African Countries Appeal to ICC

Central African Republic: Jean-Pierre Bemba Goma, a Congolese rebel leader, stands accused of directing his militia to commit mass rape, torture and murder. Goma is in custody at The Hague and is awaiting trial.

Darfur, Sudan: Two warrants of arrest have been issued for Janjaweed leaders, largely responsible for driving the genocide in the country right now. But the big controversy is about whether the court will issue a warrant for Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir. The lead prosecutor has presented a case to court calling for Bashir to be charged with genocide. Both rebel leaders are still at large and Bashir has stated that Sudan does not recognize the court and will not be subject to its findings.

Sudan isn't the only country that doesn't recognize the court. Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, Russia and the United States also have not ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, finalized in 2002, making a country a "state party," meaning it must abide by the court's rules and regulations. Many countries, including the United States, have cited a fear that their soldiers could be tried in an international court of which they have no jurisdiction. Indeed, only 108 countries have signed on and, out of those, 30 are African.

No Means of Enforcement for the Court

The U.N. and Western governments have threatened to have Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe charged under the international court, as well as politicians found responsible for Kenya's post-election violence last year, causing critics of the court to conclude that it is unfairly targeting Africans. Robla says its African countries that continue to call on the court.

"Of the Congo, Uganda, CAR [Central African Republican], Sudan, the first three have asked the court to investigate, and the U.N. Security Council asked the ICC [International Criminal Court] to investigate Sudan," the court's Robla said. "More than one-third of the countries that ratified the ICC are African countries, so it stands to reason that many of those being prosecuted would be African."

The international court, Robla said, is a "purely judiciary institution." It has no army or body to reinforce its warrants and relies on the "cooperation of the states, and all states parties must participate."

Sometimes, as is the case of Uganda's Kony, a country signed on and asked the court to investigate crimes committed but still has not handed over suspects.

His prosecution at The Hague has become one of the sticking points in the Ugandan government's working out a peace agreement with the resistance army. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has said that the government will not turn over Kony and his army to the court, causing an outcry from human rights organizations.

Robla said that governments are not supposed to use the international court for negotiation. Once the court has been asked to get involved and an investigation is opened, state parties are expected to follow the treaty.

"The country cannot negotiate anything," Robla said. "They will follow the normal judicial process once a case is in play."

The court is governed by its legislative body, the Assembly of States Parties, which consists of one representative from each state party. The member states contribute what they can toward the court's finances. As of September, the ICC's staff consisted of more than 500 people from more than 80 states.

But it's unclear how serious the repercussions will be for countries that have signed the treaty but do not abide by its regulations.

The Congolese government has so far shown the most willingness to utilize the court but, without any form of enforcement and limited funding, it remains to be seen how many other perpetrators of some of the world's worst crimes will face justice.

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