By Millicent Zighe
America has been challenged to stop being an enemy of the International Criminal Court and instead support it.
ICC President Chile Eboe-Osuji appealed to the American leadership to support the court’s efforts to serve justice for victims of war crimes. “The past, the present and the future victims of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes need her to do so,” said Judge Eboe-Osuji during a meeting of the American Society of International Law in Washington DC. His travel to the US comes only a fortnight since US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a visa ban on ICC oficials investigating American and Israeli citizens for war crimes and crimes against humanity. “I am announcing a visa restriction against anyone who participates in investigations of U.S. personnel,” Pompeo said.
Drawing on America’s rich history in advancning international criminal justice, Judge Eboe-Osuji said the US jurists had helped to create and operate international criminal tribunals such as those for Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia and Sierra Leone. “There is no escaping the fact that America has, more than most, done much, in our world’s recent history, to further the cause of international criminal justice in a joint effort with other nations”, he said.
America was instrumental in establishing the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg and the creation of the ICC through the adoption of the Rome Statute in 1998. Although the US signed the treaty, it did not ratify it and subsequently withdrew its signature. The US’s relationship with the court has come into sharp relief after the ICC Prosecutor launched investigations into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan where America has been engaged in a war over the past 20 years. Fears about the possible prosecution of Asmerican soldiers were seen to have provoked a tirade against the ICC by National Security Advisor John Boilton in Spetember 2018, and the recent visa ban.
Judge Eboe-Osuji recalled that US Supreme Court Judge Robert H. Jackson was one of the key players in ensuring that victims of the Nazi regime received justice after the Second World War. “The efforts of Judge Jackson and others were integral in ensuring the smooth sailing of the Nuremberg process and laying the groundwork for the first draft of the ICC Statute decades later,” he added.
Judge Eboe-Osuji also attended the ceremony where former Nuremberg prosecutor Ben Frencz received the 2019 Anne Frank Award, which also gave a Special Recognition Award to the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre.