The International Criminal Court ICC
On Friday 17 March 2023, the world learned from an ICC communiqué that one of its investigative chambers has issued two international arrest warrants. One against His Excellency the President of the Russian Federation, Mr Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. And the other against Mrs Maria Lvova-Belova, Commissioner for Children’s Rights in Russia. These arrest warrants were issued following a request from the ICC Prosecutor dated 22 February 2023.
Editor’s note: They are accused of being responsible for the war crime of unlawful deportation of people, in particular children, and their unlawful transfer from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.
What is the International Criminal Court?
It is a court that was established in Rome on 17 July 1998 by an international treaty called the Rome Statute.
The International Criminal Court was created to judge war crimes and crimes against humanity. Over time, the scope of its activities has expanded to include mass crimes and genocide.
The idea of creating the ICC comes from the Nuremberg tribunals, which were ad hoc, special tribunals.
There were several Nuremberg tribunals, even if the first one is the most famous, there were others. The idea behind the creation of the ICC is to formalise, institutionalise and perpetuate the nature of these special tribunals through a single jurisdiction that will be responsible for judging, at any time, the leaders of all the countries in the world who commit this kind of extraordinary crime judged at Nuremberg.
As I told you, the ICC was created by an international treaty. So the first thing that had to be done was that all the states in the world had to sign the treaty. Then, after signing it, they have to ratify it. The third step is that the treaty must enter into force. An international treaty cannot enter into force if it does not obtain a minimum number of ratifications. In the case of the Rome Statute, the minimum number of ratifications was set at 60. This minimum number was achieved in 2002. So, since 2002, the Rome Statute has entered into force and so has the International Criminal Court.
However, it should be noted that only those States that have signed and ratified the treaty recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC. In other words, only those States that have signed and ratified the treaty are part of the Rome Statute. In other words, only those States that have signed and ratified the treaty are subject to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.
The difference between signing and ratifying a treaty is that the supreme representatives of the state, through its executive branch, are empowered to sign a treaty, but its ratification is done by the parliament, i.e. the legislative body representing the people. This is how it is done in most countries of the world.
The question that arises is whether the Russian Federation is justiciable before the International Criminal Court?
The Russian Federation has signed the Rome Treaty, but it has not ratified it. This means that the Russian Federation and its citizens are not subject to the ICC. The Russian Federation is therefore not legally bound to comply with anything emanating from the ICC.
Which states in the world have signed and ratified the Rome Treaty, otherwise known as the Rome Statute?
There are 193 states in the world according to the UN. Of these 193 states, 123 have signed and ratified the treaty.
There are others that have signed but not ratified. There are also those that have not signed at all, and there are also those that have signed and ratified but subsequently denounced the treaty.
Some examples of countries that have signed and not ratified the treaty:
Ukraine signed but did not ratify the Treaty of Rome
The United States signed but did not ratify the Treaty of Rome
The Russian Federation has signed but not ratified the Treaty of Rome
Israel has signed but not ratified the Treaty of Rome.
States that have not signed the Treaty of Rome at all:
A very interesting case is that of France and Great Britain. These two countries have signed and ratified the Treaty of Rome, but they have taken a particular position that they can never be prosecuted for war crimes or for crimes of aggression outside their own country, no matter what part of the world they are involved in.
Finally, the last question is what is the value of the warrants issued against His Excellency the President of the Russian Federation, Mr Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, and Mrs Maria Lvova-Belova?
These two warrants have no legal value. Despite this, the fact that they were issued may suggest that they may have political significance. Even if I can make a political analysis of the mandates in question, I think it is up to the political scientists to make such an analysis.
Paulette Oyane Ondo
Lawyer at the Bar of Gabon
President of the Centre for the Promotion of Democracy and the Defence of Human Rights.