A small, but yet major development took place at the Kampala review conference of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which took place from 31st May to 11th June. This was the decision to criminalise the use of armed force by one state against another, in contravention of the UN Charter.
Although it will take place in 2017, it already heralds a major step in making the world a safer place for individuals.
However, the Kampala resolution noted that if the ICC prosecutor wishes to move forward with an investigation of possible cases, he or she will take the case to the UN Security Council. Once that body has determined that an act of aggression has taken place, the prosecutor will move forward with a probe.
Secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon, in a statement issued 15th June by his spokesman, said that he welcomed what he described as ‘the historic agreement’ on the definition of aggression.
At the start of the review conference, Ban underlined that a new age of ‘accountability’ is replacing the ‘old era of impunity.’
The new ‘age of accountability,’ he noted, dawned with the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals, gaining strength with tribunals for Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, Cambodia and Lebanon.
‘Now we have the ICC –permanent, increasingly powerful, casting a long shadow. There is no going back,’ Ban stressed.
But for the ICC to have the reach it needs, the UN secretary-general pointed out, it must have universal support, ‘only then will perpetrators have no place to hide,’ he said.
One example is Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir who faces an arrest warrant on seven charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes. Universal support for his arrest has been lacking particularly amongst African and Muslim nations.