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The Current State of International Criminal Law and the Necessity for an International Anti-Corruption Court

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is a permanent court which was established on 1st July, 2002 under the Rome statute. The Rome statute is the founding treaty of the ICC which provides safeguards and legal support to victims of heinous crimes and instils a sense of accountability in member states to hold perpetrators liable for their criminal acts.

The aim of setting up the ICC was to ensure that individuals charged of heinous crimes that shook the conscience of humanity were prosecuted and tried. Prior to the establishment of the ICC, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) had through its peremptory powers established two ad-hoc tribunals; namely the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia and Rwanda. These tribunals had limited jurisdiction and could only try criminals from particular territories. Similarly, the International Court of Justice could only resolve disputes between two States, but unlike the ICC, could not try individuals.

The ICC operates on the principle of complementarily and has been established to complement national courts. The ICC is a court of last resort and exercises its jurisdiction only when the courts of the state or states concerned do not prosecute or try the criminal or there is inordinate delay on their part to do so. This principle thus makes the concerned state responsible to prosecute and try criminals and not shield them for their wrongdoings.

In spite of being a permanent court established by the resolve of the international community, there are significant obstacles and challenges that lie in the ICC’s path, one of them being that major developed and developing nations do not submit to the jurisdiction of the ICC with nations like the USA, China and India being notable examples. Secondly, because it is a judicial institution, the ICC does not have a police force of its own and hence it is dependent on countries for aid and assistance, as far as arresting the perpetrators and enforcing the sentence of the Court is concerned. Lastly, the ICC can only investigate and hear matters that took place after its establishment, and not of any date prior to that.

Corruption is a global menace that has plagued the world, and many a time, citizens are forced to turn a blind eye to corruption because there is little or no way of redressal. The world has seen several renowned political personalities indulging in corrupt practices and abusing public offices for economic and political gain.

One such illustration which proves how corruption has managed to creep into the highest corridors of power and how none is immune to it, is Jacob Zuma, former President of South Africa. Zuma had to resign amid heavy public backlash after allegations of state capture and him trying to enrich himself and his aides with billions of dollars of taxpayer money came to the forefront. His involvement in trying to establish a kleptocracy by corrupting the financial status of his country is unmistakably clear.

Efforts began since 2003 to tackle the menace of corruption, and today nearly 187 countries have come together and become a part of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), a convention that contains certain mandatory and binding legal provisions which seek to curb corruption and protect whistle blowers. The convention aims to crackdown on various forms of corruption, such as bribery, trading in influence, abuse of functions, and acts of corruption in the private sector. There is also a unique provision aimed at returning illegally acquired assets to countries from which such assets had been taken.

The above happenings prove the necessity to establish an Anti-Corruption Court keeping in mind the provisions of the UNCAC which seek to curb the worldwide menace of corruption and protect the rights and assets of people from abuse and misuse. Article 5 of the ICC statute states that the ICC’s jurisdiction extends only to crimes like genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression and does not cover economic crimes related to corruption. Thus, there is a grave need to establish an Anti-Corruption Court vested with a wider jurisdiction to try corruption related crimes.

The ICC was established by various countries as an international platform for justice and it can only realise its true potential when countries abide by their resolve of co-operation. It is important for countries to realise that the ICC was not established to replace domestic jurisdiction or interfere in its functioning, but it was established to lend a helping hand and assist countries in prosecuting criminals. Thus, countries must co-operate with the ICC to ensure that justice is not only done, but also is seen to be done. 

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