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International Criminal Court reviews founding treaty

May 31, 2010 - KAMPALA

The Review Conference of the International Criminal Court Statute will take stock of the state of international justice and consider amendments to the ICC founding treaty, the Rome Statute, to strengthen it. The conference will review the list of crimes within ICC jurisdiction, and potentially add drug trafficking and terrorism. If the United States sends an observer, as it did to the ICC Assembly of State Parties in November, it will be read as a sign that Washington might reconsider its ICC boycott.

Member nations are considering adding the crime of aggression -- unprovoked military action by one state against another -- to the court's jurisdiction. And a special working group will wrestle with a definition for the crime. The May conference also will consider the possible terms of a controversial member opt-out from statutes relating to war crimes, a category that is already within the ICC's jurisdiction. Amendments require agreement by two thirds of member countries to be adopted and ratification by 87.5 per cent to come into force. Amendments relating to the definition of crimes apply only to those member countries that ratify the amendment. There is some disagreement over whether an amendment relating to the definition of the crime of aggression would fall into this category. The US administration of Bill Clinton signed the treaty that established the ICC on 31 Dec 2000, but his successor, George W. Bush, removed the United States from the Treaty in 2002. The administration of Barak Obama has signalled the intention of participating in the ICC, but appears to be wary about joining it. The Bush administration saw the court as a potential legal trap for its troops overseas, "as a threat on American sovereignty" and even "as a first step toward global government." The International Criminal Court is the world's first permanent court mandated to bring to justice perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide when national courts are unable or unwilling to do so. Its chief prosecutor is pursuing war crimes cases in Congo, Uganda, the Central African Republic and the Darfur region of Sudan. More than 100 states are now party to the treaty.


US to attend conference held by war crimes court (Washington Post 17 Nov 2009)

Date written/update: 2010-05-31