The International Criminal Court and the Human Rights Revolution

McGill Law Journal, November 2000 | Go to article overview

The International Criminal Court and the Human Rights Revolution


The speaker gives the NGO and civil society perspective on the International Criminal Court. While a strong, effective court is essential, the International Coalition of NGOs present during the negotiations at Rome maintained that a weak court would be worse than no court at all. Thus, the importance of independence is underlined; the speaker rejects the proposition that an International Criminal Court should answer to file Security Council or any other state party. Although the stature eventually agreed on at Rome does not contain all the provisions proposed by the International Coalition, the speaker welcomes it as a tremendous step forward in the struggle for international human rights. The major objections to the Court, however, particularly those of the U.S. government, would render the Court impotent and make it subject to the will of the major powers of the Security Council. In particular, the speaker emphasizes that the U.S. does not want an International Criminal Court that would apply to it. Yet the notion of state sovereignty has evolved, and the position of the U.S. must evolve along with it to forward the goal of the International Criminal Court, that is, to subject arbitrary political and military power to the rule of law within global society.

L'auteur fait etat du point de vue des ONG et de la societe civile au sujet de la Cour penale internationale. Si, d'une part, une Cour forte et efficace est essentielle, la coalition des ONG a fait remarquer, lors de la Conference de Rome, qu'une Cour trop faible pourrait etre pire que l'absence pure et simple de cette institution. Ceci est particulierement vrai en ce qui concerne la question de l'independance ; ainsi, la proposition selon laquelle la Cour devrait repondre de ses actions devant le Conseil de securite ou tout Etat partie doit etre rejetee. Bien que le texte adopte a Rome ne soit pas entierement conforme aux recommandations de la coalition, il constitue tout de meme un pas en avant tres important pour la lutte internationale pour les droits de l'homme. Les objections majeures a la Cour, telles celles du gouvernement americain, rendraient celle-ci impuissante en rassujettissant a la volonte des grandes puissances qui forment le Conseil de securite. Meme si les Etats-Unis ne veulent pas de Cour penale intemationale qui s'appliquerait a eux, il leur faut realiser que l'evolution de la notion de souverainete nationale doit les mener a une evolution similaire leur permettant de contribuer a mener a bien les objectifs poursuivis, a savoir la sujetion du pouvoir politique et militaire arbitraire aux regles de l'Etat de droit au niveau international.

Chair, ladies and gentlemen. Since Mr. Scheffer and Mr. Kirsch are both government representatives, I will try to give the NGO and civil society point of view on this important subject. Messrs. Scheffer and Kirsch are diplomats--I am not.

Rights & Democracy [International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development], which I represent, has been involved in the campaign against impunity for several years. This is part of out mandate to defend and promote those rights set out in the International Bill of Human Rights, (1) including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (2) and the two covenants. (3) We have carried on this campaign under our justice program and have actively promoted the special tribunals and the International Criminal Court ["ICC"; "Court"]. We could never accept that those in high places could torture and murder and then protect themselves from justice.

In carrying out this work, the ICHRDD is part of the Canadian Coalition for an International Criminal Court--and is on the steering committee for the International Coalition for an International Criminal Court (known as the CICC). The International Coalition is made up of approximately seven hundred national, regional, and international NGOs and social groups from all continents, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, No Peace without Justice, Parliamentarians for Global Action, World Association of World Federalists, the Federation international des droits de l'homme, the International Commission of Jurists, and others. …

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