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The Unfortunate Failures of the International Criminal Court

By Matt Walsh, III Form

The Unfortunate Failures of the International Criminal Court

For advocates of human rights, peace, and equality, the International Criminal Court (ICC) seemed to be an ultimate solution to acts of violence, hatred, and greed. The ICC acts as a court of last resort, prosecuting crimes when national courts cannot. With the ICC, many thought the world could be one step closer to international order. Unfortunately, a lack of cooperation has turned a seemingly revolutionary idea into a lamentable failure. The ICC hopes “that by ending impunity for such crimes, [it] might prevent the occurrence and contribute to the peace, security, and well-being of the world”
(“Law”).  However, The ICC is not a viable and sustainable path to justice because of its inability to prosecute perpetrators from both State Parties and non-State Parties, its historical failure to prosecute major international crimes, and its practice of retributive justice that fails to restore peace.

The first example is Omar al-Bashir, who evaded the ICC for 11 years as the president of Sudan. He sent a militant group called the Janjaweed to kill civilians in Darfur, a disputed region in western Sudan. As a result, 400,000 have died and 2.5 million have been displaced (“Darfur”). He is guilty of many crimes, namely genocide, as he has authorized and funded the mass-murder of Darfurians. Sudan is not a State Party to the ICC, and it never will be as long as al-Bashir is in office. According to the Rome Statute, the ICC cannot exercise jurisdiction over non-State Parties. For this reason, his crimes will continue to go unpunished and thousands will die each month while he and the Janjaweed will enjoy impunity. The civilians of Darfur will continue to be marginalized and endangered as the ICC intervenes to no avail.

The second example is Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, located in central Africa. His small militia has committed many crimes under the jurisdiction of the court, including crimes against humanity and war crimes. Kony claims to be a Christian messiah, but his army  terrorizes civilians and raids villages unprovoked. Worst of all, he kidnaps children, forces them to fight, enslaves them, uses them as sex slaves, and rapes them (“Kony”).  Uganda, unlike Sudan, is an  ICC State Party and had shown willingness to surrender Kony (“LRA”).  However, the Ugandan government lacked the money and resources to capture leaders, allowing Kony and his army to commit heinous crimes without fear of retribution. The Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, abandoned hopes of ICC prosecution after struggling to arrest Kony and when the UN Security Council proved “noncommittal” (According to Stanford student Krishanu Sengupta). Museveni is now failing at making a peace deal with the LRA. However, the court has maintained its stance, but is struggling to prosecute Kony without Uganda’s support. If the ICC could actually work cooperatively with the UN Security Council and Museveni, Kony could be captured and prosecuted. Just like al-Bashir, Kony and the LRA will continue to run rampant in Central Africa, never being served justice for their atrocious actions. How many more children will be abducted? How many more will be raped? The ICC cannot even prosecute criminals from state parties!

The International Criminal Court seeks justice believing that all humans have specific, inalienable rights. When criminals threaten these liberties and cause chaos to civilians, he/she deserves prosecution and must be stopped. While the ICC describes its efforts to tackle the punishment, it has failed at establishing restorative justice, a form of justice that brings about peace after criminal prosecution. Instead, the ICC practices retributive justice, where focus is on capturing and locking up the criminal. It is important to prosecute perpetrators of major international crimes to prevent them from continuing, but it is equally important to practice restorative justice to protect victimized civilians and attain peace. The court clarifies that it solely plays a judicial role, but no organization has committed to playing the equally important political and peacekeeping role (Sengupta). Likewise, The ICC needs to work cooperatively with the UN Security Council to perform peacekeeping alongside an investigation. Prosecuting a criminal with no vision of peace could leave an already fragile country, such as the ones investigated by the ICC, in shambles. Likewise, humanitarian aid would be pointless when no one can prosecute a cruel, uncooperative leader who is causing violence and oppressing civilians. As shown in Uganda, undecided peacekeeping efforts and ambiguity in the Rome Statute has allowed Joseph Kony to continue violating International Humanitarian Law and universal human rights (Sengupta).

The purpose of the ICC is to end impunity for major war crimes, genocides, and crimes against humanity. The International Criminal Court does not have the jurisdiction or cooperation needed to do so. The ICC has been investigating many cases simultaneously, making little progress toward prosecution. The Rome Statute does not address potential issues or provide solutions for many of the problems present in the court system. These flaws have been displayed in the ICC’s many failing cases, and the inability of the ICC has been exploited by perpetrators. The ICC cannot even achieve its principal goals: ending impunity and preventing occurrence of major international crimes and contributing to global peace.

IMG_2733Matt Walsh is a III Form student from Southborough, Massachusetts. He enjoys science, plays baseball, and performs with the trumpet.








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