Exploring Sub-Saharan African History

 I am currently taking a brief course, “Sub-Saharan African History to Colonialism,” to learn about such history “from many angles: anthropological, historical, geographic, cultural, and religious. From human origins through the populating of the continent, the great civilizations, the slave trades, to the beginning of European domination.” Offered by the University of Minnesota’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), the course’s instructor is Tom O’Toole, Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Anthropology of Minnesota’s St. Cloud State University.

Why does this Euro-American septuagenarian take this course? Foremost, I know virtually nothing about this history and want to know more. I also realize that I have various direct and indirect connections with Africa.

The most immediate precipitating cause is reading the discussion of the names of African and African-American intellectuals and historical figures that were discovered at Howard University by African-American author Ta-Nehisi Coates and recounted in his book “Between the World and Me” and my realizing that I did not know virtually any of these people. This book also has prompted me to research and investigate my own notions of race, including my recent posts about statements from the American Anthropological Association about race’s non-scientific basis and historical and cultural background. Further posts about notions of race are forthcoming.

I learned more about one of these figures of African history this spring when my 10th-grade grandson wrote a History Day paper on Mansa Musa, who was a 14th century Emperor or King of Mali. Moreover, one of my sons knows more about this history from his having studied African history and Swahili at the University of Minnesota and from spending a semester in Kenya with a program of the National Outdoor Leadership School and then a week on his own living with a Maasai tribesman in that country.

Coates also legitimately castigates the U.S. history of slavery and its lasting impacts on our country. This has underscored my interest in the importation of slaves from Africa to the Western Hemisphere. This was part of Lawrence Hill’s fascinating novel “The Book of Negroes” (“Someone Knows My Name”), about which I have written. Moreover, I have visited Matanzas, Cuba and Salvador, Brazil, which were major ports of importation of African slaves to work on sugar plantations in those countries.

I have a number of friends from West Africa (Cameroon, Nigeria and Ghana) and visited Cameroon on a mission trip from Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. There I learned about the country’s having been a German colony (Kamerun) in the 19th century and then having French and British administration under League of Nations mandates after Germany was stripped of its African colonies by the 1919 Treaty of Versailles ending World War I. Forty-plus years later Cameroon became an independent country with the joinder of the Francophone and Anglophone territories. Yet life today in the country is still affected by the language and cultural differences from the French and British governance and less so by the previous 30-plus years of German rule.

I also have visited Namibia, Botswana and South Africa focused primarily on observing their magnificent wildlife and nature, but also the prison on Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela and other African National Congress leaders were imprisoned during the years of apartheid. In addition, I had the opportunity to see and hear Mandela speak at a 2003 celebration of the centennial of the Rhodes Scholarships held at Westminster Hall in London and to see him escorted through the Hall’s audience, only 10 feet from me and my wife, by Bill Clinton and Tony Blair.

The visit to South Africa also included stopping at Cecil Rhodes’ Cottage and Museum at Mulzenberg overlooking False Bay and the Indian Ocean at the southwest corner of the country. (My interest in Cecil Rhodes, the Founder of the Scholarships, and his 19th century involvement in South Africa and Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe) stems from being a Rhodes Scholar who was “up” at Oxford, 1961-1963, and from my gratitude for being a beneficiary of his largess.)

While co-teaching international human rights law at the University of Minnesota Law School, I learned about the International Criminal Court, whose initial cases all came from Africa, thereby prompting some resistance from African leaders who thought this was anti-African discrimination. (I have written many blog posts about the ICC.) Previously I had been a pro bono lawyer for two Somali men’s successful applications for asylum in the U.S.

Other indirect connections are provided by three Grinnell College classmates. One became a professor of African history. Another served in Africa with the Peace Corps in Ethiopia, where he met his English wife serving in a similar British program and where they both frequently return to participate in a project of preparing and distributing audio textbooks for blind students. The third classmate, also in the Peace Corps, served in Mali, where he was involved in smallpox eradication. In addition, one of my Grinnell roommates from Chicago now lives in South Africa.

