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Should We Let War Criminals Go Scot-free?
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[0호] 승인 2005.07.07  
트위터 페이스북 네이버 구글
Koo Sun-mo

According to United Nations (UN) statistics, there has not been a day without war. You may think you live in a peaceful world, but right now on the other side of the world, hundreds of innocent people are being killed in wars.

So what do you think wars give you? And, leaving aside benefits, who should compensate victims for the ruin way cause? We, Koreans, had suffered a huge amount of damage in the Korean War, yet no one took clear responsibility for it. To solve this kind of problem, a special court, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been created.

The ICC officially started on July 1, 2002 and it is a permanent international court to judge and punish war crimes, crimes against humanity, and cases of genocide that have killed thousands of people.

An earlier court, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) was established after World War¥± but the ICJ dealt only with crimes that were committed in specific areas, so that other crimes which happened in other parts of the world beyond its sovereignty were not judged. It also could not prosecute individuals. The ICC, on the other hand, can demand compensation and add rules to protect victims from further harm.

The need for the ICC went back to five hundred years ago, but real discussion got started due to the Nazis large-scale massacres in the World War¥±. Many world leaders felt the urgent necessity for the ICC and made basic resolutions in the UN General Assembly, but after that not much progress was made. During the Cold War, the east and the west could not agree to the establishment of the ICC. More recently, in 1998, the Rome Statute called for the practical establishment of the court and now in 2002, the ICC is starting its mission.

The needs of the ICC takes many forms. First, several recent genocides have highlighted the demand for countries to work together to prevent them from happening again.

Second, the former court, the ICJ, could not play an adequate role in its field, and third, eased the Cold War tensions have made it possible for the east and the west to cooperate together. Fourth, the absence of a permanent organization has caused some troubles such as the need for international representatives to form temporary organizations to prosecute war crimes.

The appearance of the ICC provides a role model for judging crimes and sets the highest international standards for domestic and international justice. Therefore, the ICC can set clear definitions for legal processes and even enlarge the scope of human rights so that anyone can get justice. Moreover, it corrects shortcomings in current international law and will be an important factor in forming the new global law system.

However, no one knows how effective the ICC will be. It will depend on the attitude of world governments. If countries do not cooperate, as was the case with the former ICJ, the ICC will have no power to act.

Each nation has an excuse for not accepting the rulings of this international organization because they think the ICC infringes on their sovereignty. This comes from an anxiety that the international court will interfere with a their nation’s independence, and in addition, it will disrupt their domestic law system.

Moreover, some nations may use a domestic crime that is seen to be as a political problem as a weapon for attacking others. In other cases, some countries could use the ICC as an excuse for their bad actions. For example, in the United States, ex-president Bill Clinton supported ratification of the ICC with difficulty in December 31, 2000 but the current president George Bush has reneged on the bill.

Recently the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) approved the one-year exemption for the US Army in Croatia for one year against prosecution by the ICC. Although the US keeps telling us that they have to have the privilege of exemption in order to protect people from danger, this is nothing more than an excuse for their bad actions.

It means that the US admits their faults, committing many inhumane crimes in the world under the name of protection. This action also shows us that the US makes unnecessary wars to keep and maintain their hegemony and, in collaboration with military authorities, suppresses the development of social movements.

Why does the US propose to make wars many people oppose? The attitude of the US is weakening the fundamental influence of the ICC. If the most powerful country, the US, does not follow the law of the ICC, which country will obey it?

The ICC should no longer have to exist on the periphery of the world of justice. The situations of the world are getting worse and worse and the urgent need for the ICC is greater than ever. The ICC has to have stability and consistency in exercising its jurisdiction in order to have more power. It also should be free of political pressures and remain as a permanent organization.

Above all, we have to recognize that we should not stay indifferent to innocent peoples’ suffering and death. They are the family and friends in our world. So we should realize the need for the ICC and make efforts not to let the criminals go free.
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