July 17, 2011 (a Sunday)

The International Criminal Court in The Hague (ICC/CPI), Netherlands.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague (ICC/CPI), Netherlands.

On 17 July 2011, the world celebrated the first International Criminal Justice Day. This date is the anniversary of the day in July 1998 when the international community made a pledge in Rome to never again allow impunity to reign supreme in the contemporary world by creating the International Criminal Court (ICC). The observance was adopted by the Assembly of the States Parties during the Review Conference of the Rome Statute held in Kampala (Uganda) in June 2010.

The ICC is the first permanent international judicial body in history capable of trying individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes when national courts are unable or unwilling to do so. To date, 139 states have signed and 121 states have ratified the Rome Statute, the international treaty that gave birth to the Court.

Unfortunately, the United States has a recent history of opposition to the ICC. Since Nuremberg, the United States had historically supported international mechanisms to enhance accountability. United States’ President Bill Clinton signed the Rome Statute on 31 December 2000, the last day that it was open for signature. Shortly after the Bush Administration entered office and just before the 1 July 2002 entry into force of the Rome Statute, US President George W. Bush “nullified” the Clinton signature on 6 May 2002, alleging that the United States would no longer be involved in the ICC process and that it did not consider itself as having any legal obligations under the treaty. The legality of such a “nullification” is unclear and the subject of debate by international legal scholars. Since 2002, the Bush Administration undertook a policy of active opposition to the Court through a global campaign to obtain immunity from ICC jurisdiction through a multi-pronged approach.

Under the Obama administration, the United States has shifted its stance. As of November 2009, it has begun attending the Rome Statute’s Assembly of States Parties (ASP) meetings as an observer, signaling a new policy of engagement with the ICC. At the 2010 Review Conference of the ASP, the United States participated fully as an observer.

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