All of these direct and indirect connections with Africa provided additional motivation to learn more about its history. In a subsequent post I will attempt to summarize the key points of this brief exploration of African history.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Birth of the Word “Genocide”

Raphael Lemkin
Raphael Lemkin

In the fall of 1944, the word “genocide” appeared for the very first time in the book “Axis Rule in Occupied Europe” by Raphael Lemkin, a Polish lawyer who lost most of his family in the Holocaust and who fled to the U.S. in 1941. The book, which was published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, introduced the word as “A New Term and New Conception for Destruction of Nations.”[1]

Lemkin was inspired to create the term after listening to a 1941 radio speech by Winston Churchill, who talked about “the barbaric fury of the Nazis” and the world being “in the presence of a crime without a name.” Lemkin considered and then rejected terms like “barbarity,” “vandalism,” and “ethnocide.” Finally he created the word “genocide” by combining the Greek “genos” meaning “people” or “nation” with the Latin-derived suffix “-cide” for “killing.”

Lemkin then embarked on the mission of convincing governments to use the term to define a new crime under international law. In 1948 the United Nations General Assembly agreed with its approval of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. As of October 27, 2014, there are 146 states that are parties to this treaty.[2]

The treaty defines the crime of “genocide” as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [or] (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Now genocide is one of the crimes that is within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and within the customary international law principle of universal jurisdiction whereby any state may prosecute an individual for the crime regardless of where the crime occurred.

A new documentary film, “Watchers of the Sky,” brings Lemkin’s creative process to the screen by animating pages of his notebooks and by telling the stories of contemporary crusaders like Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and the author of a book about post-World War II commissions of genocide, “A Problem from Hell.”

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[1] This post is based upon the citations embedded above and upon Ben Zimmer, How ‘Genocide’ Was Coined, W.S. J. (Oct. 27, 2014). The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace was created by Andrew Carnegie in the early 20th century as discussed in a prior post.

[2] Although the Convention was unanimously adopted by the General Assembly in 1948 and signed two days later for the U.S. by President Harry Truman, it was not ratified by the U.S. until 1988 as discussed in a prior post.

Palestine Has Decided To Join the International Criminal Court

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi
Dr. Hanan Ashrawi

On September 2nd at the United Nations headquarters, Dr. Hanan Ashraw, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said that Palestine has decided to join the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Ever since Palestine obtained observer-state status at the U.N. in late 2012, over Israeli and U.S. opposition, Palestine’s government has threatened to join the Court as a way to prosecute Israeli actions in the occupied territories. But the PLO deferred a decision, Dr. Ashrawi said, in order to give U.S.-led diplomacy a chance to succeed.

The deferral also gave the P.L.O. leadership the opportunity to convince other Palestinian political factions, including the militants, that they would have more to gain than to lose from joining the ICC, including subjecting Palestinian factions, including Hamas, to its jurisdiction. The PLO leadership, Dr. Ashrawi said, “wanted to ensure that all factions are O.K. with it,” and now they are.

As a prior post reported, Palestine with observer-state status at the U.N. is eligible to join the ICC. The U.S. and Israel are opposed to such membership, but they cannot prevent it from happening.

Later this month, the Palestinians are planning another move to put more pressure on Israel. This will be a motion to have the U.N. Security Council demand that Israel end its occupation of Palestinian territory within three years. If such a motion is made, the U.S. is expected to veto the measure. Anticipating such a veto, the Palestinians may put the issue before the U.N. General Assembly, where Palestine has wide support.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

International Criminal Court Prosecutor: ICC has No Jurisdiction Over Alleged War Crimes in Palestine (Gaza)

International Criminal Court
International Criminal Court

On September 2, 2014, the International Criminal Court Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, issued a statement, “The Public Deserves to know the Truth about the ICC’s Jurisdiction over Palestine.” The conclusion? The Court has no jurisdiction over any claims arising out of events in Palestine.

