crime of aggression

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.

UN_Members_FlagsEven before yesterday’s news that Israel might follow Syria in joining the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, worth noting was recent state action on treaties intended to increase international peace and security, for children and adults alike.

In the course of last week’s U.N. Treaty Event, lots of press was given to the United States’ lone show of support in this area; that is, Thursday’s signing of the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty. Yet at least as significant as that tentative show of support – also made by more than a score of other states – were countries’ full joinders of various pacts. (photo credit) Here’s what happened with regard to some other treaties of interest:

Peace, security, accountability

► 2010 Amendments on the crime of aggression to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court: Andorra, Cyprus, Slovenia, and Uruguay ratified or accepted, bringing the total number of adherents to 11. The United States is not among them. As detailed in posts here and here, these amendments cannot take effect any earlier than 2017, and then only if 30 states have accepted and a further vote has been taken. According to tweets from the Crime of Aggression project, countries working toward ratification include Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, the Czech Republic, Finland, New Zealand, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland. If all join, the amendments would be 6 short of the minimum required.

► 2010 Amendment to Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court: Andorra, Cyprus, Slovenia, and Uruguay ratified or accepted this treaty, which would enumerate as crimes in non-international armed conflict certain acts now prohibited only with respect to international armed conflict. The total number of adherent now stands at 14. The United States has not approved these amendments, which cannot take effect any earlier than 2017, and then only if 30 states have accepted and a further vote has been taken.

► 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty: Guinea-Bissau ratified, bringing the total number of parties to 161. Despite the high level of participation, this treaty cannot enter into force unless certain countries have joined. Among those is the United States, which signed in 1996 but has not ratified, the Senate having rejected the treaty in 1999.

► 1984 Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment: Guinea-Bissau ratified, bringing to 154 the total number of parties – the United States among them. Angola signed; the treaty has 80 signatories.

► 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide: Guinea-Bissau acceded, bringing to 143 the total number of parties – the United States among them.

► 2006 International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance: Guinea-Bissau signed this treaty, which entered into force in 2010. It now has 93 signatories and 40 parties. The United States has neither signed nor ratified.

Children’s rightsUnicef_Children

► 2011 Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure: Montenegro and Portugal ratified this treaty, which would allow children to bring complaints to the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child. That brings the total number of adherents to 8; the treaty cannot enter into force until after the deposit of 10 instruments of ratification or accession. Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, and Seychelles signed, bringing the total number of signatories to 42. The United States has neither signed nor ratified this treaty.

► 2000 Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography: the Russian Federation ratified this treaty, which entered into force in 2002. That brings to 165 the total number of parties. The United States is among them.

Complete record of Treaty Event activities here.

memdFor a number of years now, writings of my colleague Mireille Delmas-Marty have explored the relationships between the globalization of law and the globalization of the economy. Her newest publication proposes to regulate the latter in a way that enhances the former. Specifically, she would criminalize “aggression committed by non-state actors” – read corporations – as a means to encourage states to agree to hold themselves accountable for this international offense.

This provocative suggestion appears toward the end of “Ambiguities and Lacunae: The International Criminal Court Ten Years On,” just published in the Journal of International Criminal Justice by Delmas-Marty, Chair Emerita in Comparative Legal Studies and Internationalisation of Law at the Collège de France in Paris. (photo credit) The essay:

► Begins with “ambiguities” that arise out of the tension between the universalist aspirations of the Rome Statute and the sovereigntist realities of the ICC’s state-based structure.

Among the manifestations of this tension, she writes, is the status of the crime of aggression in the ICC. The international global community, she argues, must not just aim for “restoring peace as a form of reparation, but rather it must seek to establish a long-lasting and sustainable peace.” (p. 557) In her view, states’ Realpolitik must give way to acceptance, by big states as well as small, of the crime-of-aggression amendments adopted at the ICC Review Conference in Kampala, Uganda.

These amendments would regulate only state actors. Entry into force requires ratification by 30 of the ICC’s 122 states parties, as well as an additional state-party vote that may not take place earlier than 2017. As I wrote in A Janus Look at International Criminal Justice (2013), ratifications have been slow in coming. The Rome Statute had secured nearly all the requisite 60 ratifications within the 3 years following its adoption; in contrast, as of today, 3 years after the Kampala Conference, only 7 states have ratified the crime-of-aggression amendments. A new addition, Germany, merits particular note not only because of its history, but also because of its status as a large-power NATO member. Yet as Delmas-Marty writes in her JICJ article, most states seem to remain “[r]eluctant to transfer to international judges the power to qualify acts of aggression.” (p. 558)

► Shifts to exploration of “lacunae” (pp. 558-61). Of particular concern to Delmas-Marty is the status of globalized nonstate economic actors vis–à–vis the ICC. Citing Nuremberg-era cases involving industrialists, such as IG Farben, Flick, and Krupp, she states:

‘Corporate criminal involvement in international crimes did not end with the Second World War.’

Sometimes, she continues, “corporations are involved in the commission of serious crimes …. And yet, the Rome Statute does not contemplate the criminal responsibility of legal persons ….” Especially when corporations bear responsibility for fueling logs-of-war-promo2-view-1.599.307.sconflicts through “alliances with warlords in order to obtain scarce resources (such as diamonds, gold, timber or oil),” (photo credit) Delmas-Marty urges amending the Rome Statute to hold nonstate economic actors accountable for aggression:

‘By first outlawing armed conflicts commenced by criminal organizations,  the resistance of states could be overcome with the purpose of recognizing a global community whose interests are pursued  by all in the name of a sovereignty that, rather than being solitary, is grounded on solidarity. Following such an approach, international criminal justice could perhaps apply not only to the vanquished but also to the victors. In other words,  to the major powers themselves.’

These are ambitious goals. Even at Nuremberg, industrialists were convicted of aggression solely in the Krupp trial, and that result was reversed  on review. (See here.) Still, Delmas-Marty’s article provokes thought on how to hold to account both state and nonstate authors and agents of atrocities.