July 1, 2012 marked the International Criminal Court’s 10th anniversary. The ICC was established by the Rome Statute which came into effect in 2002, creating the first permanent international court in history. Ten years later, critics and supporters alike are assessing the progress of the Court in achieving its goals of bringing to justice those responsible for the most atrocious human rights violations.
Over the past ten years, the ICC can claim a number of impressive achievements—many of which are especially remarkable for an institution lacking any law-enforcement apparatus of its own and which operates solely on the basis of cooperation with participating states. Currently, the ICC is working in seven situation countries and monitoring developments in seven others. In March this year, the ICC delivered its first judgment in a case concerning the use of child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Six cases are in the trial stage and nine others in pre-trial phase. These proceedings indicate a growing acceptance by governments and state actors that impunity for war crimes will no longer be tolerated by the international community.
In addition to its international legal role, the Court is also raising global awareness of human rights violations and the importance of providing an avenue of justice for victims. The ICC’s proceedings have emphasized, on a global scale, that children cannot be used as soldiers during hostilities, that sexual violence as a weapon of war is an unacceptable international crime, and that those in positions of power must safeguard the fundamental human rights of people caught in conflict.
Despite these achievements and successes, the ICC still faces many hurtles. Among these is the failure of the most powerful and influential countries in the world to ratify the Rome Statute, the unwillingness of signatory states to arrest wanted criminals, and accusations that the Court serves as a political tool of the West. To date, 121 countries have ratified the treaty and another 32 have signed the Statute, indicating an interest to join in the future. However, states like Russia, China, and the United States have refused to ratify the treaty due to a fear that it will result in their own political and military personnel being charged with war crimes or crimes against humanity. Many also view ratification of the treaty as an interference with their state sovereignty and an overreach of the international community into domestic affairs and legal proceedings.
The Court still faces many challenges to its authority and legitimacy within the global community. There are myriad complicated legal issues surrounding the prosecution of war criminals whose offenses have spread across borders and affected groups of people under the jurisdiction of multiple legal systems. However, the increased awareness that the Court has brought to the complicated legal issues involved in prosecuting war crimes has revealed the desperate need for an international body such as the ICC in which victims are given a means of achieving justice against perpetrators of war crimes and the valuable role that the Court plays in international justice. Though many obstacles remain to achieving the goals outlined by the Rome Statute, the Court’s accomplishments during its first ten years indicate a strong push in the direction of international justice and a promising future for the ICC and its influence on the international stage.
To read more about events commemorating the Court’s 10th anniversary, visit the official website.
Update: On July 10, 2012, the ICC issued its first sentence since its establishment ten years ago. To read more about the case, click here.
Post by: Adrian Lewis