The International Criminal Court: Challenges to Achieving Justice and Accountability in the 21st Century

The International Criminal Court: Challenges to Achieving Justice and Accountability in the 21st Century

The International Criminal Court: Challenges to Achieving Justice and Accountability in the 21st Century

The International Criminal Court: Challenges to Achieving Justice and Accountability in the 21st Century

Synopsis

"The International Criminal Court: Challenges to Achieving Justice and Accountability in the 21st Century brings together a wide variety of resources on the history, structure, and mandate of the ICC. It presents a general overview of the court and offers a series of articles on issues that pose a particular challenge to the international tribunal, including gender based crimes, the struggle to define aggression, and the need for the ICC to rely on governments to execute its rulings."

Excerpt

Until the end of World War II, international law was concerned solely with relations between sovereign states. The manner in which governments treated or mistreated their own citizens or citizens of other states was not the concern of international law. Indeed, no court had the jurisdiction necessary to consider such complaints. This changed as a direct consequence of the Holocaust, the Nuremberg trials, and the establishment of the United Nations.

First, the crimes committed by the Nazi regime shocked the world. Nations and their leaders recognized that when human rights violations reach such levels of horror, it becomes the business of the world community to intervene on behalf of the victims. In such cases, there arises a “duty to protect.”

Second, the victorious nations decided, after much debate, to prosecute Nazi leaders. The Nuremberg trials led to the recognition of a new category of crime: “crimes against humanity.” For the first time, certain crimes were considered so egregious that a failure to investigate and prosecute would itself be a moral and legal affront. It thus became the business of all nations to seek justice for grave “international crimes.”

Third, while the duty to protect is clear, the manner by which to fulfill that duty, including the appropriate use of military force, can be less clear. The United Nations was founded with the intention to outlaw the use or threat of military power unless in self-defense or with the explicit authority of the Security Council.

The Geneva Conventions of 1949 were the first international agreements ever to be ratified by every member of the United Nations. The agreements recognized a new kind of war crime, called “grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions,” and, for such crimes, conferred universal jurisdiction on domestic courts. To properly prosecute the most serious violations, domestic courts of State Parties (i.e., those states that have signed the Rome Statute) were invested with authority and jurisdiction to prosecute any person or persons suspected of committing a grave breach, no matter where the crime was committed and whether or not nationals of such courts are victims or perpetrators. The Conventions oblige any government that is unable or unwilling to prosecute grave breaches to surrender the suspect or suspects to a government that is willing and able to try the case in its stead.

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