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No jurisdiction over SL - ICC

18 July 2011 05:56 am - 38     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Report courtesy the Australian

As head of the International Criminal Court, President Sang-Hyun Song runs a tribunal that sits above national legal systems.

The judge says his court complements national systems of criminal justice. But some critics -- particularly in the US -- have described the ICC as a threat to national sovereignty.

That threat, if it exists, has had little impact on the 116 countries, including Australia, that have acceded to the Rome Statute that established the court. In theory, these countries have empowered the ICC to sit in judgment on the conduct of their armed forces.

Concern about the ICC emerged briefly last year during the furore over the military prosecution by Australian authorities of troops who had served in Afghanistan.

Some saw the decision to prosecute Australian soldiers in Australia as a way of ensuring they would never be brought before the ICC.

Yet all the concerns about national sovereignty, according to President Song, are based on a misunderstanding of the court's role.

The ICC, he says, is a court of last resort. Its jurisdiction is limited to ending impunity for war crimes and a small number of similar "heinous" offences.

It can generally deal only with matters from countries that have endorsed the Rome Statute. And even then, it can only step in if national legal systems are unwilling or unable to act.

"The ICC, under any circumstances, will not and cannot and should not just jump over the national boundary of sovereign states and stir around the normally functioning judicial system of a sovereign state," President Song said.

"It is basically your job and we remain outside the operation of the national legal system, just waiting to step in in the case of inability or unwillingness." However, at the height of last year's furore over the prosecution of Australian troops, Australian academics pointed out that it was the ICC that decided whether countries were unwilling or unable to prosecute.

President Song, who is a distinguished South Korean jurist and former judge-advocate of the Korean army, was speaking to The Australian this week during a break in the commonwealth law ministers' meeting in Sydney. While officially an observer, President Song and the ICC had a direct interest in its proceedings.

After a year of discussions between the two organisations, the commonwealth law ministers on Wednesday endorsed a memorandum of understanding with the ICC and signed off on a model law.

The judge believes these initiatives should strengthen those legal systems that might struggle to deal with crimes against humanity, war crimes and other matters that could fall within the ICC's jurisdiction.

And that, he believes, will reduce the need for the ICC to intervene.

"The International Criminal Court operates on the basis of the complementarity principle; that it is primarily the responsibility of the national legal systems of sovereign states to conduct generally investigations and prosecutions of heinous ICC crimes," he said.

"If, however, the national legal systems of sovereign states are not able to do the job for the reason of the paralysis of the system . . . if the national legal system is unwilling to do the job for political reasons or some other reasons, only then can the ICC step in."

His assessment about the impact of this week's agreement is in line with that of Akbar Khan, director of legal and constitutional affairs at the commonwealth secretariat in London.

Mr Khan, who is a British diplomat and former London barrister, said the agreement with the ICC would have the effect of helping member states be more effective in investigating and prosecuting crimes covered by the Rome Statute.

"The ICC is a court of last resort," Mr Khan said. "The problem is that cases are getting to the ICC that should, properly in my view, remain at the domestic level.

"And one of the reasons cases find their way to the International Criminal Court is that, at the domestic level, they don't have the legislation."

President Song said it had widely been considered it would be 10 years before the Rome Statute was ratified by the 60 countries needed in order for the ICC to begin operations.

"But within four years we got 66 ratifications -- more than enough. That's how we started in 2002 -- much earlier than originally expected -- and several more are soon joining. We have been making quite impressive progress in this respect."

The latest country to sign the statute is Tunisia, the first ICC state party from the Arab world.

Egypt has since announced that it too intends to join the ICC.

"For the first time, Arab countries are clearly, actively considering ratification," he said.

"There is momentum. The trend is changing in favour of the ICC or international criminal justice."

For the ICC, this is quite a change.

"Until some years ago we were worried about our own survival," he said.

But with the court's position assured, it is now confronted with a different problem -- criticism that only some of the world's war crimes and crimes against humanity are being dealt with by the court.

One of the most glaring omissions is the court's inability to deal with acts of international terrorism by non-state parties.

Another omission has been the well-documented abuses by the Sri Lankan military during the final stages of that country's civil war. Both of these matters are beyond the limited jurisdiction of the ICC.

The court covers just four areas: genocide, war crimes, aggression and crimes against humanity. There had been an attempt to include terrorism but it had not yet succeeded, President Song said.

When asked if he would like to see terrorism brought within the court's reach, he declined to express a view because he said it was a matter for "the assembly of state parties", not the court.

On the final days of the Sri Lankan civil war, he said that country -- along with Israel and the US -- had not acceded to the Rome Statute.

So without a reference to the court by the UN Security Council, the ICC was unable to act.

"Whenever certain atrocities are committed in the corners of the world, everybody seems to refer to the ICC as an ultimate place to send that situation to," he said.

"We are very glad to notice all this growing recognition of the court. On the other hand we have to play by the rules that are specified in the Rome Statute."

