In the August 9th edition of The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, FIU Law Professor Megan A. Fairlie discusses the need for the “International Criminal Court (ICC), both to ensure accountability for the perpetrators of the worst crimes known to humankind and to stem the loss of innocent lives.”
Megan Fairlie is an Assistant Professor at Florida International University College of Law. She has lectured and published in the United States and abroad on international criminal justice issues over the last decade. Her analyses have appeared in such prestigious venues as the American Journal of International Law and the Berkeley Journal of International Law. Professor Fairlie is an honors graduate of Washington and Lee School of Law; she also holds an LL.M. in International Peace Support Operations and a Ph.D. in International Human Rights Law, both from the National University of Ireland, Galway.
Security Council referrals to the International Criminal Court: Much Ado about Nothing?
BY MEGAN FAIRLIE
The ongoing brutalization of civilians at the hands of the Syrian regime makes it abundantly clear that the world needs the International Criminal Court (ICC), both to ensure accountability for the perpetrators of the worst crimes known to humankind and to stem the loss of innocent lives. As it stands, however, leading powers and the UN Security Council are preventing the ICC from effectively deterring the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria and elsewhere.
The treaty-based ICC has 121 member states, but Syria is not among them. As a result, the ICC cannot investigate the Syrian killings unless it receives authorization from the Security Council. This is unlikely to happen, as two of the Council’s permanent members—Russia and China—have thus far shown unfailing allegiance to the Syrian regime. Yet even in the absence of Sino-Russian opposition, the likelihood that the court would ultimately receive the support necessary to do its job properly remains unacceptably low. Last year, the United States successfully lobbied the Council to respond to similar violence in Libya with a referral to the ICC. According to U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, this “represented an historic milestone in the fight against impunity.” Today this description seems overly generous.
Operating largely without the cooperation the Security Council ordered Libya to provide, the ICC has been severely limited. The arrest warrants charging crimes against humanity, including those issued for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the former dictator, remain unexecuted. Instead, Saif lingers in a mountainous area more than eighty miles outside Tripoli. There he waits in the custody of the rebels who captured him, while Libya wrangles with the ICC over the legally complicated issue of whether Saif should be prosecuted in The Hague or at home.