Thu. Jun 20th, 2024

The International Criminal Court (ICC) appeared between two wars launched by the American administration in Afghanistan and then Iraq and presented a paradox about its legitimacy in light of an international system witnessing clear American hegemony.

The International Criminal Court was established on July 1, 2002, as a complementary judicial body to national judicial systems, as it only considers cases when national courts fail to investigate or prosecute cases related to crimes against humanity, or when they are unable to do so. The decision that was issued raised Recently, against President Putin, there was a renewed debate about the role and legitimacy of the court, and brought accusations of politicization and double standards back to the forefront, especially since the court, during the two decades since its founding, has examined 31 cases, issuing 10 convictions and 4 acquittals, the majority of which were against African rebels or extremists, without The convicts must include any heads of state or prominent officials.

For twenty years, the International Criminal Court has been unable to achieve serious breakthroughs in dealing with complex humanitarian crimes committed in countries such as Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq, which has led to renewed doubts about the effectiveness of the role of the court, whose annual budget reaches about 150 million euros, which is This raises questions about its cost, which is considered one of the most expensive in history.

The establishment of the “International Criminal Court” was a great challenge, as previous international courts were associated with important political transformations, and the movement to establish this court received a strong impetus after the two historic trials in Nuremberg and Tokyo, which were established to hold accountable those responsible for crimes that occurred during World War II by the parties that I lost the war.

In practice, the questioning of its legitimacy has become clearer since the trial of Saif Gaddafi, son of the late Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi, which raised immediate legal questions. Libya is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, but the court used United Nations Security Council Resolution No. 1970, which referred the situation in Libya. To the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. This referral was made in accordance with Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, which deals with threats to peace, violations of peace, and acts of aggression. The court derived the authority through this decision to investigate crimes committed in Libya and prosecute their perpetrators, starting on February 15, 2011.

Doubts about legitimacy

Despite all the political details surrounding the case of Saif Gaddafi, in mid-May 2011, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo, submitted a request to the International Court to issue a warrant for the arrest of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, and after news circulated of his candidacy for the presidential elections in December 2021, the International Criminal Court was quick to remind that it is still demanding You hand it over.

The legitimacy of the Security Council’s referral of Gaddafi Jr.’s case to the International Criminal Court is controversial, as the court’s jurisdiction should extend only to countries that have voluntarily ratified the Rome Statute, and since Libya has not ratified the treaty, the court should not have jurisdiction over Libyan citizens, and Libya is not legally obligated to comply with ICC directives.

This situation illustrates the dangerous tension between international legal norms and political maneuverings practiced by powerful entities such as the United Nations Security Council.

The most controversial case was the decision taken by the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of committing war crimes related to the illegal deportation of children from Ukraine. This decision posed legal and geopolitical challenges. Russia, like Libya, is not a member of the International Criminal Court and does not Recognizing its jurisdiction, the ICC’s actions are based on the argument that war crimes committed in Ukraine, the state that has accepted the court’s jurisdiction, fall within the ICC’s jurisdiction.

The Russian government rejected the ICC warrant, describing it as illegal, stressing that it does not carry any legal weight within Russian territory. This position reflects broader geopolitical dynamics, as the cases in the court reflect the nature of the international system and political divisions, and the practical implementation of the arrest warrant poses a problem because It depends on the cooperation of states willing and able to detain and transfer individuals to the International Criminal Court, which makes the implementation of its decisions dependent on the existing balance of power.

Selective cases

Western policies are directly reflected within the ICC, and the ICC’s selective prosecution practices are most evident in the case of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Although he has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, especially with regard to military operations in the Palestinian territories, he has not Netanyahu faces a real risk of prosecution by the International Criminal Court, while the United States, through its Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, has threatened to take sanctions against the court if it makes such decisions.

The United States, Israel’s main ally, protects its partners from international legal repercussions, and exerts pressure on international institutions, including the International Criminal Court, to prevent taking action against it. This protection has led to realistic accusations that the International Criminal Court is carrying out its work selectively, targeting leaders of countries. While ignoring or justifying the actions of those supported by powerful allies like the United States, whatever their crimes.

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Karim Khan, commented in a broadcast on CNN on the decision to try the Israeli Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense, and to issue an arrest warrant against Netanyahu on charges of committing war crimes. After this was announced, some leaders of Western countries contacted him and said: “ “They were very frank and said that this court was created for Africa and for people like Putin.”

This raises three main issues:

  • The United States’ relationship with the ICC is complex and often contradictory. The United States has not ratified the Rome Statute, and this position is based on concerns about sovereignty and the potential for politically motivated prosecutions against American citizens.
  • The United States has enacted laws, such as the American Service Personnel Protection Act, that permit the use of military force to release any American or allied personnel detained by the International Criminal Court.
  • Although the United States has not based its criticism or support of the ICC’s work on political context, it has supported international criminal prosecutions that are consistent with its foreign policy objectives, such as those directed against African leaders or adversaries such as President Putin. However, it strongly opposes any actions that implicate its citizens or allies, demonstrating a selective approach to international justice.

The selective implementation of the ICC’s mandates suggests that the court functions at least partially as an instrument of US foreign policy, and the ICC’s actions against leaders like Putin, and its neglect to hold officials like Netanyahu to account, reinforce the perception that the court serves the interests of powerful Western states, and undermine the court’s credibility and legitimacy as an Impartial judicial body.

The use of the International Criminal Court as a “punitive stick” by the United States and its allies highlights the major challenge facing not only international justice, but also the international system, which is increasingly divided as a result of international institutions dealing with the political standards imposed by Washington to advance its geopolitical goals.

Written by Nidal Al-Khedary


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