July 17th, the World Day for International Justice, marks the 21st anniversary of the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has recently been faced with a number of challenges, including threats from the United States government, questions surrounding some decisions, and the ongoing issue of the disproportionate number of cases coming from situations in Africa.
In early July, however, the Court found Bosco Ntaganda guilty of 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in 2002-2003. The crimes Ntaganda was found guilty of include murder and attempted murder, rape, sexual slavery, persecution, forcible transfer and deportation, intentionally directing attacks against civilians, rape, sexual slavery, ordering the displacement of the civilian population, conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 years into an armed group.
As well, the Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda requested the Court’s Judges to authorize an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity, committed against the Rohingya people from Myanmar.
While both of these are positive steps for the Court, much is left to be done, especially in light of the upcoming search for a new Prosecutor. Prosecutor Bensouda’s term will end in 2021 and the search for a new Prosecutor will, ideally, build and expand on best practices around transparency.
In the context of these challenges and opportunities, Canada should demonstrate public support of the Court.
More specifically, Canada ought to ratify the Kampala amendments on the Crime of Aggression.
The Crime of Aggression
In 2017, the States Parties to the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court activated the Court’s jurisdiction over the crime of aggression. Currently, thirty-five states have ratified the amendments on the crime of aggression — but not Canada.
The ICC already had 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.”
What you can do
1) Educate yourself further about the International Criminal Court in general and the crime of aggression in particular.
Read the latest news and updates on the ICC on the WFMC website.
Details about current preliminary examinationsand situations under investigation are available on the ICC’s website. The ICC also provides links to introductory information on the Court that can be shared on social media.
2) On July 17th, join the conversation about international justice on social media using the hashtags #JusticeMatters, #MoreJustWorld, and #GlobalJustice