Is The International Criminal Court Serving Its Purpose?

Today, the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor informed the U.N. Security Council she was halting investigations in Sudan’s chaotic Darfur region for now because no one has been brought to justice in a decade and the council has done little or nothing to help.

Darfur’s situation is deteriorating and the brutality of crimes is increasing, but there have been no discussions with the council for “concrete solutions,” Fatou Bensouda said.

The decision is the most recent development which brings into question whether the ICC can be an effective tool for carrying out justice.

Just a few weeks ago, despite compelling evidence that Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta participated in post-election violence in 2007-2008 that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,000 Kenyans, the ICC withdrew charges of crimes against humanity, reported the BBC.

Prosecutor Bensouda withdrew crimes against humanity charges against Kenyatta, citing witness intimidation, harassment and the failure of Kenya’s government to “meaningfully” cooperate with the Hague-based court.

[Related: New York Times online discussion on whether we need the ICC]

The fact the charges were dismissed did not come as a shock as Kenyatta and his allies had effectively managed a media campaign that portrayed the ICC as a tool of the West. But that, Kip Hale writes in Foreign Affairs, is far from the truth.

“With 122 members heavily concentrated in Latin America and Africa, and with Africans in many key leadership posts, the ICC reflects the world it represents. Kenyan officials’ condemnation of the ICC was a cynical way to maintain power. If the activities of senior Kenyan governmental officials who were private citizens during the 2007 post-election violence and are alleged to have been involved in mass atrocities were never aired in a courtroom, those officials would avoid not only conviction but also reputational damage. Their grip on power in Kenya, as a result, would remain secure,” he says.

While the ICC pledged not to forget the victims, Hale argues the court needs to make improvements.

“The countries that are party to the ICC must begin to make tough decisions, starting this week as they, and influential observer nations such as the United States, gather in New York for the ICC Assembly of States. In many ways, this conference will forecast the future of the ICC. Vitally important subjects are on the agenda: the woeful underfunding of the Court and Kenyan proposals to amend the ICC’s governing treaty to codify statutory immunity for heads of state,” he suggests.

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