The brutal legacy of mass murder in the 20th century gave birth to the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle in the hope that an ounce of prevention could end the need for a pound of cure. Countries around the world vowed they shared obligation to protect the defenseless. Despite misperceptions over its nature, R2P is about preventing harm to people, not using force. Since its adoption at the United Nations World Summit in 2005, the doctrine has gained wide international acceptance.
Last week, the International Criminal Court (ICC) began hearing the case against William Ruto, deputy president of the Republic of Kenya. Ruto is facing three counts of crimes against humanity: murder, persecution and the forcible transfer of people. The related case against Kenya’s current President, Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, will begin in November. Ruto’s trial is historic for the ICC because it is the court’s first trial against a sitting politician. Yet it comes with a degree of controversy.
As violence has flared yet again in the eastern Congo and the world’s attention is focusing on atrocities in Syria, discussions at the United Nations on how to better protect civilians in conflict have gained renewed urgency.
For the past few years, the Libyan government and the International Criminal Court (ICC) have been involved in a political and legal tug-of-war. Who should exercise criminal jurisdiction over Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, as well as former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi? The court has issued arrest warrants for both men for allegedly committing crimes against humanity and war crimes related to events that took place following the uprisings against the Gaddafi regime in 2011.
Last month, Bosco Ntaganda, a notorious rebel commander from Rwanda known as “The Terminator,” unexpectedly turned himself in to the U.S. Embassy in Kigali. The International Criminal Court (ICC) had indicted Ntaganda in 2006 for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and the use of child soldiers. He was immediately transferred to the ICC in the Netherlands to face trial.
This International Women’s Day, taking stock of the progress and challenges facing women may be especially important in the area of international criminal justice. Women and young girls continue to be targeted at alarmingly high numbers because of their sex. Yet recently, hope has arisen with the unanimous election of the first female chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Over a decade ago, in commemoration of the establishment of the world’s first permanent international criminal institution, then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan spoke of “a gift of hope to future generations, and a giant step forward in the march towards universal human rights and the rule of law.”
On March 14, 2012, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued the first verdict since it began operations 10 years ago in the case of Thomas Lubanga, a former militia leader from the region of Ituri in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Lubanga, whose forces had sought regional autonomy for Ituri, was convicted of conscripting and enlisting child soldiers and using them in hostilities.
Six months ago, a member of the Nigerian radicalIslamist group Boko Haram drove a car laden with high explosives into theUnited Nations compound in Abuja and detonated it. The blast killed 23 peopleand injured more than 80. It was the first, and so far only, time the group hadattacked such an international target. But it has hardly been the only target.Since 2009, the group has killed at least 1,000 people. Almost every day sees anew attack or shootout in northeast Nigeria. Boko Haram has targeted churchesand police stations with particular ferocity. In January, militants killedscores of people in coordinated attacks in Kano, the largest city in the north.
Since the annual general debate of the United Nations General Assembly is fast approaching – when heads of state and top politicians from member countries deliver speeches on global problems – it makes sense to tackle the cliché that the assembly is an “ineffectual talk shop.” Indeed, the annual debate is considered a place where government officials hold “shop-window speeches” to protect their reputations and the powerless UN body engages in endless debates, producing resolutions that are not legally binding but mere political recommendations and moral rebukes. This criticism is factually wrong and unfair.