As the statement says, the “Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding treaty, is open to participation by states. [The] Prosecutor . . . can only investigate and prosecute crimes committed on the territory or by the nationals of states that have joined the ICC Statute or which have otherwise accepted the jurisdiction of the ICC through an ad hoc declaration to that effect pursuant to article 12-3 of the Statute.” Those requirements for ICC jurisdiction have not been satisfied. Here are the predicates for that conclusion:

  • In 2009 the Palestinian Authority sought to   accept the ICC’s jurisdiction, but the Prosecutor in April 2012 after “thorough analysis and public consultations” concluded that the Palestinian Authority’s “observer entity” status at the UN at that time meant that it could not sign up to the Rome Statute. As Palestine could not join the Rome Statute, the former Prosecutor concluded that it could not lodge an article 12-3 declaration bringing itself under the ambit of the treaty either, as it had sought to do. “  (Emphases added.)
  • On November 29, 2012, Palestine’s status was upgraded by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to “non-member observer State” through the adoption of resolution 67/19. The [Prosecutor’s] Office examined the legal implications of this development for its purposes and concluded that while this change did not retroactively validate the previously invalid 2009 declaration lodged without the necessary standing, Palestine could now join the Rome Statute.”[1]
  • “To date, [however,] the Rome Statute is not one of the treaties that Palestine has decided to accede to, nor has it lodged a new declaration [accepting the Court’s jurisdiction] following the November 2012 UNGA resolution.”
  • “It is a matter of public record that Palestinian leaders are in the process of consulting internally on whether to do so; the decision is theirs alone to make and the ICC Prosecutor cannot take this decision for them.”

If the requirements for jurisdiction over events in Palestine were established, the Prosecutor said she “will vigorously pursue those – irrespective of status or affiliation – who commit mass crimes that shock the conscience of humanity.”

Finally, the statement said, “The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC has never been in a position to open such an investigation for lack of jurisdiction. We have always, clearly and publicly, stated the reasons why this is so.” Indeed, in November 2013, the Office of the Prosecutor released its Report on Preliminary Examination Activities 2013, which on pages 53-54 set forth basically the same analysis and conclusion in the just released statement.

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[1] A prior post discussed the U.N. General Assembly resolution upgrading Palestine’s status and the resulting Prosecutor’s investigation of that development on ICC jurisdiction. Earlier posts in 2011 and 2012 also touched on the jurisdictional issue regarding Palestine while another post provided an introduction to the ICC..

Are the International Criminal Court’s Kenyan Cases Collapsing?

 

Uhuru Kenyatta
Uhuru Kenyatta
William Ruto
William Ruto

 Today before a cheering crowd of 60,000 in a Nairobi stadium, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were inaugurated as the new president and deputy president of Kenya. In his inaugural speech Kenyatta made a  veiled reference to the pending charges against him and other Kenyans in the International Criminal Court (ICC) when he said, ““Kenya will strive to uphold our international obligations” but that these obligations must be based on “mutual respect.”

Also in attendance was Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, who told the crowd he applauded Kenyans for rejecting the “blackmail” of the ICC, which was steered by “arrogant actors” to “install leaders of their choice in Africa and eliminate those they don’t like.”

As discussed in a prior post, both Kenyatta and Ruto and another Kenyan (Joseph Arap Sang) are scheduled to go to trial in the next three months before the ICC in the Hague on charges of crimes against humanity in connection with violent deaths after the Kenyan election in 2007.

Now there are rumblings that suggest these three cases are collapsing not long after three other Kenyan cases had been terminated. [1]

The key case is Kenyatta’s. The Office of the Prosecutor (TOP) recently informed the Court that four of the 12 witnesses against Kenyatta have recanted their testimony because of security threats and fears of retaliation against their families.[2]

In response Kenyatta’s lawyers have asserted that the charges against their client were based on false evidence and have asked the ICC’s Trial Chamber to refer the case to the Pre-Trial Chamber for reconsideration of its January 2012 decision confirming the charges.

