The International Criminal Court, abbreviated as ICC refers to a court that was established in 2002, and consists of a permanent tribunal. The tribunal has a great responsibility to prosecute individuals who are suspected to engage in acts that violate human rights and laws. These acts of violation include the crimes of aggression, war crimes, genocide, and the crimes against humanity. The creation of the International Criminal Court is considered as one of the most important thing that has been done in relation to the international law and relations (Bruce, p 13). The International Criminal Court currently has about 108 states as members of the court. However, another 40 countries have signed to become members though they have not ratified the Rome Statute.
The Rome statute of the International Criminal Court acts as the founding treaty of the ICC and since its establishment, the court has worked together with the United Nations Security Council. The ICC handles criminal cases if the accused is one of the member states or a national from the state. The court can also handle cases if the said crime was committed in the member state territory. The court has been instrumental in complementing the different nations’ judicial systems. The International Criminal Court (ICC) works together with the individual states in order to investigate as well as punish people who perpetrate crimes. The courts official seat is in the Hague, Netherlands. However, the proceedings of the court can take place in any other place apart from The Hague. The International Criminal Court can also be referred to as the “world court”.
Historical Origin of the International Criminal Court
The International Criminal Court was established after the Rome Statute which is the court’s founding treaty was adopted. After the Rome Statute came into force, the court was established on 1st July 2002.The treaty had been adopted on 17th July 1998 at a diplomatic conference that took place in Rome, Italy.The International Criminal Court has its historical origin on the need to address the human rights violations at a global level. The courts could do this through a global and permanent tribunal, which could be able to punish the individuals or states that would be found guilty of committing or supporting serious international crimes or genocide. This led to the convening of a diplomatic conference in Rome for five weeks (June 1998), with the conferences’ objective being to finalize and then adopt a convention upon the International Criminal Court esatablishment.The need for the global community to promote the rule of law and to ensure that any grave international crime does not go unpunished led to the establishment of the world court. The ICC came to be after the United Nations acknowledged the need to prosecute crimes, a good example being the genocide cases.
For many years before the establishment of the court, crimes such as genocide had resulted to so much suffering in people. In order to promote justice by punishing the perpetrators of the international crimes and to liberate mankind, there was need to have a tribunal to address the acts of violence. This conviction paved way for the establishment of the International Criminal Court under the Rome Statute. The establishment of the ICC was also encouraged by the desirability and the possibility of having an international judicial organ to try and charge the perpetrators of genocide (Lyal, p 380).One historical event that commanded international attention and encouraged the establishment of the International Criminal Court is the Yugoslavia conflict. During this conflict, there was widespread killing of people, torture in the concentration camps, ethnic cleansing and mass rape. The conflict had over 100,000 people killed, while another 1.8 million people displaced. This conflict attracted international concern, and this concern later triggered the establishment of the ICC so that the perpetrators of the crimes such as those witnessed during the conflict are punished. Some Serbian and Croatian high ranking political leaders such as Dario Kordic and Biljana Plastic were considered to be responsible for the war crimes. Another historical event against humanity that triggered the establishment of the International Criminal Court was the Rwanda Genocide. The Rwanda genocide that occurred in 1994 had hundreds of thousands of Rwanda Tutsis killed in mass by the Hutu militia. In one hundred days, an estimated 800,000 people were murdered. This event was horrifying and it triggered the United Nations to deliberate how such crimes could be prevented and punished. The memories of such events no doubt played a role in the United Nations conference in Rome which led to the establishment of the ICC.
The Effects of the International Criminal Court
One of the effects of having the International Criminal Court established is the promotion of the rule of law all over the world. The court has managed to promote law by signing in different states as members (Nicolaos,p 2).For instance, by October 2008 about 108 countries had been signed in as members of the court. These nations had to ratify as well as accede to the Rome Statute, which they have already done. These nations include; in Europe(Denmark, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece,Spain,Sweden,Albania,Serbia,Switzerland and United Kingdom).The African nations that are party states in the ICC include;Nigera,South Africa,Zambia,Ghana,Kenya,Congo,Sierra Leone,Lesotho,Malawi,and Botswana.In America,the state parties include, Brazil,Ecuador,Canada,Argentina, Mexico, and Venezuela. In Asia, we have Japan, South Korea, Cambodia, and Afghanistan. The state parties in Oceania are New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa, and Australia. All these party states have a great responsibility to promote law, prevent international crimes, and to punish the offenders.Therefore, the International Criminal Court promotes law in various nations all over the world through the party states.
Another effect of the ICC is that, it has opened an international avenue through which individuals that are found guilty of war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity are punished. According to the Rome Statute, the party states or nationals of the party states who commit international crimes can be punished .In addition, crimes committed within the territory of the state party can be prosecuted. Through the court, people who commit grave international crimes are punished. The courts’ seating in Hague has in the past tried and convicted war crime perpetrators and currently, the court has situations and cases relating to Darfur (Sudan) conflict where a case against Ahmad Muhammad Harun has been established. Another case is that against Joseph Kony, Dominic Ogwen, Okot Odhiambo, and Vincent Otti. A case against a Congo warlord, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo is ongoing. The warlord is being tried for perpetrating large-scale human rights violations (Simons, np). Through such cases, those who commit grave international crimes are punished.