Therefore the court was unable to act on matters from non-signatory states such as Sri Lanka, like Israel and the US
(Source : The Australian)

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  Comments - 38

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  • DXB Tuesday, 19 July 2011 04:34 AM

    Friend all thanks to Ranil ... This is the Reason Prabharan preffered MR over Ranil.... Ranil was called Fox by Anton Balasinham.

    Gigi Monday, 18 July 2011 10:36 PM

    Being on the same plate as Israel isn't exactly an ideal place to be.

    Gigi Monday, 18 July 2011 10:37 PM

    I hope you were being sarcastic

    Fouzi Tuesday, 19 July 2011 12:13 AM

    Sri Lanka is in par with genocide Israel, Great!

    Goka Tuesday, 19 July 2011 12:57 AM

    Good thing this was not signed. But I think Ranil as usual was procastinating, or else he would have signed to delight his masters in Western countries.... ha ha ha...

    Lord Willington Tuesday, 19 July 2011 01:33 AM

    Thanks Ranil! This is a great relief to our people! Though RW dsnt wear sarama and satakaya he is a great patriot and a son of this soil!

    ICC Tuesday, 19 July 2011 03:45 AM

    who didn,t sign rome satute , they get special treatment.

    Gayan Tuesday, 19 July 2011 03:59 AM

    Oh the Dispora will be heart broken

    SL Tuesday, 19 July 2011 04:26 AM

    Thank god not with Afghanistan or Pakistan.

    SL Tuesday, 19 July 2011 04:26 AM

    Not as band as being in with Gaza-Hamas.

    We Sri Lankan Monday, 18 July 2011 05:30 PM

    so you say that it is Sold for a sound...Is it , President Sang-Hyun....

    faqi Tuesday, 19 July 2011 06:04 AM

    J E M D - Where the rule of law applies irrespective of the persons position.

    Niv Tuesday, 19 July 2011 07:36 AM

    So SL is only worry about the size of the crime, doesn't know, crime is crime not depends in size?... Really funny people in this Miracle of Asia...

    Niv Tuesday, 19 July 2011 07:37 AM

    For what? Not to sign? or Did a crime? or escape from the crime?

    amir Tuesday, 19 July 2011 07:49 AM

    SL. are trying to be anti-islamic now? do you know it's pakistan army pilots who trained sri lankan pilots and even did some mission by them self? nice way to saw your appreciation.

    marusira Tuesday, 19 July 2011 09:40 AM

    Ranil must be kicking himself for not signing.

    Hemantha Tuesday, 19 July 2011 10:09 AM

    This is ok..but we do hope other ICC which concern cricket will look in to Srilanka Cricket !!!!!

    Labby Tuesday, 19 July 2011 10:12 AM

    The entire nation should be grateful to Ranil for this situation.

    pat Tuesday, 19 July 2011 05:19 PM

    Thank God, now there won't be so called fastings unto death, protests...

    Meshach Reuben Monday, 18 July 2011 08:04 AM

    someone will take credit for this too.. you all know who....

    Bumba Monday, 18 July 2011 06:25 AM

    Well get ready for sanctions from the developed world.

    My-raj Monday, 18 July 2011 06:25 AM

    Would like to see the commnts from Anti-Sri Lankan this regard..

    Asanka Monday, 18 July 2011 06:26 AM

    Thanks to Ranil W, this wasnt signed. if it was done we would have gone merry with Ranil. Atleast he deserve praise!

    truth Monday, 18 July 2011 06:34 AM

    OK. Sri Lanka Govt can now happlity continue with their usual practices.

    ransam Monday, 18 July 2011 06:55 AM

    Like US

    Michael Monday, 18 July 2011 06:57 AM

    So that's the conclusion

    mohammed Monday, 18 July 2011 07:02 AM

    Why people use the word war instead of humanitarian operation?

    Wara Monday, 18 July 2011 07:02 AM

    What ? Rehabilitation ??? It is has being doing since 2009, May till now and in future too !!

    Ranga Monday, 18 July 2011 08:09 AM

    We know that cry well. But UNSG or UNHRC can tell you to do so and that is the worry for some.

    Gayan Samarasekara Monday, 18 July 2011 06:07 AM

    OMG... Sri Lanka along with Israel and USA,..thrills me.. :)

    basi Monday, 18 July 2011 08:04 AM

    Thank you Ranil...

    Konde Bendapucheena Monday, 18 July 2011 08:11 AM

    developed world u mean china ,and Others,US and EU big trouble financially

    J E M D Monday, 18 July 2011 08:12 AM

    Developed world? What world is that? in today's context

    Srilankan Monday, 18 July 2011 02:33 PM

    Now everything is 100% clear. No need to talk this matter anymore.

    krishna Monday, 18 July 2011 02:44 PM

    Still they say that Ranil is a tatriot.

    Gangadeva Monday, 18 July 2011 03:12 PM

    No Jurisdiction over SL, Wow ' Thanks to Ranil W.

    abdulla Monday, 18 July 2011 03:49 PM

    Credit should go to genius Ranil

    Lanka Monday, 18 July 2011 04:06 PM

    Proud to be a Sri Lanken !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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