Tough Times for the ICC

What just happened? And does it confirm that the ICC has it out for African leaders?

One reason is that every indictment issued by the ICC has been in Africa. The court’s jurisdiction is somewhat hobbled by the non-participation or non-cooperation of many countries, most notably the United States. But the fact remains that Africa has been the focus of a court based in Europe, and given that memories of colonialism are in some places still fresh and very raw, that raises hackles.

via the Atlantic.com

Or, more likely, does this reveal “a fundamental flaw” in the institution, namely that universal jurisdiction doesn’t exist–making it impossible to have individual enforcement–as noted by Nesrine Malik in The Guardian.

The ICC has hit a wall as South Africa appears to have allowed Omar al-Bashir leave the country, avoiding arrest. This international institution “will only be as relevant as the international community allows it to be,” according to Alex Whiting, a law professor at Harvard and former ICC prosecutor–quoted by Somini Sengupta in the NYT.

See Omar al-Bashir Case Shows International Criminal Court’s Limitations – The New York Times.

Does the ICC Matter?

Some argue that the fuss over Palestine’s efforts to join the Internaitonal Criminal Court show how relevant the institution still is. The move “could open the door to possible investigation and prosecution of war crimes in the Palestinian Territories” according to Marina Barakatt of the American Society of International Law.

But the ICC has proven to be slow-moving and frequently ineffective–as driven by its Security Council member state masters:

Neither China nor Russia nor the United States has signed the treaty that created the court, but as veto-wielding members of the Security Council, all three can exert influence, chiefly by protecting their allies from its reach.

Only recently, the court was dismissed as ineffective, or even irrelevant. It was ambitiously designed to try the gravest offenses: genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. But the tribunal, based in The Hague, has been hamstrung from the start. It does not have the power to arrest those it indicts, nor to force defiant government authorities to cooperate. It can initiate cases against countries that have signed up — 123 states as of April 1, when the Palestinian accession to the court starts — or if the Security Council refers cases to the tribunal.

via Is the War Crimes Court Still Relevant? – NYTimes.com.

Denouncing Serbian Tilt, U.S. Boycotts U.N. Meeting – NYTimes.com

A US walkout at the General Assembly over Serbia’s (mis)use of the Presidency:

Canada and Jordan joined the United States in the boycott of the two-day meeting, which included a General Assembly debate and panel discussion, while some other nations also criticized the meeting and sent low-level representatives. The event seemed to reopen emotional scabs about responsibility for ethnic slaughters committed in the Balkans conflicts of the 1990s, including the Srebrenica massacre, Europe’s worst mass killing since the Holocaust.

Critics took offense that the General Assembly president, Vuk Jeremic, whose antipathy toward the Yugoslavia tribunal is well known, had invited as keynote speaker the like-minded president of Serbia, Tomislav Nikolic, but not the victims of Balkans atrocities who have found some measure of redress from the tribunal’s prosecution

via Denouncing Serbian Tilt, U.S. Boycotts U.N. Meeting – NYTimes.com.

Analysis: The next stop for Palestinians could be global courts | Reuters

Is “lawfare” the game plan for the Palestinians?

The formal recognition of statehood, even without full U.N. membership, could be enough for the Palestinians to achieve membership at the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC), where member states have the power to refer for investigation alleged war crimes or crimes against humanity.

With its upgraded status at the U.N., the Palestinians may now seek to apply to the ICC for membership and authority to file war-crimes charges against the Israeli government and its officials.

That threat of so-called “lawfare” has already prevented some Israeli civilian and military leaders from traveling abroad out of fear they’d be arrested as war criminals.

via Analysis: The next stop for Palestinians could be global courts | Reuters.

Libya Insists on Trying Qaddafi Son – NYTimes.com

Where should Qadaffi’s son be tried, in Libya or at Den Haag?

Libyan authorities insist that the two men, Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, and the former intelligence chief, Abdullah el-Senussi, must be tried in their own country by Libyan judges.A team of 12 investigators is collecting evidence against Mr. Qaddafi, including crimes like murder, torture, indiscriminant violence against demonstrators and recruiting mercenaries from Pakistan, lawyers for Libya told the panel of judges.

They said he might be tried jointly with Mr. Senussi.Judges at the International Criminal Court indicted the two men and signed their arrest warrants last year after the United Nations Security Council sent a request to the court to investigate reports of Libyan atrocities.

via Libya Insists on Trying Qaddafi Son – NYTimes.com.

Vimeo diplomacy: Making KONY 2012 (in)famous

Forget about Syria for a moment.  Did you know that the Obama administration sent troops to Africa.  The KONY campaign orchestrated by Invisible Children illustrates how social entrepreneurs are using tech as a tool to change attitudes and awareness of indicted war criminals.

But in this viral masterpiece, the power of NGOs is opening up to major criticism, as reported in WaPo today–as to whether these tactics are the right way to address the problem.  And the list of critics is growing (er, overwhelming).

There are a growing number of critical responses to both the video and the organisation. Both Chris Blattman and the team at Wrong Rights made a number of cutting observations in 2009 (this particularly video is the 12th installment of a long-running series, to which Invisible Children allocate a majority of their funding). We will update this list with new posts, articles and tweets that seek to take on this latest phenomenon in fundraising and advocacy, to make sure you get a balanced diet of KONY 2012.

via A reader’s digest of KONY 2012 | whydev.org.

Update:  Joshua Keating adds this take-down on FP.com from Michael Wilkerson that is the best overall analysis that I have read to date.

via KONY 2012 on Vimeo.

Criminal Court in Indirect Talks With Qaddafi Son, Prosecutor Says – NYTimes.com

Suddenly international justice might look better for Seif Qaddafi:

There has been speculation that Mr. Qaddafi, who has eluded capture by the rebels who overthrew Colonel Qaddafi in late August, may have undergone a change of heart about turning himself over to court custody after his father was captured, brutalized and killed while in rebel custody on Oct. 20 in his hometown Surt, an event captured on cellphone videos and widely circulated on the Internet.

“Through intermediaries, we have informal contact with Seif,” Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said through a spokesman. “The office of the prosecutor has made it clear that if he surrenders to the ICC, he has the right to be heard in court, he is innocent until proven guilty. The judges will decide.”

via Criminal Court in Indirect Talks With Qaddafi Son, Prosecutor Says – NYTimes.com.