POST WRITTEN BY: Prof. Peter Widulski, Assistant Director of the First Year Legal Skills Program and the Coach of International Criminal Moot Court Team at Pace Law School.
As reported in the October 24, 2014 press release, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Mrs. Fatou Bensouda, on October 23, 2014, addressed the United Nations Security Council on ways the Council can provide more effective support to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The relationship between the ICC and the Security Council, which the Prosecutor addressed, has important implications for the ICC’s goal to end impunity for grave international crimes. Unlike the International Court of Justice, which was established in 1945 by the U.N. Charter as the U.N.’s principal judicial organ, the International Criminal Court is a judicial body independent of the U.N. The ICC was established through a separate treaty – the Rome Statute that entered into force in 2002 – with different jurisdictional predicates focusing on prosecution of individuals alleged to have committed grave crimes of an internationally recognized nature that are within the ICC’s subject matter jurisdiction.
Despite the ICC’s independent status, the Preamble of the Rome Statute “reaffirm[s] the Purposes and Principles of the Charter of the United Nations [which require] that all States shall refrain [from acting with force] in any … manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” In addition, Article 13(b) of the Statute accords the Council the capability to refer to the Court for criminal investigation matters the Council deems appropriate pursuant to its responsibility under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter “to maintain or restore international peace and security.”
Article 13(b) provides the Council with the opportunity for the first time to invoke its Chapter VII authority to initiate criminal investigations before a standing international criminal court. Before the ICC’s establishment, the Council, when confronted with situations in which severe crimes threatening international peace occurred, had to provide for both investigation and prosecution through special resolutions and particularly crafted statutes that created ad hoc tribunals, such as those for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda.
The authority accorded to the Council by Article 13(b) is powerful and important because it authorizes the Council to refer to the ICC Prosecutor investigation of crimes within the ICC’s subject matter jurisdiction where the ICC’s other jurisdictional predicates would otherwise be lacking. The Council can refer to the ICC Prosecutor investigation of crimes in situations even when the alleged crimes do not occur on the territory of a State Party to the Rome Statute or were not committed by a national of a State Party.
The Security Council has utilized its Article 13(b) authority thus far to refer two situations to the ICC: Darfur, Sudan (2005) and Libya (2011). The ICC Prosecutor has been actively pursuing cases in both of these situations.
Following the Council’s Sudan referral, an ICC court issued arrest warrants for Sudanese president Omar Hassan Ahmad al Bashir in March 2009 and again in July 2010, charging him with co-perpetrator responsibility on multiple counts alleging crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide relating to the bloody conflict in Sudan.
Several African States have declined to execute these warrants when Al Bashir traveled to these States for diplomatic purposes. As reported previously on this blog, in April of this year an ICC Pre-Trial Chamber chastised the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for failing to comply with ICC requests for Al Bashir’s arrest when in February 2014, he visited the DRC to participate in a summit conference of African leaders.
In her October 23 address to the Council and during the discussion that followed, Prosecutor Bensouda gave prominent attention to issues relating to the Darfur situation. She called on the Council, when issuing its Article 13(b) referrals, to advise States of their cooperation responsibilities in the stronger terms that it used in its resolutions creating the ad hoc tribunals. She urged the Council to call on U.N. Member States to cooperate in the arrest of suspects under ICC arrest warrants, and she urged the Council to consider ways to address the failure of States to comply with such obligations.