Promising Justice to the World: The International Crimes Court
By: Remzi Cej, Holy Heart High, St. John's, NL
I spent last March researching and preparing information for a campaign I launched here, in St. Johnís, after attending a National Conference on the International Crimes Court (ICC), organized by War Child Canada. My campaign is focussed on raising awareness on the International Crimes Court and United Statesí refusal to sign the ICC draft.
The International Crimes Court is an international body with its centre in The Hague. It is a court where civilians who have committed a war crime, crime against humanity and/or genocide may be tried, rather than having only heads of state/government officials prosecuted for committed mass crimes in a specific country.
The ICC draft was brought due to the lack of a section in the Geneva Convention, which the UN operates with. The Geneva Convention did not cover the section of targeting civilians who committed crimes against their own people en-masse. The ICC is meant to prosecute criminals only in cases when the country where the accused comes from, is either unwilling or unable to prosecute justly. It was formed in July 1998, when in Rome, many countries, Canada among them, decided to sign the Rome Statute, and therefore ratified the ICC in their own country. In July 1998, the United States had signed the Statute, therefore agreed in ratifying it.
July 1st, 2002 was the date when the ICC officially opened its doors, 6 months after 60 states ratified it. With 18 judges, representing an international community, the ICC promises to be a balanced court. It has 7 women and 11 men, the first time where thereís a higher ratio of women per men judges.
The main power of the ICC is to prosecute those accused of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. It is a replacement/global version of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and Former Yugoslavia, and thus focuses globally, rather than on a specific country.
Since 1998, more than 60 countries signed the Rome Statute. The Statute gives power to the ICC in the country that signed it, and allows the court to do any investigations for any suspicions it may have on cases of war crimes, crimes against humanity and/or genocide. Also, by signing the Rome Statute, a country agrees to have its own citizens tried in another country, where the accused may have been arrested.
If itís helpful to balancing justice in the world, why hasn't the U.S. and some other countries ratify it? It is a question that doesnít quite have an answer. Issues like political power, political interests and national pride are some problems that countries that donít sign it consider important.
Many countries that ratified the ICC were surprised in May í02, when the U.S. government declared that it "cancelled" its signing of the Rome Statute in í98. The media called this the "unsigning" of the Statute. The excuse used by the U.S. was that the interests of the previous administration were different from the Bush government, and therefore, there was nothing that would keep the United States bound to the signing of the ICC.
In what some people called a "protest of the ICC", the United States vetoed the UN Security Council resolutions on UN peacekeeping renewals for operations in Bosnia, declaring that it will continue vetoing the peacekeeping renewals until its armed forces/staff are give immunities by the ICC. Also, 12 days later, the United States proposed a resolution to postpone the investigation and/or prosecution of peace forces. Whatís more, the U.S. started a campaign to sign agreements with all countries in the world to not give U.S. citizens accused of mass crimes to the ICC. Canada has refused signing this agreement, but many countries, dependants of the US-funded economies, countries such as East Timor, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Gambia, Nepal, Palau and others signed the agreement where they say that they will not surrender U.S. citizens to the ICC.
It is important to know that the ICC provides a hope for peace and security. It is a body that pressures war criminals around the world to stop what theyíre doing by arresting others and punishing them impartially. In a world where revenge and partiality are growing concerns, the ICC is an eye opener and a cure.
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Department of Justice Canada: Canada & the International Criminal Court
Rome Statute of the ICC
Information on the US opposition to the ICC
Canada and the ICC
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