The politicisation of the ICC – Middle East Monitor


It was a difficult task for the International Criminal Court (ICC), which came into existence in July 1998. After the First and Second World Wars, projects were set up to establish a permanent criminal court to end the situation of widespread impunity. However, some countries who feared the prosecution of their officials stood against such a body, and the struggle continued until it was finally established.

Diplomatic missions in Rome, including those of the United States of America and Russia, signed the Rome Convention establishing the ICC. In total, 123 countries became State Parties of the body.

However, the US withdrew its support for the body, followed by Russia, and waged a war on the ICC that reached its peak during the Trump era. The American president imposed sanctions on former Public Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and several ICC staff members after she decided to open an official investigation into Israeli crimes committed in Palestine.

The ICC has jurisdiction over serious crimes committed since the Rome Statute came into force on 1 July 2002, but not those which occurred before that date. NGOs hoping to end impunity also supported its establishment.

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These hopes quickly faded after the US-led Western coalition invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 and Iraq in March 2002, and the most horrific crimes were committed without prosecution or accountability until the today to do. The UK, a member of the ICC, was a key partner in the coalition.

It was clear that the court had become politicized because of its inability to investigate crimes committed by superpowers, while investigating crimes committed in Africa. This tendency created a state of anger and unrest among African countries, which led to the withdrawal of Burundi and South Africa, and others threatening to do the same.

The crimes committed in Palestine have been the focus of the humanitarian world from the British Mandate era to the two disasters and to the present day. However, no one has ever been held accountable for the serious crimes committed in Palestine. The ICC claimed that it could not investigate these crimes because Palestine is not a party to the Rome Convention. In 2012, Palestine gained non-member state status, and referred the crimes committed in Palestine since 14 June 2014 to the court. Palestine then acceded to the Rome Statute, which entered into force on 1 April 2015, however, eight years later, no progress has been made in these investigations, and no arrest warrant has been issued by the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Neither Ukraine nor Russia is a party to the Rome Convention; therefore the court is unable to investigate crimes that occur there, however, Ukraine has accepted the court’s jurisdiction in crimes committed on its soil. Immediately, the Prosecutor General, Karim Khan, announced that his office had opened an investigation after 39 countries referred crimes committed there to his office.

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Where were these countries during the US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan? What about the crimes committed in Yemen, Libya and Syria, where Putin destroyed cities, poisoned people, displaced them, and lost the blood of children, women and the elderly?

Where did this sudden international will come from that encouraged Karim Khan to readily agree to open an investigation?

Why was this not present in the case of Palestine? During the Second Intifada which began in 2000 and ended in 2005, more than 5,000 people were killed and more than 50,000 were injured, including women and children, and houses were destroyed. During the war on Gaza in 2008 (Operation Cast Lead), Israel used internationally banned weapons, killing more than 1,400, and wounding thousands. During the 2012 war (Bullet Defense), 180 were killed and hundreds were injured.

Civil society organizations made several attempts to pressure the Public Prosecutor to investigate the crimes committed, but the Public Prosecutor’s Office responded that Palestine is not a party to the Rome Convention.

There is no need to make referrals for the Palestinian situation, and the former Public Prosecutor decided to open an investigation into the crimes committed in February 2021. Despite this, Karim Khan did not take action, although files were ready and complete , which left. the crimes to continue and the perpetrators are free.

Is Khan waiting for more heinous crimes? Did he not hear Bezalel Smotrich, who denied the existence of the Palestinian people and called on illegal settlers to “destroy” a Palestinian town.

Has he not seen the reports that describe this year as the bloodiest year, in which more than 90 Palestinians, including 15 children, have been killed so far.

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Khan is fully aware of everything that happens, but he deliberately ignores the complaints about him. He also did not follow up the investigations or issue any statement about the ongoing crimes in Palestine, and when asked about the Palestine file a year ago in an interview with Al Jazeera, he said, “It is inappropriate to talk about a specific case,” and refused to go into details. But, when he was asked about the former President of Sudan Omar Al-Bashir and the case against him, he spoke in detail.

In December 2022, the Public Prosecutor’s Office issued a report on the cases it is dealing with; Palestine was mentioned only three times, in the margin. Perhaps this explains why all attacks on the Public Prosecutor’s Office since its appointment have been stopped.

Since the war in Ukraine broke out in February 2022, under political pressure from various countries including the US, which is not a party to the court, the Public Prosecutor has been conducting activities and conferences about the crimes committed there, trying suspect prosecution. , and establish a special court to pursue them. He also visited Ukraine four times and met with officials there to prepare files on the crimes committed.

Khan is only focusing on the crimes committed by the Russians in Ukraine and has never spoken about the crimes committed by the Ukrainian security and military forces, which is a clear violation of the impartiality of the court, and a clear indication of Khan’s blind submission to the West.

In relation to Palestine, however, it has always been emphasized that all parties should be held accountable, as if the parties to the conflict in Palestine were equal in number and arms to those in the occupation state.

Khan’s submission to the agendas of the political powers certainly politicized the court, and this is now in danger of becoming so. If the decision to arrest Putin was made under natural justice, humanity would rejoice because he is a criminal who committed the most horrible crimes, not only in Ukraine but in other countries.

Putin should be arrested for his crimes in Syria, where he destroyed entire cities, displaced people and committed mass murder.

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Although Russia and Syria are not parties to the Rome Convention, if there was political will, their crimes would be referred to the ICC or a special court would be established to deal with their crimes.

Khan has engaged in a political game that has seriously damaged the reputation and impartiality of the court. He turned the ICC into a tool for the powers that were already against him and fought fiercely. The ICC may have had a hard time coming into this world, but Khan is making sure that it is stiff and political and unable to fulfill its mandate.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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