Since it began operations in 2002, the International Criminal Court has secured just four convictions, fueling the perception that it has been largely ineffectual as a tribunal of last resort for the world’s worst criminals. Making matters worse, Gambia, Burundi and South Africa have announced their intention to leave the court, which some African leaders see as a vestige of colonialism because it has so far tried cases only fromtheir continent.
At a time when President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan are eluding accountability for a litany of war crimes, these defections have called into question the long-term viability of the court and the world’s commitment to the principles it was created to uphold. Instead of allowing it to wither, the international community should redouble efforts to strengthen the court’s mandate and its mission — no easy task given its complex history.
World leaders explored the possibility of establishing an international criminal court after War World I. But it became diplomatically feasible only when the Cold War ended and the United Nations saw the need to establish special tribunals to bring to justice the perpetrators of atrocities in the Balkans and Rwanda during the 1990s. Full Story