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WFMC seminar focuses on Canada and the crime of aggression

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. photo: Robin Collins

Despite a large snowstorm, which affected travel in and out of Ottawa, WFMC hosted a successful seminar February 13 on the “Canadian consideration of the Kampala amendments to the Rome Statute on the crime of aggression.” Over 30 international legal experts, including officials from Canadian departments of Foreign Affairs, National Defence and Justice attended.

As of January 2017, the International Criminal Court is in a position to take a historic decision to “activate” the Court’s jurisdiction over the crime of aggression.

When the ICC treaty was negotiated in 1998, the crime of aggression was one of the four core crimes under the Court’s jurisdiction. However, in contrast to the other three crimes (genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes), the Court remained unable to exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression, as the Statute did not define the crime nor set out conditions that would allow the court to exercise jurisdiction. Subsequently, at an ICC treaty review conference in 2010 in Kampala Uganda, state parties did agree a definition for the crime of aggression, as well as the process and conditions for activating the Court’s jurisdiction. They decided that the Court’s jurisdiction would (a) require ratification by 30 states parties, and (b) be subject to a decision to be taken some time after 1 January 2017 by a two-thirds majority of state parties – likely at this December’s meeting of ICC States Parties.

32 states have now ratified the Kampala Amendments. 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.”

Canada has not indicated whether it will support the Kampala amendments covering the crime of aggression, nor determined how it will address the political decision that ICC parties must take later this year. The February 13 meeting allowed for a wide-ranging “chatham house rule” discussion of the (numerous) legal nuances, including opposition from the U.S. and other permanent members of the UN Security Council. Other co-sponsors of the meeting included the University of Ottawa Centre for International Policy Studies, Planethood Foundation, and a new network of academics and CSOs, the Canadian Partnership for International Justice.

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