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Courtside at Kampala: The Road from Kampala and Beyond (Week 1, Blog 5)

By: Ariela Blätter

I captured highlights of the remarks in the afternoon, when Ban and Annan spoke at the event "The Road from Kampala and Beyond: looking back at the historic Rome Conference and forward to the future of international justice and the Rome Statute system."

VIDEO coming soon!

Courtside at Kampala: The Ban and Annan show live on stage (Week 1, Blog 4)

By: Ariela Blätter

When Ban spoke at the opening plenary on Monday, he started by explaining that this was the first time that he and the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, had ever shared the same stage. Its' hard to believe that it took this long, but the lapse did not show any division in their support of the Court, as their messages were very much in sync in their praise of the Court.  Ban thanked his predecessor for setting up the court that few had believed in 1998 would spring into life, much less be fully operational today.  In terms of the ICC, he stated that the world order of impunity is over, and that we were clearly, slowly but surely, experiencing freedom from impunity. The reference to ‘slowly’ was likely in response to the criticism that during its 8 years in operation the ICC has not yet produced a completed trial.  Both men also proactively responded to public concerns by certain African countries that the ICC has focused almost exclusively on the continent for investigations. Finally, Ban warmly welcomed the US delegation and signaled appreciation of the engagement of President Obama and his administration- who returned after an 8 year absence to the proceedings this past November in The Hague. In a positive turn of events, Ban was able to use his remarks to announce that there are now 111 members of the Rome Statute, with the very recent accession of Bangladesh.

Courtside at Kampala: Officials Officiate and Pontificate (Week 1, Blog 3)

By: Ariela Blätter

Another first was on Monday when Chairman Wenaweser, current UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan kicked off the opening plenary. The Chairman reminded the delegates, that although state parties were here to 'amend' the Rome Statute, it was in fact a solid treaty that already guides the Court and does not need significant change.  This likely referred to his views on two main focuses of the Conference, the first being taking stock of the Court’s progress and the crime of aggression. The process of stocktaking essentially comprises a conversation among delegates and civil society about the Court and international justice, while the crime of aggression, which is technically contained in the Statute, needs text added to become operational.  In conclusion of his remarks, he made a pitch for states to pledge their commitment to giving money, time and/or resources to the ICC.

Courtside at Kampala: Strange Soccer Fellows (Week 1, Blog 2)

By: Ariela Blätter

The prelude to the conference was on Sunday, with a soccer game [European 'football'] between teams 'dignity' and 'justice.' Survivors and family members of victims brought from Northern Uganda, who watched the game from the sidelines of the Nelson Mandela Stadium, were treated to a very unusual sight. Dressed from head to toe in different color but matching shorts and Jerseys, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and Ugandan President Museveni arrived and took their place on opposing teams. Having heard that Ban Ki moon was very fit before I left DC by those in the 'know', I watched him zip around the field like a dapper dancer. I can't say the same about President Museveni, who looks like he has enjoyed quite a few state dinners in his time. During the 10 minutes both men were out on the field, the Ugandan leader fell over twice, and clumsily missed two goals that were obviously set up for him by members of his team.  Members of the United States delegation were invited to play but declined to do so. I imagine they realized that this was the safest option- not to play- given the impolitic possibility of either tackling the UNSG, a survivor from the northern violence, or the Ugandan President on the field. This was a photo-op they felt they could do without.

Courtside at Kampala: Part 1: A Week in Review (Week 1, Blog 1)

By: Ariela Blätter

The first week was a whirlwind in Kampala at the 2010 Review Conference for the International Criminal Court (ICC). Descending on the Ugandan capital last week was a crowd estimated at 2000 or so members of State Parties to the Rome Statute, non-state parties and members of civil society. Delegates from all over the world have come to discuss the revision of the Rome Statute. The choice to host the event in Uganda has borne fruit in a large representation of African delegates and NGO representatives.  Technically, at issue at the Review Conference is the process of amending Article 124, a transitional provision which allows states to basically 'opt out' of war crimes for period of seven years after ratification. Other business that is heavily occupying the proceedings is the crime of aggression, the so-called 'Belgian proposal' on war crimes and the process of taking stock of the International Criminal Court's progress.

Defining 'aggression' for the International Criminal Court

As diplomats meet in Uganda to consider adding the crime of aggression to the jurisdiction of the ICC, it is time to remember historic American principles.

David Kaye warns in his June 1 Op-Ed article that bringing the crime of aggression within its ambit may erode support for the International Criminal Court. It is true that the ICC has done an admirable job in the years since its founding in holding trials for those accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Without the ICC, these individuals, accused of the most heinous mass crimes, might not ever face justice and punishment.

