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International justice

56 - European policy towards the ICC and international criminal tribunals

Grade: B-
Unity 4/5
Resources 3/5
Outcome 4/10
Total 11/20
Scorecard 2012: B+ (15/20)
Scorecard 2013: B+ (14/20)
Scorecard 2014: B- (12/20)

European support for the ICC at the UN has struggled to sustain the court in a year that raised sensitive issues in all regions. 

The ICC had a difficult year. In May, France scored a small victory when it persuaded the US to support a UN resolution referring Syria to the ICC, a move that Washington had previously rejected as diplomatically counterproductive. This initiative had the backing of all EU members except Sweden, which continued to view it as potentially damaging. The French proposal was, in any case, a political gambit rather than a realistic plan: China and Russia predictably vetoed the resolution.

Later in the year, the ICC faced a series of setbacks involving African cases. The most prominent was the trial of Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, who faced charges relating to the violence that followed the country’s 2007 elections. In 2013 European members of the Security Council had helped to block a motion to postpone the case made by the African members of the Security Council. However, after delays, the ICC prosecutor withdrew the case in December 2014 due to insufficient evidence.

Shortly afterwards, the ICC announced that it was ending investigations into crimes committed in Darfur, a move that Sudanese president and ICC indictee Omar al-Bashir declared as a “victory”. The ICC has also failed to persuade Libya to surrender Saif Gaddafi for trial, confirming a trend of African non-cooperation that threatens to do the court deep damage. European governments face the conundrum of trying to strengthen the ICC without making it look like a neo-colonialist ploy.

The ICTY has continued its cases against former Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, but was widely criticised when it provisionally released another high-profile alleged war criminal, Serbia’s Vojislav Seselj, after ten years in custody. This was especially sensitive because Seselj is an outspoken opponent of the relatively pro-EU stance taken by the current government in Belgrade.