Russia and China Veto Security Council Resolution on Syria Referral to ICC

UN Security Council (c) UN/Evan Schneider

UN Security Council (c) UN/Evan Schneider

Today, at 10h00 New York time, the UN Security Council voted on a draft resolution introduced by France to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The resolution failed to pass when Russia and China, permanent members of the Council, vetoed the resolution.

Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the UN, in her statement following the vote criticised Russia and China for impeding access to justice for the Syrian people. She also emphasised the importance of holding Russia and China to account:

“While there may be no ICC accountability today, there should be accountability for those members of this Council that have prevented

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accountability.”

The US agreed to support the resolution after ensuring that Israel would be protected from prosecution before the Court in relation to its occupation of Golan Heights in Syria. Responding to criticisms that the resolution was biased, Power said:

“I agree. [The resolution] was biased in favour of establishing facts, tilted in favour of establishing peace.”

The veto has been called an “endorsement of impunity” by the Lithuanian representative and “disgraceful” by the United Kingdom.

The result is unlikely to come as a surprise following the statement made yesterday by Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s Ambassador to the UN, who called the resolution:

“simply a publicity stunt which will have a detrimental effect, unfortunately, on our joint efforts in trying to resolve politically the crisis in Syria.”

Today’s vote marked the fourth veto of the Syrian situation in the last three years.

Since Syria is not a party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, the Court may only exercise its jurisdiction over the situation if Syria were to accept the jurisdiction of the Court by way of an Article 12(3) declaration or the Security Council were to refer the situation to it.

ICC Prosecutor Reopens Examination of Detainee Abuse in Iraq

(c) Ian Waldie/Getty Images

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, today reopened the preliminary examination of the situation in Iraq following the submission of a 250-page dossier of new information in January by the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights and Public Interest Lawyers. Philip Shiner, human rights solicitor at Public Interest Lawyers, claims that the dossier reveals evidence of more than 400 cases of mistreatment or killings by members of the UK armed forces in Iraq. Former Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon and former Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram are named in the file.

According to the OTP’s Policy Paper, the purpose of a preliminary examination is to

“collect all relevant information necessary to reach a fully informed determination of whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation.”

Under Article 53(1) of the Rome Statute, the Prosecutor will examine issues of jurisdiction (temporal, material, and either territorial or personal jurisdiction); admissibility (complementarity and gravity); and the interests of justice in order to determine whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed.

Andrew Cayley QC, director of the Service Prosecuting Authority (SPA), has indicated that the ICC may run into issues of admissibility. The ICC’s regime is complementary to that of domestic systems; it may only intervene where a State is unable or unwilling genuinely to carry out investigation or prosecution. The Iraq Historic Allegations Team was set up in 2010 “to review and investigate allegations of abuse of Iraqi civilians by UK armed forces personnel in Iraq during the period of 2003 to July 2009.” Where investigations conclude that there is sufficiently credible evidence, cases can be referred to the SPA for prosecution. Continue reading

ICC Dismisses Communication Purporting to Accept Jurisdiction over Egypt

Last Thurdsay, the International Criminal Court announced that it was dismissing the communication purporting to accept the Court’s jurisdiction over Egypt as not being presented by the concerned State.

Protesters in Egypt in 2013 (c) AP photo/Amr Nabil

The communication had been submitted on 13 December 2013 by lawyers acting for, amongst others, the Freedom and Justice Party. It purported to accept the jurisdiction of the Court over the State of Egypt with respect to crimes committed on its territory since 1 June 2013.

In dismissing the communication, the Registry in consultation with the Office of the Prosecutor, found that the communication could not validly accept the jurisdiction of the Court under  Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute as the petitioners

“lacked the requisite authority under international law to act on behalf of the State of Egypt for the purpose of the Rome Statute.”

The Freedom and Justice Party consider themselves to be the democratically elected representatives in Egypt. In a press release, they express their disappointment with the decision and assert that it will not hinder accountability before the ICC. They maintain that the communication

“contained a clear and reasonable legal basis for opening a preliminary examination into the situation in Egypt and was supported by independent opinions from leading international law experts.”

Members of the Party’s legal team include former Director of Public Prosecutions Lord Ken Macdonald QC, former UN Special Rapporteur Professor John Dugard, and ICC specialist Rodney Dixon QC.

The Court remains unable to exercise its jurisdiction over Egypt until it either becomes a State Party, the UN Security Council refers the situation to the Court, or a valid Article 12(3) declaration is made.