I.P.O. research project on International Criminal Justice -- Law versus Politics

Vienna, 1 July 2001/P/RE/17208c-is

The President of the International Progress Organization, Dr. Hans Koechler, announced today the formation of an international committee of experts with the task to undertake a comprehensive study of the ethical, legal and political aspects of international criminal justice in the context of the present world order.

It will be the task of the committee to analyze the present system of international law in the framework of the unipolar power politics that characterizes the so-called "New World Order." The question put before the committee will be whether a viable and legally sound concept of international criminal justice can be developed in the absence of an elaborate division of powers on the international level.

The I.P.O. committee will evaluate the experience collected from the Lockerbie Trial in the Netherlands, from the Ad Hoc Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda (set up by the United Nations Security Council), and will study the statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in regard to general principles of law, due process and fairness of trial.

The I.P.O. has repeatedly alerted the international public in regard to the discriminatory application of international criminal law by the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague and has warned of the politicization of such tribunals. The I.P.O. has also documented the negative impact of political influence on the proceedings of the Scottish Court in the Netherlands (Lockerbie Trial) and has repeatedly questioned the competence of the United Nations Security Council for matters of a strictly judicial nature.

As the President of the I.P.O. explained, international criminal justice cannot be based on considerations of power politics and, for that reason, must not be left to the supreme executive organ of the United Nations, the Security Council. As has been repeatedly illustrated by the conduct of the chief prosecutors of the Hague Tribunal, Ms. Arbour and now Ms. del Ponte, indictments follow the eternal rule of "victors' justice": the war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law by NATO forces, their commanders, and the political leaders of NATO countries, have not led to any indictment at all because - de facto if not de jure - those countries control  the conduct of the Tribunal.

One of the basic questions before the I.P.O. committee of experts will be whether the international rule of law is not more seriously damaged by the discriminatory application of the laws of war through politically-controlled courts and tribunals than by the absence of an international legal system of enforcement (as was the case in the traditional system of international law). If - because of the absence of a division of powers - the application of legal norms on the international level means discrimination in favour of the powerful - i.e. total immunity for those perpetrators of crimes who manage to control the Security Council and to present themselves as the "international community" - then the legitimacy per se of international law enforcement will be jeopardized and the large majority of nations will deny recognition to such a rule of force - which nonetheless presents itself as the "rule of law."

It is no mere coincidence that the United States administration vigorously opposes the existence of an International Criminal Court (with universal jurisdiction eventually also over US nationals) while it propagates international ad hoc tribunals the establishment of which it is able to control through the Security Council, a body that acts ultra vires when it deals with judicial matters on the basis of Chapter VII of the Charter.

The results of the research project on the viability of the concept of international criminal justice and its normative contradictions in the context of global power politics will be published in 2003.

END/International criminal law/01-07-01//P/RE/17208c-is