A Permanent International Criminal Court. (Includes Related Articles on Need For/earlier Attempts to Create an International Criminal Court, How Such a Court Would Complement National Jurisdictions and Crimes against Humanity)

By Berg, Karen | UN Chronicle, Winter 1997 | Go to article overview

A Permanent International Criminal Court. (Includes Related Articles on Need For/earlier Attempts to Create an International Criminal Court, How Such a Court Would Complement National Jurisdictions and Crimes against Humanity)


Berg, Karen, UN Chronicle


There is a chance that the idea of an International Criminal Court (ICC) will soon become reality once negotiations to constitute it are concluded at a diplomatic conference scheduled in Rome in the summer of 1998.

In the period between the two world wars, there were several attempts to set up an international tribunal to try the German Emperor and other people responsible for assassination and genocide, including terrorism. But with no State ratifying a treaty. for an international criminal court, the momentum for the initiative slackened.

After the Second World War, the establishment of the Nuremberg and Tokyo international military tribunals to try the leaders of the Nazi and Japanese regimes revived the debate. In the 1948 Genocide Convention, the United Nations General Assembly mentioned for the first time the need to study the creation of an international criminal court for one specific crime - genocide. In the 1950s, the International Law Commission (ILC) was mandated to codify the Nuremberg principles and to prepare a draft statute to create an international criminal court with a jurisdiction comparable to that of the Nuremberg Tribunal. And at the end of the cold war, Trinidad and Tobago proposed to the United Nations an international criminal court to try drug traffickers.

In 1992, the General Assembly instructed the ILC to direct its attention to the creation of a permanent international criminal court. The creation of two ad hoc international tribunals by the Security Council - for crimes in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, respectively - spurred the Commission and in 1994 it produced a Draft Statute, which was referred to the General Assembly for consideration. A Preparatory Committee was established to discuss issues related to this and to "draft texts, with a view to preparing a widely acceptable consolidated text of a convention for an international criminal court as a next step towards consideration by a conference of plenipotentiaries". The Preparatory Committee will have had six meetings in preparation for the Rome conference.

Because the General Assembly has taken the initiative to establish an international criminal court, it is possible for all the Member States and States or organizations with an observer status to participate in the considerations about the Court. But not all the preparations take place during the General Assembly session. Meetings of the Ad Hoc and the Preparatory Committees were and will be held at other times. Delegations of developing countries are therefore not always able to attend the discussions. They simply do not have the resources to send their representatives around the world for every meeting. This means that they may have less influence on the establishment of this important international judicial institution, although it will affect them as much as it will affect the developed countries.

To overcome this problem, the Secretary-General has established a trust fund for the participation of the least developed countries in the work of the Preparatory Committee and in the diplomatic conference of plenipotentiaries. Contributions to the fund have been made by Belgium, Canada, Denmark Finland, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. As of 14 August 1997, $300,000 has been received by the fund, and 12 States have used it to participate in the last session of the Preparatory Committee.

As one can imagine, not only Member States have interest in the establishment of the ICC. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) advocate the creation of the Court as well. A wide range of NGOs will see their subject of interest affected by the establishment of the Court. The International Committee of the Red Cross is one of the first that comes to mind, with its representative on the Sixth and Preparatory Committees. But NGOs with interests in human rights, international law, peace, humanitarian affairs, religion, women's rights, health and other subjects are also in favour of the Court. …

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A Permanent International Criminal Court. (Includes Related Articles on Need For/earlier Attempts to Create an International Criminal Court, How Such a Court Would Complement National Jurisdictions and Crimes against Humanity)
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