International Criminal Court Current Affairs - 2019

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Malaysia joins the International Criminal Court

Malaysia has ratified the Rome Statute making it the 124th State party to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Even though Malaysia had helped to negotiate the Rome Statute, it has been long been reluctant to ratify it. Ratification after 20 years is seen as a welcome move.

Why Malaysia has acceded to the Rome Statute after 20 years?

  • The downing of flight MH17 and the Rohingya crisis have focused Malaysia’s attention on the ICC.
  • After the election of Mahathir Mohamad for his second stint as Prime Minister in May 2018, there has been a significant shift in the relationship between the Malaysian government and monarchy. The earlier reluctance to ratify the Rome Statute has largely stemmed from a concern that the King, as the head of the armed forces could be held responsible for crimes committed by those under his command Mahathir’s relationship with the Sultans and the King is notoriously tense. During his first period as prime minister (1981-2003), Mahathir “stripped the sultans of their power to veto state and federal legislation”, removed their legal immunities, and established a special court to prosecute royal cases.
  • The election of Mahathir and appointment of a new Attorney General, Tommy Thomas, has seen the main legal obstacles to ratification removed.
  • The ratification has also stemmed from ambition to see Malaysia playing a more active role in ASEAN and the United Nations.

International Criminal Court established by Rome Statute is a permanent international court with jurisdiction over those most responsible for committing the most serious human rights crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.

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Philippines withdraws from International Criminal Court

Philippines has announced to withdraw from International Criminal Court (ICC) citing reason of international bias and held that ICC was being utilised as a political tool against it. It will make Philippines only second country to withdraw from the Rome statute, following Burundi in 2017. South Africa attempted to leave in 2016, but its withdrawal was revoked by UN.

Key Facts

Philippines had ratified Rome statute related to Hague-based ICC in 2011. Its ratification was seen as big step forward for human rights in Asia. Now its withdrawal is seen as blow for international accountability in the region.

The ICC in February 2018 had announced that it was launching preliminary examination of President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody anti-drug crackdown that has drawn international concern. It is clamed that nearly 4,000 drug suspects were killed as part of campaign, while human rights groups claim the toll is around three times the numbers given by authorities.

International Criminal Court (ICC)

ICC is the world’s first intergovernmental legal body with permanent international jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. It is based in The Hague, Netherlands. It began its functioning on 1 July 2002, the date that Rome Statute entered into force. It has 123 member states (India is not its member). The Rome Statute is multilateral treaty which serves as ICC’s foundational and governing document. India has not signed Rome Statute. The ICC has jurisdiction to prosecute individuals and is independent of United Nations (UN). But it may receive case referrals from UN Security Council and can initiate prosecutions without UN action or referral.

Note: US signed the treaty (Rome Statute) in 2000 but never ratified it, citing concerns over sovereignty, similarly with Russia. Israel signed it for a short period but also never ratified it into law. China has not signed it.

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