The International Criminal Court (ICC) was established in Rome whereby many states came together to sign a treaty on ‘international law. ’The primary purpose of the establishment of the ICC was to bring ‘justice’ to any individual or any party that are accused of committing crimes such as ‘genocide’, ‘crimes against humanity’ or ‘war crimes’. The ICC is headquartered in the city of Hague in Netherlands (Europe).  Since its inception there has been 139 signatories of the agreement, however, only 60 ratifications, meaning there is only around 43% of legislative authority of all the signatory members of this organisation. The United Nations Secretary General (UN) watches over its conduct and is assigned as the depository. The jurisdiction of ICC is primarily on the states that have signed and ratified the agreement in their domestic ‘sovereign’ political systems. Due to the horrific European wars in the 20th Century as well as destructive wars all over the globe the international community have agreed to form an international body to mitigate the conflicts that may arise.

African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Only a handful of states have ratified the ICC, that is the majority of Western Europe, South America, Oceania and a handful of African state. The statue of Rome specifies that a party must be brought to the court in order to be investigated. In addition, majority of times the African state leaders have been pulled into questioning and ‘investigation’ for violations of ‘human rights’ by the ICC. The complaints from the states have been voiced in the African Union (AU). Recently, a resolution from the AU have encouraged African states to pull-out (withdraw) from a ‘biased’ organisation. It is perceived that the African states, being rich with minerals such as ‘cobalt, and coltan’ are being targeted by interested countries in order to change the current political establishments with a more business-suitable one. Thus, the African states have questioned the impartiality of the ICC. Uganda, a former colony of Britain had undergone a devastating civil war in the 1990s and 2000s. That saw the rise of groups such as Lord’s Resistance Army where many of the conflicting parties were accused of war crimes and brought to the ICC.

Interestingly, Uganda and its neighbour, The Republic of Congo, are both countries enriched with natural resources such as ‘coltan and cobalt’ deposits that are essential for electronic goods such as cellular phones, laptop computers, microwaves and various other products. The African leadership have criticised the vehement approach of ICC towards African leaders only. However, it is true that majority of the African countries brought to the ICC has had human rights issues within their respective countries. For example, Rwanda had one of the worst massacres in the recent years; civil wars in Sudan, Somalia, Congo, Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire) and many others. Yet, there is supposedly a strong consensus within the parts of the African Union and some African leaders that the ICC is being pushed by western-based interest groups (multinationals and transnational companies) to install favourable governments in these resource-rich countries.

The leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army Joseph Kony, made famous by the viral videos in 2012. Accused of using child soldiers in North Uganda.

Moreover, People’s Republic of China, the rising economic powerhouse has shown interests in many African countries. China has aided various development projects in developing African countries. Further suggesting this point, the AU headquarter in Ethiopia was built by the Chinese. China has defended the African leadership against a persecution from the ‘Western-orientated’ ICC. In addition to this, it is widely argued that the western ‘developed’ countries have ever been investigated for their violations of Human Rights or War Crimes by the ICC. The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, the bombings in Syria and Libya were widely ignored by the international community and also overlooked by ICC. The interventions in Libya and the bombing campaign has significantly damaged Libyan prosperity and transformed it into a failed state. It was justified by the responsibility to act on  ‘humanitarian’ grounds, which however was a violation of current international law as the ‘intervention’ was carried out without the consent of international  community i.e. Security Council of the UN. Moreover, similar violations have occurred in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Despite these, they remained undiscussed and undisputed by the ICC.

The ICC can also be assessed during its involvement with the Yugoslavian Civil War in the 1990s that erupted after the end of the Cold-War. It was attempted to mitigate by neighbouring countries i.e. NATO, under the justification of ‘humanitarian intervention’ saw air campaigns in Belgrade, Serbia for 77 days that caused various human tragedies as a pre-emptive measure to prevent a wider conflict Kosovo. The ICC after the war went after the Yugoslavian President at the time Milosevic, whose military at the time have carried out a large massacre in Srebrenica resulting in the death of 6000-8000 men and boys which is deemed as a crime against humanity in Bosnia. Milosevic have died before a verdict was produced. Yet, the Croat militias fighting in Bosnia, primarily, Naser Oric and other rebels from the conflict were not successfully punished by the ICC argued by some scholars.

The bombings in Belgrade, Serbia (Yugoslavia at the time)

These accusations against the ICC have made the body quite doubtful and have resulted in various countries to pull out of the organisation including major countries such as USA and Russia. Apart from this, countries such as India, China, Indonesia, Turkey, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have not yet signed the Rome statues that leave them out of the organisation. Additionally, several African and South American states are also considering their withdrawal from the ICC that has seemingly been a failure so far. The ICC that was founded on principles of protecting victims of war or to serve justice for international crimes have so far failed significantly as per these examples. Their attempt to only prosecute apparently weak leaders from developing countries has also hampered its legitimacy. There are various human rights violations and crimes that have yet to be brought to the attention of the ICC that are taking place in the around the world at the moment: Myanmar government’s persecution of Rohingya minorities, Yazidis in Syria, persecution of Palestinian Muslims and Christians by IDF (Israeli Defense Force). In order to take up the significant challenges around the world, the ICC must consider all issues equally and pursue a passage of more inclusiveness of the states in order to produce more constructive results. It is indeed to question the impartiality of the ICC. If it is indeed proven to be one, has it served its role in serving humanity for a brighter future?

It must be noted, the successful Nuremberg Trials were held after the Holocaust during the Second World War saw the involvement of the greatest powers at the time USA, USSR, Britain and France. Thus, the Nuremberg Trials is widely regarded successful and a model for tackling such sensitive issues like Human Rights violations. The involvement of key member states in the process made it highly productive, the ICC must in order to increase its legitimacy include all the major states in the international sphere today who have not yet taken part.

Further Readings:

  1. Branch, A. (2017) The ICC can’t live with Africa, but it can’t live without it either, Available at: http://theconversation.com/the-icc-cant-live-with-africa-but-it-cant-live-without-it-either-74210 (Accessed: 25th March 2017).
  2. Crossland, D. (2005) Nuremberg Trials a Tough Act to Follow, Available at: http://www.spiegel.de/international/international-criminal-court-nuremberg-trials-a-tough-act-to-follow-a-386327.html (Accessed: 25th March 2017).
  3. Donovan, D. (2012) International Criminal Court: Successes and Failures, Available at: https://intpolicydigest.org/2012/03/23/international-criminal-court-successes-and-failures/ (Accessed: 25th March 2017).
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