The ICC is an institution that our nation's founders would have recognized. The ICC springs from the same European Enlightenment principles that informed America's founding, including the idea that there are certain basic rights afforded to all people. Although the United States has not joined the ICC, the treaty that created the court relies on principles and ideas long promoted by American thinkers and lawyers. Adding the crime of aggression to the ICC's jurisdiction follows in the tradition of the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials after World War II. The U.S. actively participated in the formation and successful operation of the more recent special purpose international tribunals for Sierra Leone, Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

Of course, many of the current objections to expanding the jurisdiction of the ICC to include aggression were also raised in the 1990s against the founding of the court. Aren't there always practical difficulties in asserting an important principle?

Edward Rawson: A Life Long Global Citizen Honored

On May 21st 2010, during' annual meeting, long-time member Edward Rawson was honored with the first recipient of an annual named in his honor, the "Edward Rawson Global Citizen Award." The boards of directors created this award "to honor the lifetime of energy, the outstanding service and the financial support that Edward Rawson has contributed to and its predecessor organizations, the World Federalist Association and the Campaign for U.N. Reform." This award shall each year "recognize an individual who has made an outstanding lifetime contribution to the mission and vision of An individual who has committed his or her life to education and advocacy for a world in which nations work together to abolish war, protect our rights and freedoms, and solve the problems facing humanity that no nation can solve alone."

Ed has been involved since the organization's beginning, attending the founding of World Federalists in Asheville, North Carolina, 1947. In his acceptence speech, he recalled his role in the founding conference and remarked if he had been told then he would be the first recipient of the award, "I would never have believed it." Ed then stated, "I am today privileged to accept this award on behalf of thousands who have labored with me since the founding of our movement for a peaceful and just world governed by law."

A Global National Security Strategy

Today the Obama administration releases its first National Security Strategy (NSS).  The NSS is a document prepared periodically by the executive branch for Congress which outlines the major U.S. national security concerns and how the administration plans to deal with them.  It's a strong improvement over the last NSS issued by the Bush administration in 2006. Much of the language in the NSS could have been taken from  This is a strategy of an administration on the right track. It's also a signal to civil society to both support the administration's efforts and to be willing to push the envelope of what is possible.

The NSS is a strategic document that sets direction at 30,000 feet. While it calls for "a just and sustainable international order that can foster collective action to confront common challenges" it doesn't recommend tactical steps such as better training for U.S. ambassadors or greater recognition for Foreign Service officers who work in multilateral institutions.  It doesn't discuss how the U.S. will improve its capacity to win votes in international bodies. However it does clear the way for these steps to happen.

Below are a number of relevant quotes from the NSS on nuclear weapons, a strengthened international order, the U.N, Peacekeeping, Genocide Prevention, and the International Criminal Court.  I've underlined particularly worthwhile passages.

In a perambulatory letter from President Obama he says:

The U.S.-Central and Eastern Europe Partnership: What's Next?

As the United States works to pursue a "reset" of relations with Russia, culminating in the recent signing of the New START treaty, what does this new bond mean for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (the CEEs) and their relationship with the U.S.?  This was among the questions addressed by Czech Republic Senator Alexandr Vondra during his presentation at the Atlantic Council on May 24th, as he discussed his county's view on the future of transatlantic cooperation.

Sen. Vondra described himself as "optimistic" about the relationship between the U.S. and Central and Eastern Europe.  However, he noted that several difficult test lie ahead:

  • U.S. world leadership is currently overstretched; 
  • Europe is going through financial and political hardship; 
  • NATO is redefining its region, while at the same time Russia is becoming more active and assertive; 
  • China, Brazil, and other rising powers are making their impact felt; 
  • fear of terrorism and nuclear proliferation continues; and 
  • human rights are being violated, in Vondra's words, even in NATO's own neighborhood.

Sen. Vondra said it was a good thing that, since throwing off the yoke of Communism and becoming members of NATO and the European Union (EU) in the past several years, Central and Eastern Europe is no longer in the spotlight of U.S. foreign policy as it once was.  However, the period of 2008-9 brought a number of geopolitical changes which impacted the transatlantic relationship.  Vondra asserted that the U.S. has recently been relying on traditional rivals, such as Russia, in its foreign policy, and while such "ad hoc" alliances can be helpful, the United States should not take staunch allies such as the CEE countries for granted while reaching out to other nations.

"arrest them quickly": A Request from Kenya's People

Earlier this month, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo, visited Kenya where he met with victims of Kenya's 2007-2008 postelection violence. Hundreds of thousands of Kenyans were displaced and more than 1,300 Kenyans lost their lives as a result of the postelection violence. While in Kenya, Ocampo not only met with victims of the postelection violence but also with senior government officials, civil society groups and the business community.

Powerful politicians and wealthy business men were accused of organizing and fueling attacks on civilian after the vote. Even though rival politicians signed a peace agreement and established that they would set up a local tribunal to investigate the election and prosecute the individuals responsible for the violence, the International Criminal Court believed that it was appropriate to become involved in the court proceedings because politicians were obstructing the investigations. Essentially, the International Criminal Court is fulfilling its duty to exercise its jurisdiction over perpetrators of the most serious crimes of international concern when national courts are unable to ensure the preservation of integrity, accountability and credibility while guaranteeing that justice is served.