By Niklas Jakobsson
Torture and human rights abuses. The world of International Justice exploded with reactions and analysis after the US Senate presented its long-awaited torture report. The document vividly described horrific acts of torture and human rights abuses,adding fuel to an already burning fire relating to US violence.
Mainstream media spent most of its time asking questions relating to former Vice President Dick Cheney, to what extent the then President George W Bush knew about the abuses and what the future safety concerns could be. But what about that international institution that was established to try crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes and a whole bunch of other horrendous crimes? Could International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda finally get a high-profile case that could make (or break) the ICC?
With the recent failure of the case against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, many questions have already been raised regarding the ICC’s actual power and influence in prosecuting the crimes it was created to deal with. So if the court can’t deal with the state of Kenya, how will it deal with (arguably) the most powerful country in the world? Mark Kersten – founder of the blog Justice in Conflict – believes that there are two approaches to this argument.
“Here is the argument that the court is in too weak of a position to pursue the prosecution of citizens from great powers. The fear here is that the positive relationship the court worked so hard to earn shouldn’t be sacrificed for a fight that the ICC can’t win. The second viewpoint is that the court is in too weak of a position and thus it must confront abuses from great powers.”
But a possibility to prosecute a possible case based on the report might not even be possible, at least if the arguments of Eugene Kontorovich, law professor at Northwestern University, hold up.
“Gravity represents a more serious and viable obstacle to ICC prosecutions. While the gravity criteria is very fuzzy and unsettled, it has both a qualitative and quantitative dimension. One needs a certain body count. Thus the ICC Prosecutor has dismissed investigations into alleged improper uses of force by both British and Israeli troops on the grounds of insufficient gravity, when the casualties numbered around ten people.
The Senate report finds 39 detainees were subject to harsh treatment from 2002-2008 (and some might be excluded from the ICC’s consideration for temporal jurisdiction reasons). It is not clear if all these crimes occurred in Afghanistan, where territorial jurisdiction exists.”
Another question that might come up is who should be tried for these crimes? President Barrack Obama has already announced immunity for those involved in the program. How will this go down with the Office of the Prosecutor? Putting a face to a case has been the strategy of the ICC since its beginning – whether it is Uhuru Kenyatta, Laurent Gbagbo or Jean-Pierre Bemba. Will the face of an ICC trial be the once mighty Dick Cheney? Some Twitter users believe that Cheney should appear in the docks – no matter the institution.
Finding a responsible party to prosecute will most likely be one of the ICC’s main struggle, if they get to the point of a preliminary investigation.
- If a case were to get to the court, who do you think should appear in front of the ICC?
- Is the ICC powerful enough to charge US officials?
- Will anyone be held accountable for the crimes described in the report?
Lead image: Dr. Meddy is a cartoonist who works for Cartoon Movement.
The Weekly Hubble features the most popular or controversial international justice story of the past week and reactions on social media to the news.