On April 5th the ICC Prosecutor issued a public statement deploring “the recent stream of sensationalist reports in the Kenyan media, on the level of witness cooperation [in these cases]. Witness protection remains one of our highest priorities. The Office will therefore not be drawn into any public speculation on the status of witnesses.  The courage and integrity of witnesses are essential to the Court’s determination of the truth, which is at the heart of justice. It is in the interest of all concerned to allow justice to take its course.”

A long-time observer of Kenya has said that the Kenyan Supreme Court’s March 30th validation of the election of Kenyatta “secured Kenya’s place as a shining international symbol of impunity” and that the ICC “case against Kenyatta now seems doomed.” According to this observer, witness intimidation and bribery “will only escalate, and it’s hard to see any Kenyan being brave — or foolhardy — enough now to take the witness stand against a head of state.”

This observer even thought “the failure of the Kenyatta case may be the first chime of the death knell for the I.C.C.”

We will have to stay tuned to see what happens in these cases. For this supporter of the Court, the outlook is not bright.


[1]  The Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber has refused to confirm charges against two other Kenyans (Henry Kiprono Kosgey and Mohammed Hussein Ali), and in March 2013 the Office of the Prosecutor withdrew the charges against another Kenyan (Francis Kirimi Muthaura) because of problems with prosecution witnesses, including alleged bribery. These cases also were discussed in the prior post.

[2] The same problem has emerged with at least one of the witnesses against the other two defendants (Ruto and Sang).

 

International Criminal Court: The U.S. and the ICC

International Criminal Court
International Criminal Court

We just reviewed the status of the investigative situations and cases of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and other ICC developments. Now we look at developments in U.S.-ICC relations.[1]

U.N. Security Council. On October 17, 2012, the U.N. Security Council had a general discussion on the promotion and strengthening of the rule of law in the maintenance of international peace and security with emphasis on the role of the ICC.

Susan Rice
Susan Rice

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, said at that meeting that “strengthening the global system of accountability for the worst atrocities remains an important priority for the [U.S.]. President Obama has emphasized that preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and core moral responsibility for our nation. We are committed to bringing pressure to bear against perpetrators of atrocities, ensuring accountability for crimes committed, and prioritizing the rule of law and transitional justice in our efforts to respond to conflict.”

Rice added that the U.S. “recognize[s] that the ICC can be an important tool for accountability. We have actively engaged with the ICC Prosecutor and Registrar to consider how we can support specific prosecutions already underway, and we’ve responded positively to informal requests for assistance. We will continue working with the ICC to identify practical ways to cooperate – particularly in areas such as information sharing and witness protection – on a case-by-case basis, as consistent with U.S. policy and law.”

Another important point for Rice was the need “to improve cooperation and communication between the Security Council and the Court. For example, the Council should monitor the developments in situations it refers to the Court, since the ICC may face dangers in conducting its work. However, we must also recognize that the ICC is an independent organization. This status raises concerns about proposals to cover its expenses with UN-assessed funding.” In addition, she said, the “interests of peace, security and international criminal justice are best served when the Security Council and the ICC operate within their own realms but work in ways that are mutually reinforcing. We should not accept the false choice between the interests of justice and the interests of peace.”

Assembly of States Parties. The U.S. continues to participate as an observer at meetings of the Court’s governing body, the Assembly of States Parties. At its November 2012 meeting, for example, major speeches were made by U.S. Ambassador-at-Large Stephen J. Rapp of the Department of State’s Office of Global Criminal Justice and Harold Koh, who then was U.S. Department of State Legal Advisor.

