Posts Tagged ‘ICC’


President Trump issues serious threat to the ICC, its staff and families

The international legal order established after the Second World War seems further away than ever.  The increasing number of despots in countries such as China, the Philippines, Turkey, Hungary and Russia pose a severe threat to the world order and human rights.  In addition to infringements in their own countries, their influence is increasing overseas with the Chinese in particular securing greater influence and a say in the UN’s activities.

In John Bolton’s memoir published this week, he alleges (among many other things) President Trump praised President Xi Jing-Ping for the imprisonment of the Uighurs, around a million of whom are incarcerated in re-education camps and suffer severe restrictions.

President Trump and his staff – including William Barr, the Attorney General of the USA – launched an unprecedented legal and economic attack on the ICC, its staff and family members.   He alleges it is a ‘kangaroo court’ and has alleged corruption of its members.

The USA – along with Russia, China and Israel – are not members of the organisation which was which came into being after the Rome Statute in 1998 and operates in the Hague.  For a long time, the court was criticised for focusing on crimes in Africa, but recently, they have begun to investigate Israel’s ever increasing seizure of Palestinian land and America’s activities in Afghanistan.   America sees itself as a beacon on international values and will not allow jurisdiction over its citizens by an overseas court.  It claims that any violations by its personnel or servicemen or women are investigated so there is no need for a court such as the ICC.

THE international response has been one of dismay.  The problem is not just this court but the attitude of POTUS to all outside or international organisations which are treated with contempt or hostility.  This is the flip side of ‘putting America first’ which what he promised at his election of course.  An Amnesty director said:

The Trump administration has a well-honed pattern of undermining and all-out assaults on multilateral institutions, rather than doing the sometimes difficult, but necessary work of joining them, sustaining them, and working to improve them.  Today’s announcement is yet another assault on vital institutions that help people look after one another and provide survivors of rights abuses with justice.

The vague and open-ended language in the executive order could leave open the possibility that NGO workers, activists, foreign government officials, and others working to advance international justice may find themselves implicated by these obstructive measures.

The ICC has investigated individuals responsible for some of the world’s most horrific crimes, including those in Myanmar, the Central African Republic, and Darfur, to name just a few.  The ICC is a court of last resort; it exists to provide justice in situations where states are unwilling or unable to do so.  It is a court for the people.  That the Trump Administration is so committed to targeting the court speaks volumes about its lack of commitment to delivering justice to individuals, families, and communities.  Daniel Balson, Advocacy Director for AI USA

Human Rights Watch say:

There is a need for clear, principled and forceful messages from the EU in support of the ICC and condemnation of US attacks on the court are necessary and urgently needed.

In a statement, the ICC itself said:

The International Criminal Court expresses profound regret at the announcement of further threats and coercive actions, including financial measures, against the Court and its officials, made earlier today by the Government of the United States.

The ICC stands firmly by its staff and officials and remains unwavering in its commitment to discharging, independently and impartially, the mandate bestowed upon it by the Rome Statute and the States that are party to it.

These are the latest in a series of unprecedented attacks on the ICC, an independent international judicial institution, as well as on the Rome Statute system of international criminal justice, which reflects the commitment and cooperation of the ICC’s 123 States Parties, representing all regions of the world. […]

It is deeply concerning that one of the founding nations of the UN and the UNHDR and for a long time regarded as the leader of the free world, should descend to these sort of tactics and behaviours.  The threats are little more than we could expect from some tin pot dictatorship, affronted by an international organisation looking into their illegal activities.  It is not what we should expect from a nation such as USA.

Sources: Aljazeera; Guardian; Human Rights Watch; Deutche Well; Amnesty; ICC

 

 


Edited: 10 April 20

We have chosen to review the book Twilight of Human Rights Law by Prof. Eric Posner (OUP) as it appeared in an article by Britain’s new Attorney General, Suella Braverman.  She refers to one of his arguments in a newspaper article.  In addition, the many attacks on human rights and the desire to abolish the Human Rights Act is part of current government policy.

