> Inter Press Service, March 26, 2003, Wednesday, 977 words, IRAQ:
> JOSE, Mar. 26
> The International Criminal Court could prosecute crimes against
> humanity committed in the United States-led war on Iraq, despite the
> fact that neither the United States nor Iraq form part of the new
> court, said Costa Rican Judge Elizabeth Odio.
> The International Criminal Court (ICC) is qualified to handle cases
> of war crimes, committed by individuals, that have been referred to
> it by the United Nations Security Council, Odio, vice-president of
> the ICC, said an exclusive interview with IPS.
> The ICC, presided over by Canadian Judge Philippe Kirsch and formally
> inaugurated on March 11, was created to prosecute cases of genocide
> and war crimes when no national court is able or willing to do so.
> It has the competence to try crimes against humanity committed after
> July 1, 2002, when its founding treaty, the Rome Statute, went into
> effect.
> However, the treaty has only been ratified by 89 countries. Still
> outside the jurisdiction of the ICC are the United States, China,
> India and Indonesia -- the four most populous countries in the world
> -- and Iraq, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel, as well as most
> nations ruled by military regimes.
> The administration of George W. Bush justified its decision to revoke
> the 1998 signature of the Rome Statute by Bush's predecessor, Bill
> Clinton, on the argument that falling under ICC jurisdiction would
> expose its troops abroad to politically motivated prosecutions, which
> would undermine the U.S.  "war on terrorism."
> Eighteen judges -- 11 men and seven women -- are sitting on the ICC,
> which will operate in The Hague. The four magistrates representing
> Latin America and the Caribbean are Odio, Ren  Blattmann from
> Bolivia, Silvia De Figueredo from Brazil and Karl Hudson-Phillips
> from Trinidad and Tobago.
> Q: What crimes committed in the U.S. war against Iraq will fall
> within the competence of the ICC, given that it lacks jurisdiction
> over the citizens of both countries?
> A: I can only answer that in theoretical terms ... The UN Security
> Council, in theory, has the authority to send the ICC cases of war
> crimes committed in this conflict or any other.
> When the Security Council believes global peace or security has been
> endangered, it can refer cases to us, independently of which
> countries are involved or if they have or have not ratified the Rome
> Statute.
> Q: What impact will the U.S. decision to attack Iraq without UN
> approval have on international law?
> A: All actions carried out outside the framework of the UN General
> Assembly or Security Council bring damages, but that does not mean
> the United Nations or international law will disappear.
> This is not the first time that a country has acted outside the legal
> order or has failed to follow a multinational mandate.
> Q: What does the launch of the ICC mean for the world?
> A: As UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the day we were sworn in,
> it awakens hope for justice and can be seen as a contribution to
> peace.
> Q: What do you think is the main strength of the new court?
> A: The ICC's strength lies in the fact that it is the result of an
> effort by nearly 200 countries represented by their governments,
> which reached a consensus in Italy in 1998. There is a broad view
> accepted by all that the worst and biggest crimes must be tried.
> The Rome Statute was approved by more than 100 countries, with only
> seven voting against it, and so far it has been ratified by 89. I
> would say that the large number of ratifications occurred in record
> time.
> Q: How has the ICC taken the criticism set forth by some human rights
> organizations regarding the alleged lack of experience of the judges
> chosen to sit on the court?
> A: I would say that the 18 judges were chosen based on criteria of
> excellence. The selection was carried out by mixing judicial
> experience with academic, diplomatic and juridical experience. In my
> view, an excellent balance was achieved.
> I consider the criticism unfounded, because the Rome Statute itself
> states that magistrates from different branches should be chosen,
> with some specialized in penal procedures, others in humanitarian
> law, and yet others in international relations.
> Q: Doubts about the efficacy of the ICC have also been raised, with
> respect to its economic limitations and the resources it has been
> assigned.
> A: I must say that is also a baseless criticism. Nearly 10 years ago
> I was one of the first judges working on the war crimes tribunal for
> the former Yugoslavia.
> Just imagine: there were only 11 judges with a support staff of five,
> and we didn't even have our own building. Today, that tribunal has
> around 1,500 officials. So the fact that the ICC is starting out with
> 40 or 50 employees does not appear to me to be a disadvantage. On the
> contrary, I see it as a strong start.
> Q: Do you believe the absence of countries like the United States,
> China or Iraq could be the ICC's major Achilles' heel?
> A: For the ICC to be truly universal, all countries must accept its
> jurisdiction. The fact that many have not adhered to the Rome Statute
> shows that there is work to do to rectify that.
> That the United States, the world's leading power, is outside the ICC
> is certainly a problem, but we have to make it clear that this is not
> going to keep it from beginning to function. With a little patience,
> the ICC will become universal.
> Q: What is your view with regards to the bilateral agreements that
> Washington has signed with 21 countries exempting U.S. troops
> deployed in their territories from ICC jurisdiction?
> A: I cannot comment on that specific point at this time. It is an
> issue that we may deal with in the ICC, and for that reason I cannot
> venture any viewpoint.
> Q: When will the ICC begin to work on specific cases?
> A: As soon as the ICC prosecutor, who will be selected in April, has
> prepared them.