Monday, October 31, 2005
The International Criminal Court is a Waste of Time & Money
The International Criminal Court (ICC) is the first ever permanent, treaty-based international criminal court, established to promote the rule of law and ensure that the gravest international crimes do not go unpunished -- at least that is what it is supposed to do according to the ICC homepage http://www.icc-cpi.int/about.html. But can the ICC ever be successful with the United States clearing objecting to its existence? The ICC entered into force on July 1, 2002. Anyone who commits any of the crimes under the statute after July 1, 2002 will be liable for prosecution by the Court. What about those who commited crimes against humanity before July 1, 2002? These crimes include the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. Our guest bloggers this week are Bryan S., and Rory R. Their opinons are expressed below:
Genocide: acts committed with intent to destroy in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group. Crimes against humanity: acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack. War crimes: willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health. Crimes of aggression: the use of force of one State against another, not justified by self-defense or other legally recognized exceptions. These atrocities are an affront to the international community; they violate the letter and the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. When these grievous violations occur, the international community has a moral obligation to intervene to prevent more human rights violations, and they have an obligation to punish the violators and the conspirators who aided in the commission of those acts. The violation of international law requires adjudication in a competent international criminal tribunal to ensure that all guilty parties are brought to justice and to serve as a deterrent to future human rights violations. The International Criminal Court can serve this purpose, and contrary to the beliefs of its opponents and detractors, is in the best interest of the international community.
The International Criminal Court is a necessity for protecting the international values to which all nations ascribe. According to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, “in the prospect of an international criminal court lies the promise of universal justice…. No state, no junta and no army anywhere can abuse human rights with impunity. Only then will the innocents of distant wars and conflicts know that they, too, may sleep under the cover of justice; that they too, have rights, and they those who violate those rights will be prosecuted (Driscoll 25).” Modern history has been marred by unspeakable violence, and there are cases in which the violators and the leaders of nations have fled to havens to live out the rest of their life. According to Douglass Cassel of Northwestern School of Law, there have been “no legal redress whatsoever for gross violations of human rights in 133 of 182 internal conflicts, including both civil wars and state terror and repression (Driscoll 111).” It is a mockery to the thousands of people of innocents who have lost their lives; it is a mockery to the thousands who have their lives destroyed, and it is a mockery to the international community that this is the case. A person who violates the rights and immunities that are granted to every person because he is a human being, he must be punished.
The protection of these rights is the responsibility of every United Nations member State; in the Preamble of the UN Charter, “the peoples of the United Nations…reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, [and] in the dignity and worth of the human person.” The value of the words that have been adopted in the Charter and other treaties of the United Nations have no value unless all persons, regardless of status or positions, recognize that their egregious actions will have consequences. Further, the international community must work to prevent further human rights violations. A functioning International Criminal Court can only serve as a deterrent to future atrocities, and as a means of closure for the victims of human rights violations. According to Cassel, the former head of the Civil Affairs of UNPROFOR, the UN mission in Yugoslavia during the 1990s stated, “Had their been, from the start in Yugoslavia, a high probability of judicial punishment for those who committed crimes against humanity, there would have been less barbarism … those who tried to mitigate some of the horrors …would have found their hands greatly strengthened (Driscoll 114).” The worse violators and persons who abetted their murderous policies will be brought to justice, and it will serve as a reminder that the international community will not for violations of rights of international citizens.
