Happy 10th Birthday, ICC!
For those of us who are passionate about international justice, yesterday marked an extraordinary milestone. The International Criminal Court (ICC), the world's first permanent international court, celebrated its 10th anniversary. However, its roots go back much further than a mere decade.
The ICC traces its heritage in part back to the Nuremberg trials after World War Two, in which the U.S. played a leading role. Nazi war criminals were put on trial and brought to justice for horrific crimes against humanity committed during the war, and the international community vowed "never again" to allow such atrocities to happen on its watch. Tragically, this promise remained unfulfilled as the 20th century continued to witness genocides in places as diverse as Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and Sudan. The need for a permanent international body to bring war criminals to justice remained glaring.
In 1998, representatives from around the world met in Rome, Italy to firm up plans for such an international court. The result was the Rome Statute and the creation of the ICC. The Court officially came into being on July 1, 2002.
In its first decade of existence, the ICC has made real progress. Currently, it includes 121 member states, has seven situations under investigation, fourteen cases and six trials in progress. In March 2012, the Court marked the completion of its first trial with the conviction of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on all three charges stemming from the use of child soldiers in war.
That said, much remains to be done, and the Court's work is far from complete. Tyrants like President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan remain at large, despite the ICC arrest warrant issued for him several years ago. His case underscores the problem of enforcement the ICC faces as it cannot compel its member states to live up to their obligation to turn over indicted criminals to the Court. Furthermore, many of the world's most powerful countries-including Russia, China, and yes, the United States-are still not members of the Court. That said, the increased engagement by the U.S. with the ICC over the past few years as a "non-state party" has been encouraging, and will hopefully continue.
All in all, the ICC at the 10-year mark has things to be proud of and areas in which to improve-kind of like any fourth-grader receiving a report card. The Court, as with any institution designed by and made up of human beings, remains a work in progress. I look forward to seeing the ICC continue to bring criminals to justice and help maintain a more lawful, just world in the decade ahead.
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Deputy Director of Government Relations
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