The first part of the book is a tour d’horizon of the many failings in human rights around the world.  He instances massive violations in places like Rwanda, the appalling treatment of the Rohingya in Myanmar, the terrible events in Chechnya and many other places around the world.  He rightly points out that although countries have signed up to treaties to abolish the use of torture, it is still widely practised.  He points to bad police practice in countries like India, Brazil and Indonesia.  Slavery is still the curse it ever was but organised in a different way.

International treaties have had little effect he says in improving behaviour.  In a small number of cases it has he concedes.  He discusses the imperialist criticism of western states seeking to impose their moral compass on other countries based on attitudes dating back to colonial days.  He instances the use of torture by the Americans at Guantanomo Bay following 9/11.  This was supported by a majority of Americans and thus challenges their claims of moral leadership.

The argument seized on by the Attorney General is that of a trade-off as far as the use of torture is concerned.  The argument here is that many countries have limited resources.  They have a choice between spending money on improving the police and stopping torture or, investing in health care or education.  Since better health care and eduction is likely to be of greater benefit to more people, it is a preferred option.

THE book is flawed in many important respects.  Although the arguments he provides and examples of failure and continuing violations and bad behaviour by many states around the world are true enough, it is not true to say that there have been no improvements in the human rights everywhere.  One of the problems is that transgressions are news: steady improvements aren’t.  So we read or see TV programmes about violations or genocide for example, but not small improvements in say, Russia.

The argument about torture assumes that there is an economic equivalence between improving police behaviour and education spend.  The two are likely to be vastly different.  Improving police behaviour and that of the judiciary would cost millions, education costs significantly more than that.  Moreover, education is a continuing cost, sorting out the police is more likely to be a one-off cost.  Getting rid of torture is likely to have benefits to society.  The police are trusted then they will get more support from the public.  He gives no credence to the fact that torture is ineffective.  People will say anything to get it to stop.

Another unconsidered factor is the very cost of running a police state.  To run a state like China where human rights are flouted on a massive scale, is immensely costly.  The Chinese monitor movements of its people, they have a vast system of tracking the worldwide web to ensure its citizens do not read what the state doesn’t want them to, and they employ a huge army of police and informers.  They have invested heavily in cameras and systems to watch its people’s movements.  It is not true to assume therefore that improving human rights is somehow automatically more costly than the politics of repression.

As AC Grayling puts it in his book Ideas that Matter (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2009);

The ideas embodied in all these human rights instruments have a powerful influence on thinking and behaviour, even if violation of them continues: hope has to lie in the future as these ideas become more widespread and more influential still.  (p179)

Although Posner gives a good summary of human rights, especially since the war, he does not discuss the longer history since Magna Carta. There has been a trend over centuries of citizens gradually acquiring more rights.  The European Court has, slowly but surely, done a lot to raise standards as has the International Criminal Court.  Nor does he credit the fact that the presence of treaties is an important support for people pressing for better rights in those countries where they are poor.  The many human rights organisations are able to pursue their arguments and press for changes precisely because there is a corpus of treaties and law to base their actions on.  The point overlooked by the professor is that the treaties enable action within the country itself.

He also makes great play of the numbers of treaties and long list of rights, which he says, renders them less effective.  He lists them all in an appendix but upon examination, many are restating the same points.  He seems to overlook the vast number of laws which govern most states.  These are constantly added to as new problems emerge or old problems need solutions, the Children Act for example.  The number of laws do not make improving society less effective – quite the opposite it could be argued.

Perhaps because Prof. Posner is a lawyer but he sees progress purely through the lens of law and treaties.  He does not take into account that laws are just one part of the equation.  A considerable amount is done by persuasion, human rights activists, diplomats and others (including Amnesty members) beyond pure legal action.

Overall, despite the long list of problems and failures, he does not convince that it is twilight for human rights.

Human Rights tableau, France