The court has had positive effect on international cooperation. Since the court relies on its state member’s international cooperation, it promotes good relations between nations. The court carries out investigations and prosecutions by cooperating with the state members or the non-state members.Therefore, the court and various party states work together to arrest individuals wanted by the court, to relocate witnesses, to provide evidence to be used in proceedings, and to enforce the sentences given to convicted persons.Furthermore, the court can enter into arrangements with various states in order to a carry out its responsibilities. This builds good international relations between states that work together, making it easy for countries to end conflicts that could lead to international crimes. The International Criminal Court encourages national reconciliation processes and amnesties. By discouraging unlawful acts and punishing offenders, the community gets an opportunity to make peace and harmony. Amnesties play a major role in ensuring that nations that experience abusive regimes get a peaceful transfer of power. This makes it easy for a nation to end a conflict and get a transition to democracy. National reconciliation can be possible if the ICC participates when it comes to solving international crimes.
Implications of the International Criminal Court locally, regionally, and globally
On a local level, the International Criminal Court has assisted the citizens in different countries to live in peace and harmony. The court has done this by removing from the society perpetrators of international crimes by convicting them and therefore, societies that have earlier witnessed conflicts are able to live in peace when those who encourage conflicts no longer exist in the society. For example, some of the international crime suspects like the former Liberian President Charles Taylor are currently being tried in the court. Liberia as a nation hence can now have its citizens live in peace. Furthermore, the court at local level discourages the community members or citizens (especially the political leaders) from engaging in crimes. The court under the Rome Statute ensures that no individual or party state that commits grave international crimes goes unpunished (Roy, p 5).When those who have committed the crimes are punished, the other leaders avoid engaging in crimes. The people can therefore be guaranteed of their security at a local level. The court is very essential in promoting justice in the various human societies. Justice in a society can only be achieved if law and order is maintained, where the law protects people from exploitation and ensures that those who go against the law are punished. This is what the International Court of Justice does. Justice in turn encourages equality of all the society members despite their family or ethnic background differences. Reconciliation and peace in the society can occur through the implementation of the International Criminal Court interventions. Regionally, the Internal Criminal Court discourages neighboring nations from engaging in conflicts that are likely to violate human rights. For example, two party states are required by the court to prevent and assist in solving conflicts where crimes against humanity may be perpetrated. The state members have a responsibility to assist the court arrest, provide witnesses, and to assist the court to enforce the sentences given to the convicts. The state members work together to prevent international crimes from occurring and that those who support and take part in international crimes are punished. Nations are able to protect the citizens from crimes under the International Criminal Court laws and rules.
At a global level, the ICC promotes good international relations between nations, especially between the member states. The court usually cooperates with both the state parties and also non-state parties. While member states have an obligation to assist the courts in its duties, the non-party states cooperate with the courts voluntarily. In addition, it is the obligation of the nations that have not acceded to the Rome Statute to cooperate with the court in its work. The working together of the various nations encourages all nations all over the world to relate well, especially the party states.
Solutions to the Challenges faced by the International Criminal Court
The International Criminal Court faces some challenges which include lack of cooperation from some nations, failure of some nations to ratify the Rome Statute, and limitation of jurisdiction to exercise powers especially on the crimes of aggression. Furthermore, the court lacks the primary responsibility to punish and also investigate crimes. Sometimes the court may be compelled to compromise its duties, where amnesty may be necessary so as to serve the national interests of justice and peace. To overcome these challenges, the court will be required to adopt strategies that will encourage the non-party states to ratify the Rome Statute so that it’s able to work more effectively in arresting, investigating, and convicting the offenders. Another solution to the challenges is to give more power to the International Criminal Court to investigate and punish crimes of aggression.
The International Criminal Court has been very essential in preventing crimes William against the humanity, as well as punishing grave international crimes (William, p 25).These crimes have in the past inflicted great pain and suffering on the people.In addition, hundreds of thousands have been killed, and millions displaced during the conflicts that have led to the violation of human rights. The court has had positive effects on the societies locally, regionally, and globally.However, the court faces some challenges which need to be overcomed so that the court undertakes its responsibilities effectively.
Bruce, Broomhall. International Justice and the International Criminal Court: Between Sovereignty and the Rule of Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003
Lyal, Sunga. “The Crimes within the Jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court Part II, Articles 5-10)”, European Journal of Crime, Criminal Law and Criminal Justice vol. 6, no. 4, pp. 377-399( April 1998).
Nicolaos, Strapatsas. “Universal Jurisdiction and the International Criminal Court”, Manitoba Law Journal, 2002, vol. 29, p. 2.
Roy, Lee. The International Criminal Court: The Making of the Rome Statute. The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1999
Simons, Marlise.New York Times.Novemeber 10, 2006.Congo Warlord’s Case is First for International Criminal Court
Accessed on November 6, 2008
William, Schabas. An Introduction to the International Criminal Court (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press, 2004