was the beginning - the Court encountered these issues for the first time. What you do for the first time, you often have trouble doing right.
Enforcement is a difficulty built into the nature of the Court. Like most international organizations, it has no police or paramilitary to make others act on its orders. It must depend on the cooperation of nations, especially member states with Rome Statute obligations. This period saw plenty of failures and several actions, by members and non-members alike, to honor ICC arrest warrants. The most evident and disheartening example of failure was the international ignoring of the warrant to arrest Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir on charges of committing atrocities in Darfur. By contrast, Belgium promptly arrested Jean-Pierre Bemba, wanted by the ICC for crimes by his militia in the Central African Republic.