The 17th of July marks the International Criminal Justice Day. I, for one, do not see anything festive about this day. The best what the system of international law with its subnational institutions can do is protect the supremacy of law. It may also help in the implementation of geopolitical initiatives which have nothing to do with the rights of citizens or entire states.
The date was established on July 17th, 1998, to mark the adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the treaty that established the ICC. The tribunal is supposed to prosecute individuals accused of genocide and other serious international crimes, such as crimes against humanity, war crimes.
It was also suggested to include crimes of aggression to the list. However, during the talks in Rome the sides failed to agree on a definition of the crime and thus the Statute stipulates that the ICC may not exercise its jurisdiction over the crime of aggression until the states parties agree on the issue.
The establishment of the ICC met an ambiguous response. Three permanent members of the UN Security Council, Russia, China and the US, as well as India, Israel and Iran did not ratify the Rome Statute. They all agreed that this document limited the countries` sovereignty and offered ‘too much authority’ to the Court. Unlike the UN International Court of Justice, the ICC is not part of the United Nations Organization though it can open cases at the UN request.
The ICC can be referred to ‘a court of the EU’ in terms of sources of financing: in 2008 the EU`s share in financing of the court stood at more than 57%. This easily explains why the Court so quickly issued an arrest warrant for the Libyan leaders, who have been facing a military operation carried out by Europe, mainly by France and Great Britain.
It is also worth mentioning that the international community already knows some notorious facts about the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the ICT for Rwanda. Selective approach to defendants, the lack of real competitiveness during the hearings, the judges` and prosecutors` inclination to make politicized statements – this is typical of both Tribunals and surely casts a shadow on the present-day system of international law. Legal institutions often serve political purposes.
Thus many experts agree that the main role played by the Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia is about ‘concealing the names of those who are really guilty of unleashing a civil war in Yugoslavia and accusing the Serbian politicians of all tragedies which happened in the region’.
Practically the same thing happens at the International Criminal Court for its decisions openly violate the sovereignty of other countries and serve the interests of one of the sides involved in a conflict. This all began in 2010 when the Court issues an arrest warrant for the current President of Sudan, Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir, accusing him of genocide against three ethnic groups.
Thus the Court interfered in the internal conflict in Sudanese province of Darfur. The warrant was supposed to force the authorities of Khartoum to allow territorial partition of some areas in South Sudan rich in energy resources. Here we may draw a parallel with an indictment against Slobodan Milosevic in the Hague, when testimony given by the Kosovan separatists and their allies in the West was used to justify the court’s decision! It is remarkable that to accuse Omar Al-Bashir, the ICC had to appeal to the UN Security Council since Sudan is not a member of the Court.
The situation with Libya has demonstrated the Court`s biased approach in full: an arrest warrant for Gaddafi and his relatives was issued before any investigation was made amid the approaching crisis in the country. Like in Yugoslavia, the courts are going hand-in-hand with NATO, demonstrating their adherence to the system which is supposed to guard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries…
And I have something more to say. Though the jurisdiction of the Criminal Court covers all continents and it possesses the archives related to cases opened in 139 countries, the African states dominate the list: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Sudan, Kenya, Libya, The Republic of Ivory Coast – this all cannot but make me think about international legal neo-colonialism… It was not by chance that in June, 2009, thirty members of the ICC representing Africa (Senegal, Djibouti and Comoros Islands among them) urged their colleagues to quit the court in protest against its Africa-targeted policy.
The Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union, Ambassador Lamamra Ramtane believes that the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court José Luis Moreno Ocampo ‘follows the double standards policy, accusing one leader and ignoring another’. Mr. Ramtane described this as a good example of ‘selective justice’, which is one of the first signs proving that a court is serving somebody`s political interests.
Pyotr ISKENDEROV, Strategic Culture Foundation
This article was written originally on July 19, 2011.