Work Continues on International Criminal Court

Article excerpt

A further step towards the creation of a new global judicial body - an International Criminal Court - was taken on 25 August, as the General Assembly was asked to work towards the early completion of a draft convention for the Court's establishment.

The Court - a non-standing permanent institution to be set up by treaty - is to provide a complementary international criminal justice mechanism to enhance the effective prosecution and suppression of crimes of international concern by national criminal justice systems.

It would have jurisdiction over four crimes under general international law - genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and aggression - and over exceptionally serious crimes of international concern, such as apartheid, systematic or massive violations of human rights, torture, hostage taking, hijacking and illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs.

During its two-part session (3-13 April and 14-25 August, New York), the Ad Hoc Committee on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court also recommended that the draft convention be considered by a conference of plenipotentiaries.

Chairman Adriaan Bos of the Netherlands said that during deliberations a "substantial workload" had been handled, including such topics as the Court's composition, jurisdiction, applicable laws and methods of proceedings, as well as the relationship between the new institution and States parties.

Set up by General Assembly resolution 49/53 of 9 December 1994, the Ad Hoc Committee reviews issues arising from a 60-article draft statute for the Court, adopted by the International Law Commission (ILC) in 1994.

Many delegates wanted a clearer definition of the principle of complementarity of the International Court to national criminal jurisdiction in cases where, according to the draft statute, "trial procedures may not be available or may be ineffective".

Some said that competent national courts should have priority over the International Court, while others urged that the primacy of national jurisdictions should not be invoked to shield criminals.

There was widespread agreement that the statute should precisely define, rather than simply enumerate, crimes to be dealt with by the Court. Incorporation of definitions from the Nuremberg Tribunal Charter and the statutes of the International Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda was suggested. …