The final speaker at the recent upstate New York conference was William A. Schabas, Professor of International Human Rights Law and Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland-Galway. He asked whether the International Criminal Court Review Conference this summer in Kampala, Uganda (above left; credit), was "a moment of celebration or a disappointment." Schabas then answered his own question:
I think it is a great accomplishment.
Negotiators worked on both definition and conditions for the next dozen years before the Assembly of States Parties adopted a package of proposed amendments, designed to give the ICC power to adjudicate allegations of aggression, at Kampala.
"At Kampala, it was not obvious even till the final minutes of the conference that it was going to succeed," said Schabas. "These were adopted in the final minutes of the conference, by consensus. If somebody had called for a vote, the votes probably weren’t there." (credit for photo from Schabas' Kampala blog, depicting him, center, "discussing the amendments to article 8 with the Bulgarian delegation")
The central achievement was the definition of aggression in proposed Article 8 bis. "It will not be immune to judicial interpretation," Schabas said, and predicted "a liberal approach to its application."
Strong supporters of criminal punishment for aggression have expressed concerns that the Kampala package affords too many ways to avoid implication in that crime. (For details on the intricacies of these amendments, see our crime of aggression series.)
Agression, Schabas allowed, "may never be prosecuted, which may not necessarily be a bad thing. It simply confirms a deterrent effect."
Schabas sought to allay concerns about obstacles to entry into force, including a requirement of ratification by 30 states and further review in 2017. "I don’t think they’re actually going to be very difficult – not anywhere near as difficult as the obstacles appeared in 1998, of getting the 60 ratifications." (This latter milepost was reached in April 2002, so that the Rome Statute entered into force fewer than 4 years after its adoption. Today 113 of the United Nations’ 192 member states belong to the ICC. Nonparties include China, India, Russia, Turkey, and, as discussed in yesterday’s post, the United States.)
Endorsing a prediction that, as posted, ICC Judge Hans-Peter Kaul made earlier in the Dialogs, Schabas said:
I think that within 6 years, 4 months, and a few days we will have a court with jurisdiction over aggression, capable of prosecuting the crime.
Jackson saw the link between war and other crimes, that war is at the center of it, that war is responsible for it. To the extent that the adoption of that amendment revives this, that is good.
Why might some be less eager today to prosecutor perpetrators of aggression?
► 1st: "We have become a be more militarized than we should be." As posted yesterday, in an earlier Dialogs speech Stephen J. Rapp, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, had stressed, as a reason for caution in implementing the current Kampala aggression amendments as they now stand, that military intervention is at times necessary. Schabas replied:
Sometimes, yes. But nor would I exaggerate the importance of that, because war brings atrocities, inevitably.
(Part 1 of this 3-part series on the 4th IHL Dialogs is here; Part 2 is here.)