International Criminal Court
The International Criminal Court is the international court which attempts to bring to justice any individual who has committed or instructed anybody to carry out acts of one of the four international crimes. These are:
- War crimes
- Crimes against humanity
- Crimes of aggression
The Court was formally opened and began commencing proceedings against people guilty of war crimes in 2002; this means that is has no jurisdiction to bring claims against any crimes committed before this date.
Difficulties faced by international groups
The International Criminal Court suffers from the problems that all international groups and state associations suffer from and they are: Where does it get its legitimacy from? What legal rules should it apply and how can they compel people to submit to its jurisdiction?
Clearly if you commit a crime in England and are brought to justice under English law, there will be no questions in regard to what right the police have to arrest you, which jurisdiction the crime falls under, or how the State will compel you to serve your punishment; these are all things taken for granted as part of the rule of law over a particular state, or your ‘social contract’ with those that govern the people.
An international court system does not have this clear link with the people and so there is some debate as to what laws should be used, and how to compel the individual accused to attend the court.
Rules of the International Criminal Court
In an attempt to remove these problems those countries that have signed up to the International Criminal Court have a set of rules to which they agree, and which they believe are fair and just. These are the rules upon which the court operates and upon which it prosecutes individuals for their war crimes.
Each of the nations which have signed up has also agreed to hand over any individual summoned to the International Criminal Court to its jurisdiction so that the accused cannot simply hide in that country.
Therefore, the International Criminal Court is only as strong as its membership, since if all countries agree to the rules the court will have a wide scope to prosecute against those accused of war crimes.
It was of great significance that, under George Bush, the US refused to become a member of the International Criminal Court. One of the reasons given by President Bush for his decision to oppose membership was that he feared that many US generals could, in theory, be tried for war crimes that they may have committed. It was felt that this stance, along with the idea that the US was somehow giving away power by submitting to the international court’s jurisdiction, was one of the main reasons the US did not sign up.
The International Criminal Court’s remit
It is because of difficulties such as countries not wanting to lose power and debate over what rules should apply that the International
Criminal Court has a very small and yet clear remit: that of bringing to justice those guilty of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression.
Despite a tricky start, the court has been successful in bringing certain people to justice and it is a very good way of at least giving the appearance that justice is being done, rather than trying the individual in another country.
Although, clearly, there are still problems with the International Criminal Court there can be little doubt that on the whole it is proving to be a successful tool.
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