International Criminal Court
By David Peterson at Mar 22, 2006
I'm afraid that the International Criminal Court is off to a very bad start indeed.
Struggling to get off its institutional butt in the face of its serious and perhaps debilitating rejection by the Americans---having in May, 2002, officially declared in writing to the UN Secretary-General that the "United States has no legal obligations arising from its signature [of the Rome Treaty] on December 31, 2000," that the "United States does not intend to become a party to the Treaty," and that the "United States requests that its intention not to become a party, as expressed in this letter, be reflected in the depositary's status lists relating to this treaty"---who, then, did the ICC decide to make its first indictee, issue its first arrest warrant for, and haul off to its trial chambers in The Hague, its first defendant ever to stand trial?
None other than Thomas Lubanga Dyilo. Identified by the ICC as a "Congolese national and alleged founder and leader of the Union des Patriotes Congolais [UPC---Union of Congolese Patriots]," Lubanga is the "first person to be arrested and transferred to the International Criminal Court since the entry into force of the Statute in July 2002." ("First Arrest for the International Criminal Court," March 17, 2006.) He is "alleged to have been involved in the commission of war crimes, namely, enlisting and conscripting children under the age of fifteen and using them to participate actively in hostilities (see articles 8(2)(b)(xxvi) or 8(2)(e)(vii) of the Rome Statute)." ("Issuance of a Warrant of Arrest against Thomas Lubanga Dyilo," ICC, March 17, 2006.)
Imagine that! The very first case ever to be heard by the new International Criminal Court is that of a black African! And talk about coming from a rough neighborhood. No less than the Democratic Republic of the Congo---certainly one of the most dangerous places in the world, with a human toll since the late 1990s that in its tragedies and body-counts must be second-to-none the world over. (By one estimate: Somewhere on the order of 38,000 deaths per month, every month, since the late 1990s.)
And from within this world's-worst and most violent and deadliest of all environments---though it may be the case that some of the theaters liberated by American firepower in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Colombia are ever deadlier than the DRC---wherein we can speak meaningfully about the struggle for survival---quite unlike life in the urban environs of Washington and London, let us say---the ICC decides to go after Thomas Lubanga Dyilo. On grounds that he's conscripted children under the age of 15 and used them in armed conflict.
Talk about extenuating circumstances.
And how have the American and British media treated the ICC's choice?
A "brief session but a momentous occasion," the New York Times's Marlise Simons called the pre-trial hearing, one that "opened a new chapter in international law," the ICC being the "world's first permanent and independent forum for judging large-scale abuses." ("Congo Warlord Faces Hague Court," March 21.)
"In stark contrast to defendants such as Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein, [Lubanga] made no political speeches and no attempt to browbeat the judges," Joshua Rozenberg wrote in the Daily Telegraph. "Everyone at the ICC is very conscious of the need to avoid the pitfalls of a long, drawn-out trial manipulated by the defendant for political purposes." ("War crimes suspect makes court history," March 21.)
"The ICC is controversial in the US," Peter Grier writes in the Christian Science Monitor. "[T]he United States is not a participant in the International Criminal Court, and has serious reservations about its jurisdiction. The Bush administration took the unusual step of un-signing the treaty in 2002, after the US had signed it during the Clinton years. The US wants ultimate control over whether or not its citizens would face ICC prosecution. It would accomplish this by giving the UN Security Council, where the US has a veto, power over ICC moves." ("A step forward for international justice," March 22.)
No hint that, by way of comparison, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, or the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, or, no doubt the worst of all, the Iraqi Special Tribunal, were, are, and forever will be manipulated by the prosecution and its enforcers for political purposes. Just the steady progress of the rule of law over the law of the jungle. You know. The onward march of Reason in History.
My god.---The ICC has even posted to its webiste the following photo, taken during Monday's pre-trial hearing:
"Congo warlord." "Congo warlord." "Congo warlord." Over the past three days, this particular phrase has been repeated almost as frequently as "Butcher of the Balkans." (Though soon enough, it'll be used a lot more frequently. Rest assured.)
On top of which: I'm sure that, sooner or later, the ICC will find some "warlords" from the Sudan, Uganda, Sierra Leone, and maybe even Rwanda to indict.
But never any slick Europeans in expensive suits. Or Americans.
(Unless, of course, other slick Europeans and Americans turn on them.)
International Criminal Court (Homepage)
Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (adopted on July 17, 1998---though the Statute did not enter into force until July 1, 2002)
The American Declaration of Lawlessness, May 6, 2002
Democratic Republic of the Congo (webpage maintained by the International Rescue Committee)
Mortality in the Democratic Republic of Congo: Results from a Nationwide Survey (April-July 2004), the Burnet Institute and the International Rescue Committee, December, 2004 (And the accompanying Media Release)
"The Congo Crisis at a Glance: The Forgotten Emergency," International Rescue Committee
"The Lancet Publishes IRC Mortality Study from DR Congo; 3.9 Million Have Died: 38,000 Die per Month," International Rescue Committee, January 6, 2006
"Congo Warlord Handed to International Court," Marlise Simons, New York Times, March 19, 2006
"War crimes suspect makes court history," Joshua Rozenberg, Daily Telegraph, March 21, 2006
"Congo Warlord Faces Hague Court," Marlise Simons, New York Times, March 21, 2006
"A step forward for international justice," Peter Grier, Christian Science Monitor, March 22, 2006
"International Criminal Court," ZNet Blogs, March 22, 2006