The International Criminal Court.. The last resort

Date & time : Wednesday, 13 June 2018

By: Ghazal Alyazidi


Recently, the humanitarian organizations and bodies have increased their campaigns to demand that the United Nations establishes an international inquiry commission to investigate possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in a number of countries. For example, there are international demands forthe UNto establish an international commission to investigate alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma, against some of Myanmar’s military leaders where its army commits the most heinous crimes against the Rohingya Muslims. It is worth mentioning that the International Criminal Court (ICC) is the only official authority for this kind of cases, and to prosecute war criminals and perpetrators of atrocities against humanity and genocide crimes.

ICCor the Supreme Court was established in 2002 and is the first court that is based on treaties. Its headquarters is in Hague, Netherlands, and it can hold its sessions in any country. It is an international organization, permanent, independent, and is not affiliated with the UNand doesn’t abide by its laws, but there is a constant cooperation between the two, where the United Nations Security Council refers the relevant cases to the ICCto look into its content and initiate investigations.

It is important to know that the ICC is dramatically different from the International Court of Justice (ICJ). While the ICJis a judicial body of the UN, that deals with disputes between government organizations or the member states, we find that the ICC is to prosecute individuals who commit atrocities that are classified as war crimes and crimes against humanity, and is considered an independent organization, meaning that countries that are members of the UN aren’t obliged to implement its laws.

On the other hand, the reason for ICC establishment is to reduce the most serious criminal offenses which are of concern to the entire international community. Its jurisdiction is to track and prosecute individuals accused of four types of crimes, which are genocide crimes, crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression crimes. Genocide crimes include acts such as killing or acting to cause harm which results mainly in the destruction of a group for reasons of nationality or religion. Crimes against humanity, is any act that is classifiedas prohibited actions such as intentional killing, racial discrimination, and forced deportation.

War crimes, includes violation of all laws set forth with regard to the Geneva Convention of 1949, and the violations of the laws of war, whether it is internal or international armed conflict. The court has the authority to accept cases against those accused of committing any of these crimes, whether they are directly involved or contributed to it. And finally, aggression crimes, despite the members’ lack of reaching a final agreement on its definition, however, when it is agreed upon, the court will list aggression crimes as a crime which the perpetrators can be prosecuted.

The Geneva Convention gives importance to all aspects of fundamental human rights protection laws in the case of war and the consequences that result from it, such as caring for the wounded, and prisons of war and the protection of civilians. The International Committee of the Red Cross was among the first to call for the establishment of the convention.

The jurisdiction of the regional court dependsonwhether the individuals under the indictment belong to a member state or not, or if their non-member country of origin have accepted for them to be tried in the ICC. Also, it depends, if the damage has occurred in a territory belonging to one of the member states, or if the non-member state allows a trail in the ICC. And finally, it depends also on the case has been transferred from the Security Council to the ICC, in the case they are not tried in their countries.

In addition to that, it is possible for 100,000 aggrieved with direct harm caused by an individual or a group who carried out acts that fall under genocide, or ethnically motivated persecutions or otherwise, to refer then to the judiciaryauthoritywithin the ICC will look into the case to decide.

According to the law, the ICC considers only cases committed from or after July 1, 2002, which is, its establishment date. As for the countries that joined after that date, the court will give 60 days from the date of those countries’ ratificationof the agreement; where then they implement all of its provisions.

Among the articles to join, is that a member state does not interfere in the internal security or political affairs of the other countries whether they are a member or not.

The Charter of Rome, the reason it was established is to take into account the millions of people whom have suffered in the first and second world wars and fell victims for the various non-human atrocities during that period. So, it was necessary to establish agreement and law for protection of human rights in the future.

A number of states have signed the Rome Statute for their desire to join the ICC, but afterwards withdrew their request, therefore they are not considered bound to apply its laws or implement its articles. For example, in 2000, President Bill Clinton signed to join, however in 2002, President George W. Bush Jr. cancelled the decision arguing that the US constitution is the body that determines the judicial system inside America.

Also, Israel canceled its membership in 2002 for fear of being sued for war crimes and war against humanity that are committed against the Palestinians, such as removing and displacing them from their homes and lands, which are classified as crimes against humanity, which necessitates being indicted in the case of being a member state.

In conclusion, after years of attempts, Palestine became a member of the ICC on April 1, 2015, which means, it has the right to prosecute Israeli officials for war crimes or occupation. Israel isn’ta member, however, citizens of the country can be prosecuted in the event they commit crimes in the Palestinian territories. On the other hand, Palestine as a member state, it must hand over any of the names that appear on the wanted list if they are located within its soil, whether they are Palestinians or otherwise.

 A writer in International Relations and International Organizations *



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