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Indicting the International Criminal Court

At a time when many governments regard the rule of law as a suggestion rather than an obligation, an effective International Criminal Court capable of securing justice for war crimes and crimes against humanity is more important than ever. Yet the ICC's performance has left much to be desired.

NEW YORK – The International Criminal Court has come under withering criticism from the first four presidents of its oversight body, the 123-member Assembly of States Parties, following its decision not to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan. The reproach, which came in the form of an essay published by the Atlantic Council, is unprecedented but not unwarranted.

While the four diplomats – including former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein – remain “strong supporters” of the ICC, they are “disappointed,” “frustrated,” and “exasperated” by its weak performance. Given how desperately the world needs the ICC, they argue, an “independent assessment of the Court’s functioning by a small group of independent experts is badly needed.”

As someone who urged the creation of the ICC two decades ago and has been among its leading proponents ever since, I agree that the court needs fixing. The presidents’ letter cites the April 12 decision on Afghanistan, which reflected a lack of confidence that the ICC could successfully carry out the job. But frustration with the ICC’s ineffectiveness has been building for a long time.

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