Despite US caution, another ratification for ICC crime-of-aggression amendments

Animated-Flag-BelgiumThe global push to make the aggressive use of armed force a crime punishable by the International Criminal Court picked up another supporter this week.

Belgium deposited its ratification of the Kampala amendments to the ICC Statute on Tuesday, thus becoming the 12th ICC state party to support the amendments, which, as previously posted here, here, and here, define the crime and set out the paths by which persons suspected of responsibility for aggression may be called to account before the ICC.

Pursuant to the compromise reached at the 2010 ICC Review Conference in Kampala, Uganda, the amendments may not take effect before 2017, and then only after a further vote and the ratification by at least 30 states. Belgium’s joinder this week means the ratifications halfway point is near. Indeed, a tally of pledges made by other states both before and during this month’s annual meeting of the ICC Assembly of States Parties reveals that it is quite likely that the 30-ratification threshold will be reached well before 2017. (See my October post and the recent statements in the Crime of Aggression Twitter feed.)

usflagBut that was not the only crime-of-aggression news this month. Also at the Assembly meeting, just five days before Belgium deposited its joinder, the most vocal of ICC nonparty states weighed in: the United States’ top international criminal justice diplomat urged states not to make the crime of aggression punishable. That diplomat – Ambassador Stephen J. Rapp, head of the State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice – concluded his November 21 address to the Assembly by stating:

‘Another challenge with which the international community needs to grapple involves the crime of aggression.’

He made clear that U.S. statements against the amendments, made just after the end of the Kampala conference, still held:

‘The United States continues to have many concerns about the amendments adopted in Kampala, including the risk of these amendments working at cross-purposes with efforts to prevent or punish genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes—which provide the very raison d’être for the Court.’

And he urged a rethinking of the endeavor:

‘The States Parties were wise to create breathing space by subjecting the Court’s jurisdiction to a decision to be taken after January 1, 2017. The international community should use that breathing space to ensure that efforts to ensure accountability for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes can be consolidated and that measures regarding the amendments requiring attention can be properly considered; …’

With that, Rapp concluded:

‘… and it is our view that States should not move forward with ratifications pending the resolution of such issues.’

His exhortation appears not to have moved some states, including some of the United States’ NATO partners – among them, Belgium, Estonia, Germany, Luxembourg, and Slovenia, which already have ratified, as well as Croatia, the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain, which reportedly are working toward ratification.

Rather quiet in this debate are 2 states parties that belong to NATO and also hold permanent seats at the U.N. Security Council. How Britain and France proceed remains to be seen.

2 thoughts on “Despite US caution, another ratification for ICC crime-of-aggression amendments

  1. Donald M. Ferencz says:

    Countries which obstruct international efforts to prosecute, and thereby deter, the crime of agression risk giving the impression that they themselves have something to fear from the development of law in this area. The U.S. seems to have come a long way from the heady days of its own post-Nuremberg pronouncements regarding the status of aggression as an established international crime. For example, Warren R. Austin, Chief Delegate of the United States, in his opening address to the General Assembly of the United Nations on October 30, 1946 declared that “Besides being bound by the law of the United Nations Charter, twenty-three nations, members of this Assembly, including the United States, Soviet Russia, the United Kingdom and France, are also bound by the law of the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal. That makes planning or waging a war of aggression a crime against humanity for which individuals as well as nations can be brought before the bar of international justice, tried and punished.”
    That this proposition should be the subject of current debate mocks the sacrifice of the many millions whose blood paid so dearly for the the legal precedent establsihed at Nuremberg – that illegal war-making is a punishable international crime. Full stop.

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