Stephen Rapp
Stephen Rapp

 

Ambassador Rapp said the U.S. had “worked diligently to promote an end to impunity” and had been “supporting the work of the ICC in each of its current cases.” He then outlined the following priorities for the Court and its supporters:

  • “First, it is essential that the fugitives who currently remain at large in the ICC’s cases are apprehended . . . and that the witnesses who testify and the victims who wish to participate in the proceedings are assured of their safety.” The U.S. uses “an array of tools to advance the causes of apprehension and witness protection.”
  • Second, “it is crucial that members of the international community continue to reinforce the legal norms and prohibitions that lead to the creation of institutions such as the ICC.” One example is the U.S. establishment of the Atrocities Prevention Board that was discussed in a prior post.
  • Third, “we must continue to strive to improve our system of international justice. . . . [The ICC needs] to build a solid jurisprudence, navigate challenges that arise in international cooperation, and establish legitimacy . . . as a fair and efficient criminal justice institution that makes prudent decisions in the cases it pursues, and those it declines to pursue.”
  • Fourth, “we all must continue to recognize that the ICC cannot and must not operate alone. States retain primacy, both legal and moral, in ensuring justice for grave crimes. Justice closer to the victims is always preferable, in a system that can account for local laws and custom, in a familiar language, and in an accessible setting. Even where the ICC does operate, tremendous work will remain to be done at the national level. . . . [The U.S.] looks forward to continuing to collaborate in promoting this crucial work.”[2]
Harold Koh
Harold Koh

Legal Advisor Koh said the Court was “an important forum” for advancing U.S. national security and humanitarian interests. It “can help increase stability and thus decrease the need for more costly military interventions in the future.”

Koh reviewed the five stages of the historical development of international criminal justice: (1) International Criminal Justice 1.0: The Nuremberg Trials that worked to establish the principles of legitimacy, professionalism, cooperation, and legality; (2) International Criminal Justice 2.0: The Ad Hoc Tribunals; (3) International Criminal Justice 3.0: The Hybrid Tribunals; (4) International Criminal Justice 4.0: The ICC; and (5) International Criminal Justice 5.0: The Future.

After reviewing the history of U.S. relations with the ICC, Koh discussed four important issues for the Court’s future. First, it needs to continue to develop the practice of positive complementarity so that the ICC is the court of last resort with fewer cases. Second, the ICC established important precedents with its first conviction (Lubanga of the DRC) and establishment of procedures and principles for reparations for victims in that case. Third, the ICC must build up its resources and capacities; it must function in a fair and transparent manner with able and unbiased prosecutors and judges; national judicial systems must be bolstered to reduce the ICC’s burdens; it must improve cooperation with states and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of its prosecutions; and it should be cautious about moving forward with the amendment on the crime of aggression that was adopted at the Kampala Review Conference.

Koh concluded with more general comments about the future. He said the challenge is “to build the accountability agenda of the past seventy years into a sustained ‘Smart Power Approach’  to international criminal justice that sees accountability as part of a broader approach to diplomacy, development, rule of law, and atrocities prevention.”

New U.S. Statute To Assist ICC. On January 15th, President Obama signed The Department of State Rewards Program Update and Technical Corrections Act of 2012 (S.2318). The President said the new law “will enhance the ability of the U.S. Government to offer monetary rewards for information that leads to the arrest or conviction of foreign nationals accused by international criminal tribunals of atrocity-related crimes, and of individuals involved in transnational organized crime.” The President added, “This powerful new tool can be used to help bring to justice perpetrators of the worst crimes known to human kind. . . . We have made unmistakably clear that the United States is committed to seeing war criminals and other perpetrators of atrocities held accountable for their crimes, and today’s legislation can help us achieve that goal.

The new law declares “the sense of Congress that the rewards program of the Department of State should be expanded in order to … target other individuals indicted by international, hybrid or mixed tribunals for genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity.” It then goes on to authorize the State Department to pay rewards for “the transfer to or conviction by an international criminal tribunal … of any foreign national accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide, as defined under the statute of such tribunal.”

Two provisions of the law show a continuing wariness about the ICC. One requires that 15 days before announcing a reward for the arrest of a particular foreign national accused of those crimes, the State Department must submit a report to Congress explaining why the arrest would be in the national security interest of the United States. The other declares that the law does not authorized activities precluded under the American Servicemembers’ Protection Act.