I am troubled by the unwillingness of the United States to accede to the jurisdiction of the ICC. The US policy is borne more out of protecting current and former policy makers who have enacted policies that constitute crimes against humanity. The US government opposed ICC jurisdiction in the Darfur crisis because, according to Undersecretary of State Pierre-Richard Prosper, “we don’t want to be party to legitimizing the ICC.” The US government has called for the creation of an ad hoc war crimes tribunal based in Tanzania. The Bush Administration fails to realize that the ICC would be the best avenue for prosecuting the atrocities that have occurred in Darfur, and an ad hoc tribunal would only work to continue to delay justice for the victims of Khartoum’s policy of trying to create an Islamic republic. An ad hoc tribunal would bring legitimacy to the proceedings, but why create another court when a competent court already exists? Further, the time that it creates an ad hoc tribunal is valuable time that will be wasted that could have been used in the pursuit of justice. There is no question that genocide and crimes against humanity have occurred and are still occurring in Darfur; both the United Nations and the United States have concluded that fact. The only remaining question now is punishing the actors. The crimes that the Janjaweed has committed, at the behest of the Sudanese government, against innocent civilians simply because of the color of their skin, and the leaders in the government who conspired to put this plan into action deserve to be brought to justice. However, there is no way that the Sudanese judicial system is competent enough to ensure a fair and impartial trial, so any trial held in Sudan would be a farce. It is for that reason that the International Criminal Court should have jurisdiction; the Court was created with the intention “to prosecute the most serious crimes of international concern, in cases where national authorities are unable or unwilling to do so (Driscoll 115).” The entire world recognizes the crisis in Darfur, and the only sure end to it will be an international solution.
“Is the ICC a waste of time and money?”
Can a permanent international court which deals with heinous crimes such as genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity be a waste of time and money? The International Criminal Court was established in 2002 with the aim to create a permanent court that would have the power to investigate severe acts against human rights, and prosecute the people found responsible for those acts. The creation of the ICC allows for the possibility of quicker investigations and actions than its predecessors, which were tribunals that were created after crimes against humanity were committed, such as the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. It also allows for a formal international judicial law, which members of states must be accountable by.
While the ICC may be far from perfect, I feel that it is unreasonable to claim that the international court does not hold any importance, or is a waste of time and money. While the number of countries who have ratified the ICC and are members under its court is over 100, some very influential nations such as China, Israel, and the United States have declined to ratify the court. The reasons the U.S. gives for opposing the court range from the language of the court’s powers being to strong or vague in definition, to political beliefs and influence wrongfully determining which cases are chosen, and the loss of sovereignty by the state. While some of the issues that the U.S. and other countries are concerned about are valid points, it is important to note that this court has been in existence only since 2002. The ICC has yet to reach the time period where amendments could be made, and just this past month handed out its first warrants as a result of an investigation. It seems as if the U.S. and other nations are using excuses such as political influence to hide from the real reason we are not fully supporting the ICC. It is apparent that the U.S. does not want its own citizens or politicians tried or accused on any type of judicial court besides our own, even if the rest of the world is subjected to the international laws protecting human rights under the ICC. This stance by the U.S. seems hypocritical in the sense that the U.S. has shown in numerous conflicts in the 20th and 21st century that it has no problem imposing its beliefs and wills on other nations, if it meets our national interest.
Does that fact that powerful countries such as the U.S. aren’t members of the ICC make it unimportant and a waste? I think that while it would have made a strong impact having the U.S. join, I do not believe it takes away from any of the importance or power the ICC has. An international court such as the ICC can still become a strong deterrent to human injustices and help to punish those who commit the crimes.
Why is the ICC needed? Why is it so important? The creation of the ICC was a huge step towards protecting human rights, because of the ICC there is now a body of justice which will specifically investigate and prosecute the most heinous crimes, which in many cases in the past have gone without repercussion. Genocide and other acts against mankind are the worst possible crimes that can be committed, but in the past they were some of the hardest and most drawn out affairs to prosecute. Hopefully now as the ICC has been investigating crimes that have been brought to their attention, such as the Congo and Darfur, a sufficient case will be made and the ICC will prove that it can function as a strong judicial protector of human rights. Because while the ICC doesn’t have the right to prosecute until after a crime has been committed, if it can set a precedent of strong justice in protecting human rights, then the judicial body could eventually become a strong deterrent to crimes such as genocide. That is where I feel the biggest power of the ICC can eventually be, in not only punishing these crimes, but also helping to stop them from happening. That is why the ICC is important, and is not a waste of time and money.