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ICC president cites oustanding arrest warrants as biggest challenge to tribunal

[JURIST] Outstanding arrest warrants are the "biggest obstacle" facing the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website], President Sang-Hyun Song [official profile] told [speech, PDF; press release] the UN General Assembly [official website] Thursday. In particular, Song discussed the case of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [JURIST news archive]. The ICC issued an arrest warrant [JURIST report] for al-Bashir in March for crimes against humanity, but he has not yet been detained. Song stressed that "[i]t is the responsibility of States to arrest and surrender these persons in accordance with their legal obligations." In discussing other problems currently facing the court, Song focused on the lack of prior jurisprudence on which to base ICC decisions. Finally, Song discussed his priorities for the ICC, including advancing ratification of the Rome Statute [text, PDF] by providing information to states seeking ratification. The ICC is set to begin its second trial against Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui and Germain Katanga of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for war crimes and crimes against humanity, in November.

The US remains one of several UN member states that has not ratified the Rome Statute. In August, a Heritage Foundation [advocacy website] study urged US President Barack Obama not to ratify the treaty [JURIST report], claiming that the ICC threatens national sovereignty. The study came in response to media reports that suggested the Obama administration may be considering joining the ICC. Earlier that month, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during a visit to Kenya that it is a "great regret" [Reuters report] that the US is not a signatory to the ICC. The Rome Statute was approved in 1998, and the ICC was established in 2002. The US signed, but never ratified the treaty. Then-president George W. Bush later "un-signed" the treaty by notifying the UN that the US did not intend to ratify it. As of October 2009, only 110 of the 192 UN member states have ratified the treaty. Other states that have refused to ratify it include China, India, Russia, and the Sudan.

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