On April 3rd this new law was used when the U.S. offered to pay up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest, transfer or conviction of four ICC fugitives: Joseph Kony, Dominic Ongwen and Okot Odhiambo of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda and Sylvestre Mudacumura of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The names will be broadcast on radio and appear on reward posters printed in the languages of the fugitives’ countries, he said. “The offer of rewards for I.C.C. fugitives will be the biggest step we’ve taken toward engagement and support” for the court, Ambassador Rapp said.


[1] The website of the American Non-Governmental Coalition for the International Criminal Court (AMICC) has additional details about U.S. relations with the ICC, Congress and the ICC, U.S. law regarding the ICC, analysis and opinion about the U.S. and the ICC.

[2]  As a prior post reported, Ambassador Rapp also addressed the Assembly on the subject of complementarity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

International Criminal Court: Other Developments

ICClogo

We just reviewed the current status of the investigative situations and cases of the International Criminal Court (ICC). [1] Now we look at two other major issues facing the ICC–Syria and Palestine, last year’s meeting of the Court’s Assembly of States Parties and the Chief Prosecutor’s statement about this month’s being genocide awareness month.

Syria. As we know from many news sources, popular demonstrations against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad commenced in March 2011 and immediately grew throughout the country. In April 2011, the Syrian Army was deployed to quell the uprising, and soldiers were ordered to open fire on demonstrators. After months of military sieges, the protests evolved into an armed rebellion. By January 2013 the U.N. estimated the war’s death toll had exceeded 60,000, and a month later this figure was updated to 70,000. Another 6,000 reportedly were killed in March 2013.

To respond to this horrible suffering, many have called for the ICC to become involved. One who has repeatedly done so is the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay. Here are some examples:

  • During a debate on Syria by the U.N. Human Rights Council in February 2012, she said she believed that the situation of Syria should be referred to the ICC by the U.N. Security Council.
  • On June 7, 2012, she said, “We continue to witness a serious deterioration of the human rights situation in Syria, which demands our full attention and engagement.” There is evidence of “a pattern of widespread or systematic attacks against civilian populations, and may amount to crimes against humanity and other international crimes. There are indications that the situation in Syria – at least in certain areas – amounts to an internal armed conflict. This would have legal implications, triggering the possibility of commission of war crimes, in addition to crimes against humanity. It makes the call I made to the Security Council to consider referring the case of Syria to the International Criminal Court even more urgent.”
  • At a February 13, 2013, Security Council meeting, she said, “The lack of consensus on Syria and the resulting inaction has been disastrous and civilians on all sides have paid the price. We will be judged against the tragedy that has unfolded before our eyes.” She said that referring Syria to the ICC could have a very significant preventive effect because it “would send a clear message to both the government and the opposition that there will be consequences for their actions”.

In January 2013, 58 countries signed a joint statement calling for such a referral. In response at least five Security Council members voiced support for same– France, Britain, Australia, Luxembourg and South Korea. The next month, February 2013, U.N. human rights investigator Carla del Ponte said the “time has come” for the Security Council to refer war crimes in Syria to the ICC for prosecution. Similar calls for referral have come from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

The Syrian government obviously opposes such a referral. In January 2013 it said it “regrets the persistence of these countries [that signed the joint statement favoring referral] in following the wrong approach and refusing to recognize the duty of the Syrian state to protect its people from terrorism imposed from abroad.” The statement also accused some of the countries signing the statement of “deceit and double standards” in blaming Syria while financing, training and hosting “terrorists.”

Because Syria is not a state party to the ICC’s Rome Statute, the only way for the Syrian situation to get before the ICC is by a referral from the U.N. Security Council. But so far that has been impossible because Russia and China as permanent members of the Council would veto such a referral as they already have vetoed resolutions to impose sanctions on Syria.[2] For example, this past January the Russian Foreign Ministry said the joint request by over 50 countries for such a referral was  “ill-timed and counterproductive to resolving the main task at this moment: an immediate end to the bloodshed in Syria.”

