Tunisia on Friday acceded [press release] to the Rome Statute [text] of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website], which is now set to become effective in the country on September 1, 2011. EU High Representative Catherine Ashton [official profile] commended the move, noting the positive effects that ratification will have [press release, PDF] on prosecuting war crimes. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] offered similar praise [press release] and encouraged the country's regional neighbors in North Africa to follow suit. Ambassador Christian Wenaweser, Permanent Representative of Liechtenstein and President of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC remarked [press release]:
Ratifying this founding document of the International Criminal Court has become a symbol of a country's commitment to the rule of law and the fight against impunity. I am very pleased to see that Tunisia has decided to send this strong message as an expression of a future on the basis of the rule of law. This is especially true for the most serious crimes under international law: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and aggression. Tunisia's accession to the Rome Statute is also a testament of the profound changes brought about by the "Arab Spring," which started in Tunisia. It fulfills a central demand of peoples everywhere for societies guided by clear rules and the principle of equality before the law.Tunisia becomes the 116th signatory to the treaty since 1998.
The ICC has been one vehicle through which the international community has attempted to hold accountable leaders in the Middle East and North Africa who have used violent means to quell protests during the Arab Spring [JURIST news archive]. In February, the UN Security Council referred the situation in Libya to the ICC [JURIST report], following allegations of violence against protesters by the government of Muammar Gaddafi. Earlier this week, the ICC said it will decide whether to issue arrest warrants for Gaddafi [JURIST report] and two high-ranking officials on allegations of war crimes. Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official website] said his office has gathered "direct evidence" that the men committed crimes against humanity in connection with efforts to quell the three-month old Libyan revolt. Libya has said it does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC and will ignore the warrants if issued.