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ICC members back court, but urge it to speed up work


By Agence France-Presse

Countries signed up to the International Criminal Court renewed their backing Wednesday for the embattled global legal body, targeted by the Trump administration, but urged it to speed up its work.

“The European Union strongly supports the International Criminal Court and its work as an independent and impartial judicial institution,” said Heidemaria Guerer at the annual meeting of the court’s 123 member states in The Hague.

“We believed that in a time that the rules-based international order is facing increased pressure, the strengthening of the international criminal justice system is an imperative,” she said, speaking on behalf of the continental bloc.

Other countries including those in Africa where the ICC is active, such as Nigeria and Uganda, also pledged continued support.

This year the ICC is celebrating 20 years since its founding mandate, the Rome Statute, was agreed upon to prosecute the world’s worst crimes.

But the court has since come under attack by some African states, who have accused it of being biased — and more recently by US President Donald Trump and White House National Security Advisor John Bolton.

Trump in September accused the ICC of lacking any legitimacy, saying it violated “all principles of justice” and had no authority.

In the same month, Bolton threatened to arrest ICC judges and officials if they moved against Israel and the United States. Neither country is a member of the ICC but both are under scrutiny by the court’s prosecutors.

ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has launched a preliminary probe of possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in war-ravaged Afghanistan — including by US service members.

Her office is also conducting an initial investigation into similar alleged crimes committed in Israel and the Palestinian territories in the wake of the Gaza conflict.

Without referring to any specific country, Britain’s delegate Andrew Murdoch said Wednesday “the court has many critics… Some of their criticism is strident and in our judgement misplaced”.

But as a member state that supported the ICC “we also speak plainly about the concerns we have,” he added.

Murdoch urged the court to speed up its work: both its investigations and its trials.

“After 20 years and 1.5 billion euros spent, we have only three core crime convictions,” by the ICC, Murdoch told delegates.

The ICC has secured convictions in three cases for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Mali and in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Bensouda, in her latest report released later Wednesday said she was close to deciding whether or not to launch a full-blown investigation into the situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Last month the Gambian-born prosecutor said she was alarmed by continued violence “perpetrated by actors on both sides, at the Gaza border with Israel”.

She singled out the planned eviction by Israel of the Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank.

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