Sunday, July 8, 2007

International justice requires an international court: Commemorating the 5th anniversary of the Rome Statute

On July 1, 2007 the United Nations along with international NGOs and others from around the world, celebrated the 5th anniversary of the Rome Statute. 5 years ago, the representatives of 120 nation/states came together in Rome,and decided that "lasting peace requires justice." In that spirit, and in pursuit of that result, they established the International Criminal Court, or ICC.

The International Criminal Court is a permanent court with jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The Rome Statute according to ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, " created a comprehensive and global criminal justice system." The Rome Statute incorporates and codifies the Genocide Convention, and the Geneva Conventions. It also "integrates different legal and procedural traditions into a new international model, where victims are given the right to participate in proceedings." The Rome Statute also created a trust fund for reparations, and compensation to be paid in favor of victims.

The ICC, or International Criminal Court is granted subject matter, and territorial jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes by the Rome Statute. Since the UN Security Council can refer any situation to the court, it is possible that the court's jurisdiction can extend to the entire world.

For those of us who understand the very real relationship between justice and peace, the International Criminal Court and the Rome Statute represent the world's only hope for a system of international justice that is blind to government and corporate power, and politics, yet is able to see perfectly the need for an equalizer of men, who are prone by an imperfect nature, to the sometimes violent and lawless excesses that result from vengeance, brute strength, and greed.

There is no more poignant example of this than the so-called "war against terrorism" that has shaped up to be little more than a politicized assault on Muslims, Arabs and Islam, and for oil, carried out by religious fanatics mostly in the US, who have masked their hatred with self righteousness and vengeance against an entire religion and culture, because of the act of a few socio-paths who lacked both religion and culture. Pre-emptive wars, Guantanamo Bay, renditions, torture, Abu Ghraib, Haditha, economic sanctions that killed millions of innocent children, the elderly, sick and disabled in an attempt to coerce political outcomes, are all examples of such excesses, perpetrated by governments and their militaries against civilian populations.

We can only imagine how differently things would be if instead of vigilante justice carried out at the behest of a few ideologues, driven by racism and religious bigotry, the 9/11 tragedy had been investigated by an international court, and its perpetrators found, captured and convicted through an international criminal process, and punished with the consent and consensus of an entire world, united in its intolerance for terrorism, and sympathetic, rather than suspicious of its victims.

Imagine if Saddam Hussein had been captured and taken to the Hague for trial, and his life or death determined by an international court. Rather than being a source of further hostility, justice might have united the world, and served as a step towards reconciliation rather than further polarization.

The war on terror is not the only example of an action that might have been better prosecuted by an international criminal court, than resolved through pre-emptive, and perpetual wars of aggression, which are themselves international crimes. There are many other examples of on going conflicts that will only be truly resolved once the issues related to rights and law are also resolved. Such issues cannot be resolved by wars, or negotiations.

The 5th anniversary of the Rome Statute, seems an appropriate time for us to consider the future of a world that is ever more connected, and where the actions of a few, whether governments, groups or individuals can affect a great number of people. Political expediency and vengeance cannot be our only considerations and preoccupations. We must again look at justice as a cause, and also a deterrent. We must reach that understanding shared by 120 nations in Rome, when they declared that "lasting peace requires justice." I add, that international crimes require an international court, and law. Never again should one nation be allowed to prosecute an international war of vengeance against a single race, religion and culture with impunity. The International Criminal Court is an independent court that is not dependent upon governments or the UN Security Council to trigger action. It is worthy of our support, and respect, and should be ratified by every nation/state in the world.