International Justice Day

20 July 2011 by Geraldine Coughlan

One might wonder why it has taken until 17 July 2011 to celebrate International Criminal Justice Day when international criminal courts have been established since 1993. Or whether there is any reason at all to celebrate International Criminal Justice Day, as the ICC has not yet convicted anyone. 

The ‘Arab Spring’ and the spontaneous turmoil it sparked across the Arab world has propelled the International Criminal Court (ICC) to the forefront of the international political stage. The court is now seeking the arrest of the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, which would lead to a very high-profile political case for the ICC. Now Amnesty International is urging the UN to refer crimes in Syria to the ICC as well.

But the international courts, from Nuremburg to the ICC, have long been criticised as tribunals set up by the aggressor to prosecute its victims, meting out ‘victor’s justice’. And the ICC is often considered by critics as a ‘tool’ in the hands of NATO.

But international courts are set up to try individuals; they are unable to prosecute organisations or entities for breaching international law during military interventions such as in Libya.

Of course, that doesn’t stop people from trying. Since the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) have both rejected cases brought against NATO for lack of jurisdiction.

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