Rachel Henley, Staff Writer
February 12, 2016
Is the International Criminal Court really international? If so, why have no developed countries had criminals indicted?
The ICC, established in July, 2002, is the first permanent international court to be put in place. Tribunals such as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia were created by the U.N. to try criminals during specific times and for crimes committed during specific conflicts prior to the establishment of the ICC.
The ICC has been accused of targeting developing countries, specifically in Africa. Since 2005, the ICC has issued 31 public arrest warrants and eight summonses, all of which were for individuals from African countries.
Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo’s ICC trial for crimes against humanity began on Jan. 28. Gbagbo is being tried for his actions after the 2010 Ivory Coast presidential election. When he was defeated by his opponent, Alassane Ouattara, Gbagbo attempted to maintain his position of power through the force of the state.
During the conflict that followed the election, approximately 3,000 people died. Although the fault for this tragedy does not lie solely with Gbagbo and his supports, only he and his former militia leader, Charles Ble Goude, have been indicted by the ICC.
The lack of individuals who supported Ouattara and have been summoned by the ICC has caused quite a bit of criticism. Ouattara recently issued a statement in a meeting with French President Francois Hollande saying that he would “not send any more Ivorians” to the ICC.
Gbagbo had invited the ICC to the Ivory Coast in 2003 when he was facing a rebellion against his presidency for its strict citizenship policies. Before this the Ivory Coast was not under the jurisdiction of the ICC.
Gbagbo has already been incarcerated in The Hague for four years. Previous trials with similar circumstances to Gbagbo’s have lasted for several years.
When the ICTY tried Slobodan Milosevic, it went on for four years. Milosevic died before a verdict was reached.
This is the first time that the ICC has tried a former head of state. In the past, trials held by the ICC have been of former rebel commanders rather than political leaders with highly controversial careers such as Gbagbo. This makes Gbagbo’s trial a hot political topic.
“Let me be clear from the outset: this trial is not about who won the 2010 elections,” said ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in a press release. “Nor is it about who should have won those elections.”
Although the trial itself is focused on the crimes allegedly committed by Gbagbo, the surrounding circumstances have caused a lot of attention to be placed on the ICC and its past cases.
“(The ICC) is exercising its power where it can” said Early College at Guilford history teacher Morris Johnson.
The ICC’s focus on developing countries may be, in part, due to the instability in many of their judicial systems. Although the ICC could prosecute leaders of developed countries, no precedent has been set for doing so.
It may be difficult to prosecute individuals from developed nations but not impossible. The argument that the ICC is incapable of indicting individuals from developed countries because they have not joined the court is inaccurate.
The U.N. Security Council has the ability to refer a situation to the ICC even if it takes place in a country that has not agreed to be under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, such as China and the United States.
The world will be keeping a close eye on the trial of Laurent Gbagbo as his case continues. This could be a pivotal moment with regard to the ICC’s future prosecutions.