The International Criminal Court: 10 Facts

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The International Criminal Court: 10 Facts

The International Criminal Court recently clashed with Kenya after its voters elected to president a man the ICC wants to try for crimes against humanity. What is this court, who pays for it and does it have a bias against Africa? See gallery

Introduction

The International Criminal Court recently clashed with Kenya after its voters elected to president a man the ICC wants to try for crimes against humanity. What is this court, who pays for it and does it have a bias against Africa?

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The International Criminal Court: 10 Facts

Founding of the ICC

The International Criminal Court came into existence on 1 July, 2002, when the Roman Statute Treaty was brought into effect. This treaty was founded in 1998, during a global conference in Rome where countries debated the need for a court that could try the worst offenders against humankind. But the idea of such a court goes back a bit further. The concept was first suggested in the late 19th century and found real traction after World War 1, when countries sought to prosecute the German Kaiser and others for their roles in that war. There have been several attempts to create such a court, but the final push came in the wake of the genocides seen in Bosnia, Croatia and Rwanda during the Nineties.

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The International Criminal Court: 10 Facts

The Difference Between The ICC And Other Courts

There are other legal bodies that can and have prosecuted people for the kind of crimes the ICC focuses on. Charges are based on important international agreements, such as the Treaty of Versailles, and the most famous are perhaps the Hindenburg trials during which prominent Nazis were prosecuted. Temporary tribunals have also been created - currently there are such groups prosecuting Liberian dictator Charles Taylor and Bosnian war criminals like Ratko Mladić. Other legal bodies, such as the International Court Of Justice, can only try countries, not people. The ICC is the only permanent international court that can prosecute an individual.

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The International Criminal Court: 10 Facts

Crimes The ICC Prosecutes

The ICC focuses on four specific types of crime: Genocides, Crimes Against Humanity, Crimes of Aggression and War Crimes. Genocide is when a group of people, due to their ethnic or cultural commonality, are persecuted and executed. Crimes Against Humanity are events where someone terrorises a population, such as inciting violence, rape, murder and other acts under a large group to get their own way. War Crimes are basically crimes against humanity, but during a war situation. This can also extend into how prisoners of war were treated. Crimes Of Aggression is the most vague and controversial of the court’s powers: this covers actions against another nation, including invasion.

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The International Criminal Court: 10 Facts

Who The ICC Can Prosecute

There are limitations to who can be brought before the ICC. Its mandate is to prosecute individuals who can’t or won’t be put on trial by their own countries. But it can only charge people who are citizens of the countries that ratified the ICC treaty - this is why, for example, no Americans have yet stood trial at the ICC, as the U.S. is not a signee of the treaty. There is an exception: if the United Nations Security Council puts forward a case for prosecution, it gives the ICC the right to intervene. But the job of arresting people is that of the individual member countries: the ICC has no police force. The ICC also cannot prosecute cases dated before its establishment in 2002 - this is why many war criminals from the 20th century are being tried in tribunals.

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The International Criminal Court: 10 Facts

Countries Who Support The ICC

121 countries have ratified the Roman Statute, which means they support and are legally binded to the ICC. These countries have a responsibility to arrest people that warrants have been issued for. Their citizens can also be put on trial at the ICC if those countries fail to do so. At the moment most members reside in Africa, Western Europe and South America. Australia and Canada are also members, as are Japan and South Korea.

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The International Criminal Court: 10 Facts

Countries Who Don’t Support The ICC

Several major countries are not members of the court. This includes the U.S., Russia, Israel and China, most of central America and almost the entire Middle East. The only two countries in the Middle East that support the ICC are Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. Most countries, particularly the U.S., hold out for the same reason: they argue the ICC is an attack on their sovereignty, but in reality they want immunity for the actions of their soldiers in foreign countries.

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The International Criminal Court: 10 Facts

The ICC Judges

There are 24 judges in the ICC, all nominated by member countries. At current 5 judges come from Africa, 6 hail from Central and South America, while 7 are from Western Europe. Asia and Eastern Europe have 3 judges each - there are no judges from North America, though Canada is a ratified member of the court.

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The International Criminal Court: 10 Facts

How The ICC Is Paid For

Despite many claims to the contrary, the ICC is not funded purely by Western countries. Instead, its payment structure is similar to that of the U.N.: all member countries contribute an amount based on that country’s wealth. Due to the sizes of their economies, Western Europe and Japan are the ICC’s major funders, but substantial amounts also come from other regions, including Africa. The ICC gets no money from the U.S., China or Russia.

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The International Criminal Court: 10 Facts

ICC Vs. Africa

There is a lot of ill-will between the ICC and African countries, largely because all of the current cases at the ICC are against Africans. This includes arrest warrants for Omar Al-Bashir, the president of Sudan, and Uhuru Kenyatta, president elect of Kenya. Another prominent leader is Laurent Gbagbo, former president of Côte d'Ivoire, who is currently on trial. ICC arrest warrants also include Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army. This has led to accusations that the court is bias against Africa, but there is a more objective view: the court cannot prosecute crimes made before 2002, thus excluding most current East Europeans on trial. It also cannot prosecute Americans, so crimes during the wars of Afghanistan and Iraq are left untouched. But some have argued that Tony Blair ought to be charged, as the U.K. is a member of the court. It is anticipated that warrants may be issued for people involved in the Syrian civil war, including president Bashar al-Assad.

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The International Criminal Court: 10 Facts

Africa Vs. The ICC

African countries have lashed back against the ICC. The most recent example is the election of Uhuru Kenyata as Kenya’s new president. Wanted to inciting violence during the 2007 elections, his victory is seen by many as a way to snub the ‘Western’ ICC. Botswana was even lambasted for decrying Kenyata’s win as a failure of upholding international law. But African countries have also floundered in supporting ICC warrants. Key is Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, widely regarded as the orchestrator of brutal genocide against tribes in the then-south of his country. To date Chad, Malawi, Kenya and the African Union have refused to enforce the arrest warrant. Last year the AU summit was moved to Ethiopia from Malawi after its new leader refused to allow Bashir into the country.