Tussle over crime of aggression at ICC meet

June 2, 2010 12:00 am

, KAMPALA, Uganda, June 2 – The European Union Parliamentary delegation wants the International Criminal Court conference in Kampala to agree on the crime of aggression.

Speaking during the International Criminal Court Review Conference in Uganda, delegation Chairman Richard Howitt said no country should hinder the opportunity for lawyers and non-lawyers to rule on the legality of the crime for the world.

He said: “Two European members of the Security Council, the United Kingdom and France, should not defend their privileges thereby denying the opportunity for lawyers and non-lawyers to rule on the legality of war for the whole world.”

His remarks came after alleged attempts by the American delegation to block adoption of the crime of aggression into the Rome Statute which they said is broad and vague and was likely to strain the activities of the ICC.

A line of argument being maintained by those opposed to the crime of aggression is that the discretion to define and determine the jurisdiction of crime of aggression should be left to the UN Security Council, a non-elected and powerful body comprising US, China and Russia, which are not members of the ICC.

“The right place is the ICC. The European Union which was forged out of war crimes of the Second World War, should not today prevent the same crimes tried at Tokyo and Nuremberg from being tried for the wars of the twenty-first century,” said Mr Howitt.

The crime of aggression is one of the key issues the Kampala conference is supposed to define as it falls within the ICC jurisdiction.  

Mr Howitt reasoned that EU countries would be making a historic mistake if they don’t finally define the crime of aggression. He further said they will hold EU member countries to account if they failed to deliver.

Proponents of crime of aggression contend that exclusion of the crime of aggression would render the Rome Statute incomplete and do nothing to end impunity for the most atrocious crimes.

A member of the US delegation, Elisabeth van Schaack, said America felt that crime of aggression would overwhelm the Court which deals with three other complex crimes; genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“The Crime of aggression is not only too vague but would distract the Court from pursuing atrocious crimes,” she said.

She denied assumptions that US feared it would affect them directly, countering that there were many countries that could be affected.

Ana Gomez, a Portuguese member of the European parliament and member of the European delegation at Kampala, said they have been lobbying the US Congress and the Obama administration for their support for the ICC and the crime of aggression. She said while there are pockets of resistance from some congressmen and women and some elements of the military, the Obama administration is largely positive on the issue.

ICC Prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, meanwhile, said the ICC is a legal institution and will investigate and prosecute crime of aggression if the states parties agree on the crime.

(Capital News journalist Judy Kaberia contributed to this article).



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