Withdrawals from the Rome Statute: Continuing the saga of institutional (il)legitimacy

Francis Tom Temprosa
LLM Candidate & Clyde Alton DeWitt Fellow

The recent series of expressions to withdraw from the Rome Statute, including Burundi’s successful withdrawal,[i] is not surprising to legal scholars who have closely watched events unfolding before the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Prosecutions at the ICC have raised deeper questions about complementarity, and whether the ICC is biased in its selection of situations to investigate and individuals to indict.[ii] Under a neo-colonialist critique of the court, many African leaders and intellectuals have argued that the ICC is a Western imperialist attack especially on Africans.[iii]

Yet, the ICC has operated against a backdrop of non-ratification of signatures to the treaty and looming intentions to withdraw for many years now. In 2002, U.S. President George W. Bush notified UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that the United States had “no legal obligations arising from its signature” made during Clinton’s time.[iv] Russia, a signatory to the Statute, announced in November 2016 that it will distance itself from its signature after the court criticized it for actions in Crimea. Russia reasoned that the ICC “failed to meet the expectations to become a truly independent, authoritative international tribunal.”[v]

But this recent spate of intentions to withdraw brings concerns about the legitimacy of the court to a whole new level. First, states parties to the treaty, not mere signatories to it, had initiated steps to dissociate from the entire enterprise that is the ICC.

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ICC Reluctance to Prosecute ISIS: Legitimate Jurisdictional Issue or a Lack of Institutional Backbone?

Jenny Elkin
Vol. 38 Associate Editor

The past few years have seen a dramatic rise of Islamic fundamentalism across the Middle East in the form of radical militant group ISIS. Responsible for targeted killings, rape, genocide, and destruction across huge swaths of land, ISIS fighters have steadily been establishing a dangerous stronghold in Iraq and Syria.[1] The international community, recognizing the need to stymie the spread of ISIS, has chosen to act in various ways. Some organizations have focused on assisting displaced persons, some countries have chosen military responses in the form of drone strikes, and still other groups have taken up arms locally.[2] Amal Clooney has recently made headlines by announcing that she plans to sue ISIS on behalf of her client, a woman horrifically injured by ISIS militants.[3] This has focused attention on another potential course of action against ISIS: prosecution by the International Criminal Court (the “ICC”). Continue reading