The future of the International Criminal Court

The Zambian Economist at the Crossroads of Global Business

Tortoise and Hare

I have written a few times here about the need to pay closer attention to the words and the actions of politicians. As a matter of urgency I would like to return to the subject of the current political battle over the future of the International Criminal Court. The case of Sudan is a good example of the real threat to the rule of law posed by the failure of states to follow their obligations to uphold international law and norms. A few weeks ago, it was revealed by the ICJ that there is a dispute over whether or not the Court is currently functioning properly. The ICC judges have ruled that the Court is unable, in fact, to proceed for a number of reasons.

The ICC is meant to hold criminals who have committed crimes against humanity under the laws of war. Those wars were not in which the United States has been involved. The decision in Sudan raised a few things about the competence of the Court. In July, the Council of Europe passed a resolution on the matter of Sudan, and a few days later, it was revealed that the dispute was in direct violation of the ICC charter. This is the issue I wish to discuss today.

The International Criminal Court was established under Article 7 of the Rome Treaty on the International Criminal Court in 1998. One of the stated purposes of the Court was “to enable those for whom justice cannot be obtained in an ordinary court to have it in a public international tribunal.” As a matter of fact, the Court was not designed to deal with matters such as human rights violations or the like. That is a matter over which ordinary courts are competent to deal with. The real question is whether or not the Court may function as it was intended to carry out its mandate.

The ICC operates on the principle of complementarity, whereby it is meant to assist national courts and not substitute for them. The Court is structured in such a way that its “jurisdictional

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