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DEVELOPMENT REPORT - A Compromise on Trials for Crimes of Aggression

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Lawyer Karim Khan, left, at the International Criminal Court last week, defending Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain. He has voluntarily surrendered to face war crimes charges in a deadly 2007 attack against African Union peacekeepers in Darfur.
Lawyer Karim Khan, left, at the International Criminal Court last week, defending Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain. He has voluntarily surrendered to face war crimes charges in a deadly 2007 attack against African Union peacekeepers in Darfur.

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

Member countries of the International Criminal Court met this month in Kampala, Uganda. They were there to examine the court's progress for the first time. Observers, human rights activists and civil society groups also attended the two-week review conference.

A treaty called the Rome Statute established the court in The Hague, in the Netherlands, in two thousand two. The court can try people for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity when their own countries are unwilling or unable to.

The court was also given the right to try crimes of aggression, although it never has. This is partly because I.C.C. members could not agree on how to define aggression.

In Kampala they agreed on a compromise resolution. It defines the crime in terms of acts by a political or military leader against another state in violation of the United Nations Charter.

Invasions, attacks and blockades could all be tried as acts of aggression. So could letting another country use a state's territory for aggressive acts against a third state.

The United Nations Security Council has the lead responsibility for deciding that an act of aggression has taken place. But if the council takes no action within six months, the court might still be able to carry out an investigation.

Critics pointed out that the agreement does not permit the court to punish aggression by non-member countries or their nationals. Also, members could refuse to accept the court's right to try crimes of aggression. I.C.C. countries also agreed to delay any action by the court on aggression until they re-examine the issue in seven years.

The International Criminal Court has yet to complete its first case involving any crime. Eleven cases are currently before the court. They include the case against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. He is the first head of state to be charged by the I.C.C. while in office.

Two years ago, the court found him guilty of war crimes in Darfur. Last year it ordered his arrest. But Sudan rejects the ruling. The I.C.C. review conference took place even as the president was just sworn in for a new term.

One hundred eleven countries are parties to the Rome Statute. The United States is not among them but took part in Kampala as an observer. Other countries that have not joined the court include China and Russia.

And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by June Simms. I'm Steve Ember.

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