Is the ICC suffering a crisis of confidence?

Like many institutions these days, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has something of a problem with lack of funds.

A colleague of mine wrote a very good article about this, which is the hardest one that I have so far had to try to get past editors in London, since it was certain to irk the court.

And an irked court is something that I really could do without, since I need their co-operation in the book I am writing.

But sometimes the court is it’s own worst enemy – see the ill-thought-out comment that they made in the article, which disingenuously said that they could dip into the “contingency fund” that is reserved for unseen circumstances, should they run out of money.

Doh! Is it actually a surprise to anyone that the court has to, ach-hem, actually run some trials next year.

Anyway, the problem all lies with the Assembly of State Parties (ASP), which are the financial backers of the court – i.e., representatives of the signatories to the Rome Statute.

The other week, they had a meeting in The Hague to discuss the ICC budget, and came to the conclusion that they would cut it. Not significantly, but enough to send out a rather disturbing message for those that believe in the permanency of the court.

Part of this, of course, has to do with the relentless economic troubles that member states are facing.

But another aspect of this may be that member states are starting to lose faith in the whole process. Which may be decidedly unnerving for the court, which is supposed to be a permanent fixture on the global landscape, and indeed is expecting to move into permanent digs by 2015 (predictably later than anticipated).

The problem, I think, is the slowness at which the court – and member states have so far seen no real value for their buck. Okay, a few chaps have been arrested (though many are still at large), and that sends out a clear message to other folk in their countries – don’t be bad or the ICC’ll get you, a little like a scary children’s fairytale. But, almost eight years after the ICC came into being (and more than 10 years after the signing of the Rome Statute), not a single trial has run to completion – and probably won’t next year.

Such is the slow pace of internation justice.

Just for the record, because I so often bash the ICC, I don’t disagree with the overall validity of the project. The main purpose of the court, of course, is not to prosecute all of the world’s evildoers, but to send out a very clear message to current evildoers that, should their evil keep being done, they face a very real possibility of ending up before the court.

Like Lubanga. Like Katanga. Like Bemba.

No. My real gripe with the court is the ridiculous political machinations at work behind the scenes. It’s called the Security Council, for the most part. And America, of course, has a permanent seat on that particular body – though is still not a member of the ICC.

Not that such political machinations are necessarily a bad thing. It’s just that some degree of honesty – and communication, Dear Information Department – is needed about exactly what the ICC is trying to do.

And, until that is made totally clear, expect many cash-strapped States to want to bail when the ICC goes begging to them, cap in hand.

Which it must, for some bizarre reason, do every year. How can a permanent international criminal court, whose trials can take years to run to completion, have a budget of just one year? Why not three? Or five?

Does that point, once again, to the lack of faith that signatories to the Rome Statute have about the process?


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One Response to “Is the ICC suffering a crisis of confidence?”

  1. The long road to justice « Blake Evans-Pritchard’s Weblog Says:

    […] Blake Evans-Pritchard’s Weblog Blake Evans-Pritchard’s Sudan blog « Is the ICC suffering a crisis of confidence? […]

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