Yet another ‘World Day for International Justice’ has gone by while war, conflict, oppression and injustice prevail across the world and crimes against humanity know no bounds. The vital importance of the concept of justice remains on the agenda at a time in which a great majority of crimes and injustices go unpunished, and deep state actors around the world commit severe and widespread crimes against humanity or else prepare the ground for such crimes and even incite them.
The International Criminal Court, whose establishment was agreed to at a U.N. conference held in the Italian capital, Rome, on July 17th, 1998, was born as the result of just such an aspiration for justice. July 17th is now celebrated every year as ‘World Day for International Justice.’
The International Criminal Court, which was established under the founding “Rome Statute” agreement, began working on March 11th, 2003. In contrast to temporary courts set up to deal with specific events (such as the post-WWII Nuremburg Tribunals, the Former Yugoslavia International Criminal Court or the Rwanda International Criminal Court), this court is the first permanent criminal court in the world.
The court’s purview covers areas such as war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. The court adopts the principle of making sure that those who commit such crimes do not go unpunished and ensuring universal justice. In addition, it is regarded as the only mechanism in the world authorized to follow up such crimes.
However, the International Criminal Court goes no further than being symbolic, albeit well-intentioned. Its effectiveness in preventing the countless serious crimes against humanity committed since the day it started work and in bringing the perpetrators before the law has been very limited. Since the establishment of the court, millions of innocent civilians, men, women and children have been savagely slaughtered, injured or subjected to torture and rape or forced from their homes. However, the main and most fanatical perpetrators of such crimes have never been brought to face justice.
Let us take a look at Syria, where crimes against humanity have been most intensive in recent years. Ever since 2011, the war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Assad regime and the unprecedented slaughter and torture of the innocent civilian population have been proven over and over with documents and statements from witnesses by the U.N. and human rights organizations. Reports contain detailed descriptions from victims and witnesses of attacks by the regime using chemical weapons and continuous barrel bombs, making no allowances for babies, women, children or the elderly, and of their terrible consequences.
Photographs delivered to the opposition by the police officer code-named ‘Caesar,’ whose job was to record the images of the corpses brought to hospitals, constitute the most concrete evidence of the situation. These 55,000 photos of 11,000 individuals confirmed how victims had their hands and feet tied and were systematically tortured by the regime forces, and how some were starved to death. A special commission, led by three prosecutors who had previously served in war crimes courts, conducted investigations and confirmed that the photographs and their source were indeed genuine and reliable.
So have the perpetrators been brought to justice as a result of those investigations. Sadly, no!
That is because even if the commission decides that the evidence on hand constitute clear proof of war crimes and crimes against humanity, the U.N. Security Council still has to authorize the court to try Assad, regime leaders and other people responsible: However, two of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and Russia, refuse to allow even the denunciation of the Assad regime, let alone trials and sanctions. Bearing this in mind, it is hard to even imagine such authorization emerging from the council. As a result, every day sees new instances of the continuing persecution, violence and tragedy in Syria.
Of course, this situation that so pains the conscience is not limited to Syria alone. Much of the Islamic world has turned into a battlefield for the superpowers to put on shows of strength. Even if they do not directly take part, these powers still organize conflicts, war and destruction behind the scenes by using religious, national, ethnic and sectarian elements in the region.
The number of innocent civilians who have lost their lives in military operations and bombings in countries such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan Yemen, Libya and others, conducted on various pretexts by the ruling powers, is in the hundreds of thousands. In addition to the human casualties, hundreds of cities, towns and villages have been destroyed. The histories of whole countries and peoples are thus being obliterated.
That being the case, none of those criminals who are actually responsible for such horror have ever been brought to justice or punished in any way; the responsibility for these crimes extends from the lowliest trooper in the field to national administrations at the head of the chain of command and to intelligence agencies. It is therefore totally unrealistic to expect the superpowers to issue the authorization and appropriate instructions to mechanisms under their own command for the investigation of war crimes committed by countries, armies or organizations under their control, or even by themselves.
This concrete experience all goes to show that a legal system and justice mechanism based on technical measures alone is insufficient and ineffectual to prevent war crimes and crimes against humanity. The important thing, rather than a hopeless endeavor to bring the guilty to book, is to establish a moral and ethical infrastructure in all societies that can prevent such crimes and criminals from appearing in the first place. It must not be forgotten that the world can only be rid of crime, injustice and oppression by people with a powerful conscience and faith in God, who know that they will one day have to account for themselves to Him. Only a genuine fear of God, rather than a fear of the courts, the law and the police, can prevent crimes.
Sep 28, 2016 0
Special coverage on China's Two Party Sessions by The Daily Mail - People's Daily