Friday, September 30, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

Ar argument for US ratification: "An End to Impunity"

SEPTEMBER 16, 2011

The International Criminal Court was created to provide a way to hold those who commit war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide accountable. It was designed to put an end to the impunity with which leaders had previously been able to commit such crimes. More than 115 countries are party to the Rome Statute that established the I.C.C. Shamefully, the United States is not.
The arguments against ratifying the Rome Statute  are based on the concern that, should we become a state party, our citizens (our soldiers) could be subject to prosecution for war crimes. This scares war criminals like Donald Rumsfeld. But it should not scare the rest of us. Though becoming part of the I.C.C. surrenders a small amount of national sovereignty, the only reason one need fear accountability for crimes like genocide is unconscionable. Something more serious is awry if we resist membership in the I.C.C. because we are committing the very crimes the court was created to deter.
Concerns about a politically motivated prosecution of the United States are unjustified. The I.C.C. has shown restraint and objectivity in their investigations of conduct in Iraq. It is not perfect by any means, but it is a work in progress. Investigations launched by the prosecutor on his own initiative must be approved by other justices, and even if those members of the court had some nefarious objective, the Security Council could indefinitely delay I.C.C. prosecutions. Any fear that Americans would be brought against our will before the I.C.C. is overblown. War, by itself, is not a punishable crime under the Rome Statute.
The I.C.C. prosecutes only those who commit crimes of a sufficient gravity, and only when the domestic judicial system is unable or unwilling to prosecute such criminals. We are talking about the Joseph Konys, the Omar al Bashirs, the Qaddafis of the world. Shouldn’t we, as decent Cornellians who respect human dignity, want such heinous criminals brought to justice regardless of their nationality? In multiple cases, the I.C.C. has intervened to stop leaders from killing their own citizens. This is a protection we should want extended to all people.
At present, the I.C.C. walks a fine line on its road to relevance and efficacy. Launch prosecutions with no chance of success, and the court risks becoming impotent. Focus on only easy cases, and the court risks losing legitimacy. The United States could help expedite the court’s movement towards greater legitimacy. As the global superpower, putting ourselves within the jurisdiction of the I.C.C. expresses the court’s legitimacy to countries who have not yet joined the court and countries who are currently members but sometimes ignore their obligations to the court.
The promise of the I.C.C. — the promise of international law — is that another Rwanda will one day become unthinkable. Joining the I.C.C. could make a real difference in deterring those who might commit these types of crimes. The creation of the I.C.C. represents a shift from “justice” being written by the victor of a war, and instead toward a more predictable, equitable system of justice based on enduring principles of human dignity. The United States has spent the first decade of the court’s existence opposing almost everything the court has done. Instead of standing in the way, the United States could help move this noble endeavor forward.
As Cornellians, many of us will likely be in positions of leadership sooner than we think. For the sake of us all, let us hope we are better than those who are afraid of prosecution for crimes against humanity. For the sake of those less privileged than us, for whom our worst nightmares are their daily realities, let us stand in support of a court that deters such crimes and holds the perpetrators accountable.
The court aligns with our core values. Ending Joseph Kony’s reign of terror in Uganda, stopping the Janjaweed militias in Darfur, seeing Qaddafi face trial for killing his fellow Libyans — these are all things we believe in.
President Obama often frames debates in terms of “which side of history” we wish to be on. Do we, as Americans, want to be on the historical side of impunity when it comes to those who commit crimes against humanity? Or do we want to be on the side of bringing those who commit these horrible crimes to justice?
Soon enough, it will be our turn to help lead our country forward. I propose we lead our country in the direction of human dignity by becoming members of the International Criminal Court.
Nicholas Kaasik is a first-year law student at Cornell. He may be reached at Legal appears alternate Fridays this semester.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

ICC in the Media, Update #44

This week the media has focused on a variety of ICC cases, investigations and potential situations. In the Kenya situation, the confirmation of charges hearings are still in full-swing. The first set of suspects are wrapping up their hearings while the second set are preparing for the commencement of theirs. Suspect Deputy Prime Minster Uhuru Kenyatta has decided to take the stand as a witness in his upcoming hearing. The hearing begins on September 21 and Kenyatta will take the stand starting on September 28. Reportedly, this week internet hackers accessed confidential information from Kenya witnesses' email accounts, including their identities. This comes two months after burglars stole computers containing sensitive information relating to the case from Kenya government offices. The incidents have been reported, and the witnesses who have been compromised are being monitored. In other news, the confirmation of charges hearing for Callixte Mbarushimana is set to begin tomorrow at The Hague. He has been charged with five counts of crimes against humanity and six counts of war crimes allegedly committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2009. In the Libya case, Interpol has issued a red notice (their highest alert) for Muammar Gaddafi, his son and his spy chief. Reportedly Interpol is working with the ICC and Libya's National Transitional Council to help apprehend the suspects as soon as possible. In other news, human rights lawyers and several victims of sexual abuse filed a complaint at the ICC last week against the Pope for reported crimes against humanity. The ICC's Office of the Prosecutor made a statement that it will examine the documents to determine whether the alleged crimes fall within the Court's jurisdiction. Photo credit: Al Jazeera.

Monday, September 05, 2011

ICC in the Media, Update #43

This week the media has primarily focused on the start of three Kenya violence suspects' confirmation of charges hearings. Last week the ICC Appeals Chamber responded to the suspects' appeal challenging the admissability of the cases at the ICC. The judges dismissed the appeal and determined that the ICC's jurisdiction is proper given the lack of domestic efforts to pursue the suspects. With the appeal dismissed, the confirmation of charges hearings for suspects Sang, Kosgey and Ruto began on September 1. The hearings for the second set of suspects will follow soon after. Several local civil rights organizations are urging the ICC to deliver its rulings on whether to proceed with each of the six suspects simultaneously to minimize the possibility of violence breaking out due to longstanding political and ethnic tensions on both sides of the conflict. Reportedly many of the Kenyans who remain internally displaced by the 2008 post-election violence are looking to the trials in hopes that justice will be done. Other victims of the violence are reportedly watching the hearings with anticipation hoping that they will finally be able to see those who orchestrated it be held responsible. Suspect Kosgey has now completed his submission in the confirmation of charges hearings and, unlike the other suspects, he declined to present any witnesses. His strategy reportedly consisted primarily of distancing himself with any group that organized the violence and poking holes in the prosecution's evidence against him. The defenses of suspects Ruto and Sang have included accusing the ICC Prosecutor of ignoring evidence against Kenya's Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, for political reasons. The Prosecutor has previously made statements that he has no evidence against Kenya's PM or President. However, a Nairobi lawyer has criticized the defense saying that the suspects should concentrate on denying the existence of a criminal conspiracy, not point out that Ocampo overlooked a participant in it. Reportedly the ICC judges have become concerned with witness coaching having heard witness testimonies from the defense over the past several days.
In other news, last week the Philippines officially became a state party to the International Criminal Court. It is the 117th state to become party to the Rome Statute, having been passed by the Senate with 17 affirmative and only 1 negative vote. Photo credit: IPS.