Palestine. In November 2012 the U.N. General Assembly, 138 to 9 with 41 abstentions, voted to grant non-member observer state status to the Palestinian Authority. Those voting “No” included Israel, U.S. and Canada. The abstainers included the U.K. and Germany.

Israel and the U.S. are concerned that the Palestinian Authority (PA) may use its new U.N. status to try a press for an ICC investigation of Israeli practices in the occupied territories. The PA could: (1) attempt to become a State Party at the ICC by ratifying the Rome Statute and then referring alleged crimes to the ICC; or (2) remain a non-State Party but make a declaration accepting the Court’s jurisdiction over a particular set of crimes.

In either option the PA would have to refer an entire situation or train of events to the ICC that would permit the ICC Prosecutor to investigate or prosecute any crime within that situation allegedly committed by anyone, including alleged crimes by Palestinians against Israelis.

The State Party option would require the PA to ratify the Rome Statute and then present a document certifying the ratification to the U.N. Secretary-General, who is responsible for administering the Rome Statute. He would have to decide whether the PA was a state competent to ratify. Should he so decide, the Prosecutor and the rest of the ICC would be obliged to proceed as with any other State Party.

In the non-State Party option of a declaration of acceptance of jurisdiction followed by a referral, the ICC Prosecutor would have to make the first decision on whether the PA was a state competent to make the referral. This decision could be challenged in the Pre-Trial Chamber by the PA, or by another state involved in the situation giving rise to the referral, such as Israel.

The PA has in fact already tried this option by submitting a report of alleged crimes and declaration of acceptance of jurisdiction to the ICC Prosecutor in 2009. In April 2012, however, the Prosecutor released a statement that at he was not empowered to decide on the PA’s statehood status. Instead, the Prosecutor said, a U.N. body such as the Security Council or the General Assembly, or the ICC’s Assembly of States Parties, would have to make this determination. After the General Assembly’s recent action, the press has reported that the current Prosecutor is giving the earlier PA declaration further consideration.

Assembly of States Parties. Last November the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) held its 11th session and adopted a budget and made certain elections.

The ASP approved an amendment to the Court’s Rules of Procedure (new Rule 132 bis) that will permit a single judge to perform the functions of a Trial Chamber for the purposes of trial preparation. The amendment was agreed by consensus and is expected to expedite ICC trial preparation.

The ASP also had a general discussion of complementarity, i.e., the principle and practice of the ICC’s deferring to criminal prosecutions in national court systems. Helen Clark, the former prime minister of New Zealand and current administrator of the U.N. Development Program, spoke about the role international development agencies, such as UNDP and others, can contribute to domestic capacity for dealing with ICC crimes. She also urged governments to take responsibility to deliver justice.

U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Criminal Justice, Stephen J. Rapp, congratulated the ASP for this crucial discussion on both the policy and practice of complementarity. He stressed the importance to governments – States Parties and non-States Parties alike – to strengthen domestic judicial capacity in a manner that is both concerted and coordinated. He also said the U.S. supports ICC prosecutions and building national justice systems by funding support of complementarity; using the tools of diplomacy to support complementarity; providing technical and legal assistance to national systems; and improving fugitive tracking efforts.

There also was discussion about an initiative to adopt a treaty on crimes against humanity that has been prepared by the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute at the Washington University in St. Louis School of Law.

Genocide Awareness Statement by Prosecutor. In light of this April’s being genocide awareness month, the Court’s Chief Prosecutor called on “all States, whether parties to the Rome Statute or not, to cooperate with the ICC in seeking/pursuing accountability for genocide.” In particular, this meant enforcing the ICC’s warrant for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al Bashir, who is charged with “genocide by killing, causing serious bodily injury or mental harm and by deliberating inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups in Darfur.”


[1] Many posts have covered the ICC.

[2] Some prior posts have discussed possible ICC consideration of the Syrian situation (here and here).