Do we need an international criminal court

International Criminal Court - Human Rights for All?

In white: The 123 member states of the International Criminal Court

A court for Africans only?

This does not invalidate one of the main allegations that the Hague prosecutors have repeatedly made for years: The International Criminal Court uses two standards and is only interested in human rights violations by Africans. "It cannot be ignored that the vast majority of cases that the Court is currently hearing come from the African continent"says criminal lawyer Safferling. Investigators are currently investigating the human rights situation in eleven countries - only one of them, Georgia, is not in Africa. "But you also have to take into account", explains Safferling further, "That 20 years ago the African states in particular stood almost unanimously behind the creation of the International Criminal Court." Some of the largest and most serious war crimes conflicts occurred in African countries in the early 2000s - and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and the Central African Republic themselves referred the first cases to court. Gregor Hofmann says: "Some states or governments initially supported the International Criminal Court when their opponents were still being investigated, Côte d'Ivoire is a good example. When it became clear that people who are close to the government could also be prosecuted, this suddenly turned out to be the case Commitment to the Court of Justice weakened. That shows the direction from which the criticism comes in part. "

In 2016, South Africa, Burundi and Gambia announced that they would withdraw from the International Criminal Court. In South Africa, a court ruled that the Zuma government could not simply leave without asking parliament. Just like Gambia, the country is still a member today. Burundi resigned in 2017 after the court opened a preliminary investigation in the country. As of 2019, the Philippines will no longer be a member of the International Criminal Court either. Prime Minister Rodrigo Duterte decided to resign after the court began investigating human rights violations as part of its "war on drugs".

Is the dish a toothless tiger?

Further allegations that are made to the International Criminal Court again and again: it is too expensive, too slow and, as a "toothless tiger" without its own "world police", does not have sufficient possibilities to investigate and execute arrest warrants or judgments. However, this is a fundamental problem for international organizations, says Christoph Safferling: "In international law, we are generally dependent on states acting with their monopoly on the use of force for the international organization. It is no different with the United Nations. I would say that it is a completely normal process." On the other hand, he sees shortcomings in the prosecutor's compliance with professional standards in The Hague.

It is not easy to criminally prove moral guilt

These had been shown at the trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba, who was acquitted of war crimes allegations on appeal in June: "As far as I can tell as a scientific observer, this acquittal was also made because the prosecution did not work carefully enough." The prosecutors were too sure that as President he was responsible for the crimes committed. "That is a moral, ethical claim that is probably also true. But in order to prove it criminally, one has to go into more detail in the indictment and argue in a more limited way in order to prove a person's guilt beyond a doubt." This problem is also nothing new in the history of international law: at the Nuremberg trials against the German elites of the Nazi era, the American prosecutors often failed to prove a person's direct guilt for the same reasons.

A symbol against impunity

Despite all the shortcomings - Gregor Hofmann draws a positive balance: "I think we need such a court of law, it has to become even stronger because it is the symbol that stands for the fight against impunity, even if it has not yet worked as well as we would like it to." Christoph Safferling also believes in the future of the International Criminal Court: "I hope that the International Criminal Court will remain as an institution because it is a thorn in the flesh of those in power around the world. It stands for a moral claim that must be obeyed, and which civil society is constantly calling for But of course he also has to be convincing in his work. And there is still some room for improvement. " One thing is certain: in many cases, the International Criminal Court is the only court today before which the most serious crimes against humanity can be prosecuted.