Why should war criminals operate with impunity? | IPPNW peace and health blog

The development of a permanent international court dealing with severe violations of human rights has already produced some important results.  Thirty-one criminal cases have been brought before the ICC, resulting, thus far, in ten convictions and four acquittals.  The first ICC conviction occurred in 2012, when a Congolese warlord was found guilty of using conscripted child soldiers in his nation.  In 2020, the ICC began trying a former Islamist militant alleged to have forced hundreds of women into sexual slavery in Mali.  This April, the ICC opened the trial of a militia leader charged with 31 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur, Sudan.  Parliamentarians from around the world have lauded “the ICC’s pivotal role in the prevention of atrocities, the fight against impunity, the support for victims’ rights, and the guarantee of long-lasting justice.”

The ICC’s most serious problem, however, is that 70 nations, including the world’s major military powers, have refused to become parties to the treaty.  The governments of China, India, and Saudi Arabia never signed the Rome Statute.  Although the governments of the United States, Russia, and Israel did sign it, they never ratified it.  Subsequently, in fact, they withdrew their signatures. 

Although subsequently the Bush and Obama administrations grew more cooperative with the court, aiding it in the prosecution of African warlords, the Trump administration adopted the most hostile stance toward it yet.  In September 2018, Donald Trump told the UN General Assembly that the United States would provide “no support” to the ICC, which had “no jurisdiction, no legitimacy, and no authority.”  In 2020, the Trump administrationimposed economic sanctions and visa restrictions on top ICC officials for any efforts to investigate the actions of US personnel in Afghanistan.

Why should war criminals operate with impunity? | IPPNW peace and health blog