This week marks the fifteenth anniversary of the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Rome Statute grants the ICC jurisdiction over the following four crimes: war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and the crime of aggression. While the Rome Statute was adopted by 120 States in 1998, the ICC did not take effect until 2002 when it was ratified by 60 States. The ICC headquarters are in The Hague and it has 6 field offices across Africa. While similar, the ICC is not to be confused with the International Court of Justice. The ICJ is the primary judicial branch of the United Nations, while the ICC is legally independent of the United Nations. Despite this, the ICC has an agreement with the United Nations, wherein the United Nations Security Council has the ability to grant the ICC jurisdiction over a situation it would not normally have jurisdiction over.
The ICC has been an integral part of the international justice system over the past 15 years. During this time, the ICC has had 23 cases. Of these 23 cases, six verdicts have been issued with nine individuals being held guilty and one acquittal. The ICC has convicted people of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, but have yet to arrest or convict any individuals for a crime of aggression. This is likely because no definition has been adopted as of yet for this crime, which makes prosecuting one for it difficult.
As a direct result of the ICC, nine highly dangerous criminals were prosecuted and held accountable for their actions. These individuals include Jean-Pierre Bamba, a politician in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Bamba was convicted of two counts of crimes against humanity and five counts of war crimes in 2016. Meanwhile, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, also from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was the first person ever convicted by the ICC. Dyilo was arrested in 2006 and was convicted in 2012 for facilitating child soldiers, which is considered to be a war crime. As the ramifications and consequences of a conviction from the ICC are severe, there is a detailed procedure to follow in every case, which often results in a delay from the time a suspect is first arrested to the time they are convicted.
There has been criticism that the ICC is biased against non-westernized States, particularly Africa. The United States Department of State has also argued that there are “insufficient checks and balances on the authority of the ICC prosecutor and judges.” Additionally, the fact that the Rome Statute is an international treaty and requires ratification for it to be binding on states, which in turn requires cooperation by states is problematic. This factor, in particular, encourages fascist movements and authoritarian governments. As well, criminals, who are liable for conviction under the Rome Statute, will aim to convince governments and their states to move away from the jurisdiction of the ICC.
Despite these criticisms, the cases that the ICC has reached a verdict on proves its worth in today’s society, where war crimes and crimes against humanity run rampant. Without the ICC, there would be little to no accountability for the individuals who commit such acts. A key aspect of the ICC’s 15-year anniversary campaign is an interview with all sorts of different people describing what they were like at 15. In this perspective, the ICC is like a teenager, discovering who they are and how to operate to their full potential. In spite of this, there is no doubt that what has been achieved in 15 years is inspiring and will make the developments that may occur in the next 15 years to be something to look forward to.
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