THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT AND ITS ROLE IN THE PROSECUTION OF GENOCIDE

CHAPTER ONE

CONCEPT OF CRIMES AND THE NECESSITY OF THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

Introduction

The history of mankind is a chronicle of bloodshed and violence among people with competing interests, ideologies and aspirations. In the face of the calamitous historical records, one might be tempted to conclude that ingrained practices are inexorable and unalterable and that the final arbiter of irreconcilable disputes between sovereign states will remain the power of armed might.

However, significant changes have taken place which points a striking fact that the old ways are not necessarily immutable, and in a thermonuclear world, the illogical deduction that the violent past is merely prologue to the future might turn out to be man’s most suicidal error. The dire need for justice to take its full course cannot be over-flogged or over-emphasized:

But there can be no peace without justice, no justice without law, and no meaningful law without a court to decide what is just and fair under any given circumstance. The process of codification, adjudication and enforcement is as vital to a tranquil international community as it is to any independent national state”.

This was succinctly stated by Benjamin B. Ferencz in his book “An International Criminal Court, A Step towards World Peace”. He saw the need for the codification of laws in a bid to achieve justice in its greatest maximum and a permanent court to implement such goals bringing it to fruition.

The concept of an international arm code and an international criminal court are the results of two trends in international law- The need to punish offenders (individuals) for international crimes, and the need for an impartial international tribunal or court; hence the of International Criminal Court. Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary-General said thus:

For nearly half a century – almost as long as the United Nations has been in existence – the General Assembly has recognized the need to establish such a court to prosecute and punish persons responsible for crimes such as genocide. Many thought… that the horrors of the Second World War – the camps, the cruelty, the extermination, the Holocaust – could never happen again. And yet, they have, in Cambodia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Rwanda. Our time – this decade even – has shown us that man’s capacity for evil knows no limits. Genocide… is now a word of our time too, a heinous reality that calls for a historic response.

The “response” he referred to in his above words of wisdom, is a permanent court girded and saddled with the responsibility of promoting justice by holding individuals accountable; to end impunity; to help end conflicts and ease the transition to peace; to remedy the deficiencies of ad hoc tribunals and to deter future war crimes.

In the long run, the great question that comes to play is: “How far has the court fared in the actualization of its goals. Propagation of justice and the abatement of international crimes to its bearest minimum”. Thomas Darnstadt et al equally stated thus in his book. A dangerous luxury: The International criminal Court’s Dream of Global Justice.

“The International Criminal Court in the Hague is supposed to bring war criminals to justice, but it has yet to deliver a single verdict. Can International law bring peace to war-ran regions – or does it actually hinder the peace process”.

A cursory look into the history, necessity and role of the International Criminal Court will therefore be done. The attitudes of states towards its existence and their cooperation geared towards supporting the court’s operation will not be left out.

It is worthy of note that the dangers of international crimes with particular reference to genocide cannot be over-emphasized and should be given prompt attention and effective solutions/control strategies proffered. We seek a climate where the global economy and open trade are graving, where democratic norms and respect for human dignity and rights are increasingly accepted and where terrorism, drug trafficking and international crimes do not undermine stability and peaceful relations.

1.2 Definition of International Crimes

The prosecution of severe international crimes is a necessary to enforce international criminal law and deliver justice to victims. This is an important component of transitional justice or the process of transforming societies into rights respecting democracies and addressing past human rights violations.
What then are International Crimes?

In an early essay on “International criminal law”, Sir John Fischer Williams opined that “International crimes” appeared “to have at least two meanings: one, a crime against international law, and the other, ‘a crime which brings or may bring an offender into conflict with the laws of more than one country. It is this second sense which is the most popular use of the phrase and which is associated with the “International criminal” who is known to the authorities of more than one Police Force”.

International crimes has also been broadly defined as “an act universally recognized as criminal which is considered a grave matter of international concern and for some valid reasons cannot be left within the exclusive jurisdiction of the state that would have control over it under ordinary circumstances”.

This strikes a cord to the fact that international law imposes criminal liability directly on individuals. Erstwhile, it was questionable whether “true offenders” could actually be brought to book and punished accordingly, especially where such laws addressed itself only to states. It could repress individual conduct only by authorizing states to do so through their legal systems. However, since the end of the Second World War, the notion has thus transcended to the fact that individuals can have both international rights and duties, “there has been an increasing trend towards the expansion of individual responsibility directly established under international law.

The crimes that states are thereby obligated to repress can be classified in different ways. The most generally useful schemes may be one that distinguishes between various types of international crimes on the basis of the degree of official involvement in the conduct constituting the crime. Accordingly, international crime can be adjudged roughly into three general heads.

The first general heading includes violations of international norms directed towards restraining the conduct of state officials acting under colour of law. Offences under this heading include; conventional war crimes such as violations of the Hague and Geneva Convention, in addition are two other categories of crime that were prosecuted at Nuremberg: Crimes against peace and crimes against humanity. They are equally known to comprise of the “classical domain” of international criminal law. By extension this heading includes: genocide, apartheid and torture.

The second heading includes the crimes associated with terrorist activities that have been the subject of the relatively recent conventions. This dwells strictly on criminal responsibility by individuals. The subject of these conventions is to deny offenders “safe haven” to close bolt holes. A classical example is the offence of piracy. “

The third heading covers other acts of private individuals that have been subjected to treaty prohibition because they involve either transnational traffic or illicit commodities (narcotics, endangered species and at one time obscene publication).

International crimes are also classified or categorized as “crimes against the peace and security of mankind”.
Article 16 crime of Aggression
Article 17 Crime of genocide
Article 18 Crime against Humanity
Article 19 Crimes against United Nations and Associated Personnel
Article 20 War Crimes