The International Criminal Court (ICC) is a permanent international institution that was created by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in July of 1998. The ICC investigates genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression in its 122 member states.

The ICC also has jurisdiction to investigate crimes that occur within non-member states if a national of a state party commits the crime or the United Nations Security Council authorizes the investigation. To date, there have only been eight investigations, all of which occurred in Africa. Of these inquiries, four crimes were referred by the states themselves and two were presented by the UN Security Council.

The lack of geographical diversity in the ICC’s investigations has upset African political leaders. This group of leaders, represented by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, have accused the International Criminal Court of selective enforcement, discrimination against Africans and Western imperialism. The International Criminal Court has denied all of the allegations.

President Kenyatta, who was charged by the ICC prior to his election, led Kenya’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute of the ICC, and is encouraging 34 other African states to renounce their membership as well. Ethiopian Prime Minister and African Union Chairman, Hailemariam Desalegn, stated at the UN General Assembly “the manner in which the ICC has been operating has left a very bad impression in Africa. It is totally unacceptable.”

This issue is to be discussed on October 13, 2013 at an African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. If all 54 states decide to withdraw from the ICC, the Rome Statute will not have any power within Africa and international criminal laws will not be enforced.

– Lienna Feleke-Eshete

Sources: ICC, BBC
Photo: Human Rights Watch

For hundreds of years, humans have been developing the modern-day laws of war to determine what is legal in the context of armed conflict. For the most part, such laws have been set to govern international armed conflict, such as the Geneva Conventions. Nonetheless, the Internet, traditional media sources, and social media connect us to daily atrocities, carried out under the guise of war that continue to violate international humanitarian law and prey on the extreme poor. As a result of violations that inhibit domestic and international aid, millions of people face hunger and disease in association with extreme poverty that goes unaddressed by international courts.

In 1945, when WWII was won by the Allied Forces, with 6 million dead in concentration camps, the responsible Nazi officers were tried for war crimes. All of the Allied nations, though not initially supporting the format of the trials themselves, backed the justice meted out by the Allied courts as a response. Some of the officers faced death, while others were sentenced to prison.

Today, the international body charged with bringing justice to war-torn nations, the International Criminal Court, fails to be recognized by the United States and many other influential countries that affect the global-political environment of the United Nations. Without having all countries as signatories, the ICC struggles to address atrocities being committed in some of the world’s poorest and most disenfranchised communities.

Because the ICC depends on participation from countries hosting alleged criminals to assert jurisdiction over the criminals within that host country’s borders, a lack of participation effectively cripples the ability of the Court to perform its duties in upholding international humanitarian law. In some cases, domestic courts are left to deliver justice, which, in the context of Syria, becomes all but impossible, seeing as the target of charges is the country’s president.

Because the poorest communities are often targeted by the perpetrators of war crimes, such as leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army Jospeh Kony, it may be all the more necessary that international courts acquire jurisdiction over these otherwise ungoverned warlords. The most impoverished are often the first casualties of war and feel the effects of a diminished food supply, lacking sanitation, and inadequate first aid facilities. Refugees of war in Africa and Asia are particularly vulnerable in the face of natural disasters and the long-term effects of climate change.

– Herman Watson

Source: USHMM, International Criminal Court, WarChild UK
Photo: Save the Children

Kenyan Elections Delayed, Recount Requested
The party of Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has called for a cessation of vote counting, accusing the results of being “doctored.” Campaign officials are requesting a fresh count, with oversight on all parts of the tallying process. The final results were supposed to be transmitted electronically, but a server malfunction resulted in a complete failure of the digital voting system. As the results are now being tabulated by hand, citizens nervously await an official result in the Kenyan elections.

In Kenya’s first elections since 2007, Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s first president, is the front-runner, despite being accused of war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC asserts that in the violent aftermath of the 2007 election, Kenyatta helped to organize attacks against members of different ethnic groups. If elected, his position as Head of State would make the ICC’s case all the more difficult to see through.

Though many politicians are calling for peace, there is no guarantee that peace will last. Violence has flared in recent months, although the overall level of fighting is far below where it has reached in the past. Further reforms, like the new constitution and election procedures instituted after the 2007 violence, are necessary to ensure that all Kenyans can vote freely and peacefully for whomever they feel best represents their interests in the Kenyan elections.

Jake Simon

Source: New York Times