KUALA LUMPUR: On February 8 the Malaysian Bar convened a meeting to discuss the establishment of the Malaysian Coalition for an International Criminal Court (ICC). About a dozen NGOs and political parties attended this meeting chaired by Ambiga Sreenevasan, vice–president of the Malaysian Bar.
Ambiga began the meeting by explaining that the International Criminal Court (ICC), set up in the Hague on 1 July 2002, is an independent, permanent court that is meant to try persons accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
She said the Malaysian Bar called the meeting because it believed the ICC to be an important international institution deserving the support of all Malaysians. She said that it was important that civil society raise awareness about the ICC and advocate that Malaysia become a signatory to the 1998 international treaty that created the ICC, the Rome Statute. Towards this end the Malaysian Bar had recently become a member of the international coalition for the ICC (http://www.iccnow.org/).
After this brief introduction highlights of the DVD "In Search of International Justice" was screened. The DVD outlined the background to the formation of the ICC, how the ICC differed from the ad hoc tribunals for former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and briefly touched on the US opposition to the formation of the ICC.
K. Shanmuga then made a power point presentation outlining key characteristics of the ICC. He explained that the jurisdiction and functioning of the ICC was governed by the Rome Statute. He said that Malaysia is not among the 139 countries that have signed onto the Rome Statute. Shanmuga also made several points on why he felt it would be in Malaysia's own best interests to ratify the Rome Statute and become a full participant in the ICC.
Following Shanmuga's presentation there was a free flowing discussion where questions were raised and clarifications made regarding the ICC. Shanmuga explained that the ICC has jurisdiction in three different situations: (1) When the crime was committed by a citizen of a state that had ratified the ICC; (2) When the crime was committed on the territory of a state that had ratified the ICC and (3) When the matter was referred to the ICC by the Security Council.
He also clarified that the ICC was not meant for ordinary criminals but reserved for very serious crimes like genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, all of which were carefully defined in the Rome Statute. He said that the ICC had no jurisdiction over crimes that were committed before 2002. In response to a query whether signing on to the ICC would threaten our sovereignty, Shanmuga explained that the ICC will only act if the national court of the accused is unwilling or unable to act.
Ambiga said that the Malaysian Bar hoped to form a Malaysian Coalition and mount an awareness campaign about the ICC as well as to take steps to encourage the Malaysian government to sign the Rome Statute.
Several organisations present expressed an interest to be part of such a Coalition but others said that they would have to take the matter back to their respective organisations. Ambiga said that if necessary members of the Malaysian Bar would be willing to provide briefings to groups and other interested individuals about the ICC.
It was decided that the Malaysian Bar would convene a meeting in about a months time to allow organisations to discuss the matter and come to a decision.
The ICC will not prevent the occurrence of crimes against humanity. An effective ICC will however compel individuals to account for the "most serious crimes of concern to the international community". The ICC will also ensure that those who commit war crimes receive a fair trial in accordance with the highest standards of justice.
International Criminal Court – Recent Developments
by K Shanmuga
• The House of Representatives in Nepal on 25th June 2006 unanimously passed a resolution calling for the Kingdom of Nepal to accede to the Rome Statute of the ICC. The Nepali government has indicated it would look into the matter seriously.
• The Japanese Government has officially announced its intention to accede to the Rome Statute this year. At the opening of the Japanese Diet in January 2007, the Foreign Minister announced that the Japanese Government would be putting forward a series of bills seeking approval of the Diet to ratify the Rome Statute. It is understood that the final drafts of the necessary implementing legislation and approval for contribution of a sum of 1.9 billion yen (approx. USD 16.2 million) will be presented. Agence France–Presse had previously noted that this would mean “Japan would replace Germany as the biggest funder of the ICC”. Yomiuri news highlighted that a Senior Foreign Ministry official stated the decision was made “partly because the government aims to participate in the review of the treaty and an election of judges to be held in 2009.”
• Indonesia is also understood to be planning ratification by 2008. On 9th February 2007, a cross section of Indonesian Parliamentarians formed an Indonesian Chapter of Parliamentarians for Global Action where one of the main issues being advocated is the universal ratification of the Rome Statute. Speaking at the launch, Indonesian Foreign Minister Dr. Wasan Wirayudha underscored the timeliness of the PGA initiative to gather key Lawmakers from the relevant Committees and other stakeholders who shall take ownership and leadership in implementing the National Human Rights Plan that recommends Indonesia's accession to the Rome Statute by 2008. The Minister stated that " The ICC is a milestone for the globalisation and internationalisation of the Rule of Law to prevent and repress the most serious crimes of international concern. The foreign policy of Indonesia is centred on the promotion of democracy and human rights, internally and externally”.
• The Republic of Chad ratified the Rome Statute on 1st November 2006 thus becoming the 19th member of the Organisation of Islamic Countries to join the ICC. On 18th August 2006, the Union of Comoros joined becoming the third member of the Arab League and the 28th from Africa to ratify the Statute. The Caribbean nation of Saint Kitts & Nevis ratified later in August, and subsequently the newly independent Republic of Montenegro also became a State Party by succeeding to the treaty obligations of the former Serbia Montenegro. The total number of State Parties to the Rome Statute has therefore now reached 104.
• The Malaysian Bar in November 2006 joined the International NGO Coalition for an International Criminal Court. It is understood it is the first NGO from Malaysia to join. On 8th February 2007, the Bar organised an exploratory meeting to set up a Malaysian Coalition with encouraging response. [
Updates sourced primarily from updates and news released from the Coalition for the International Criminal Court . See also the International Criminal Court. You can join a moderated mailing list on latest developments on the ICC here and you can also become an individual member of the CICC by emailing here.