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Meeting Summary: Ottawa seminar focuses on Canada and the crime of aggression

Photo from discussion of the Kampala amendemnets to the Rome Statute

David Donat Cattin (left), of Parliamentarians for Global Action, and Christian Wenaweser, Permanent Representative of the Principality of Liechtenstein to the United Nations, discuss activating the Kampala amendments to the Rome Statute.

On February 13 a one-day meeting in Ottawa was held to discuss “Canadian consideration of the Kampala amendments to the Rome Statute on the crime of aggression.”

Later this year, States Parties to the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court will take a decision on the modalities for “activating” the Court’s jurisdiction over the crime of aggression.

The ICC presently has authority to prosecute individuals accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. A fourth category of crimes, the crime of aggression was included in the ICC’s Rome Statute when it was negotiated in 1998. But aggression was left undefined, with the understanding that provisions on a definition and on the court’s exercise of jurisdiction would need to be adopted later, by a treaty Review Conference. The 2010 Review Conference in Kampala, Uganda, adopted by consensus a definition of the crime of aggression and provisions on the conditions for the ICC’s exercise of jurisdiction. They decided that the Court’s jurisdiction would (a) require ratification by 30 states parties, and (b) be subject to a decision to “activate” the Court’s jurisdiction, to be taken some time after 1 January 2017 by a two-thirds majority of state parties.

Aggression refers to the illegal use of force between States. The 2010 agreement means that the Court’s jurisdiction will apply to “a person in a position effectively to exercise control over or to direct the political or military action of a State.” The Court must be able to prove that the perpetrator was involved in the “planning, preparation, initiation or execution of the State act of aggression.”

32 States have now ratified the Kampala amendments. Canada has not taken a decision on whether to ratify the amendments or support activation of the Court’s jurisdiction, which may take place as soon as this December’s meeting of ICC States Parties.

The February 13 meeting in Ottawa brought together international experts, Canadian academics, civil society representatives and officials from the ministries of Global Affairs, National Defence and Justice. Discussions took place under the “Chatham House rule.” Topics discussed include:

  • A review of the details of the decisions taken in Kampala in 2010;
  • Consideration of legal options for incorporating the Kampala amendments within Canadian law;
  • A review of concerns that have been expressed by U.S. governments regarding the ICC’s implementation of the Kampala amendments;
  • How the court and states parties might manage their new additional responsibilities;
  • Possible ways forward for a decision activating the Kampala amendments at the ICC Assembly of States Parties;

Meeting sponsors included: the Centre for International Policy Studies at the University of Ottawa; a new network of academics and CSOs, the Canadian Partnership for International Justice; Planethood Foundation; the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada; and the World Federalist Movement – Canada (organizing sponsor).

For further information, please contact WFMC Executive Director, Fergus Watt.

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