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International court presidents stress rule of law in annual reports to UN

The presidents of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official websites] on Wednesday presented their respective annual reports [UN press release; ICJ & ICC reports, PDFs] to the UN General Assembly [official website], stressing the increasing importance of the courts and need for the rule of international law as nations experience ever-growing globalization and the legal questions it raises. ICC President Sang-Hyun Song [official profile] said that each time a nation joins that tribunal's founding Rome Statute another brick is added to the wall that will protect future generations from "terrible atrocities" like the mass murders and human rights violations the court investigates. "In these times of unprecedented interconnection between States and peoples," said ICJ President Hisashi Owada [official profile], it is his "sincere belief that a firm reliance on international law must underpin any and all future developments on the global stage." Song and Owada each implored the General Assembly delegates to honor the courts' jurisdictions, relying on international law to resolve disputes between states and to suppress the gravest crimes against humanity. The presidents also addressed the issue of ever increasing global expectations for the courts, appealing to all states to support the courts with increased resources to continue work. Some delegates, such as the representative of Sudan, criticized the courts as having diverted from their intended purpose, such as the Rome Statute's linking of a political body like the UN Security Council [official website] to the ICC, which Sudan's delegate claimed violates the principle of separation of powers and creates a dangerous politicization of international justice. However, the presidents and several delegates noted that courts' dockets are growing increasingly larger and their geographically diverse caseloads speak to the courts' universal natures and to a growing confidence in their decisions.

The ICC is the world's first permanent court mandated to bring to justice perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide when national courts are unable or unwilling to do so. The ICC treaty, known as the Rome Statute, entered into force in 2002, four years after 120 states adopted it during the Rome Conference. This week four candidates were named [JURIST report] as potential successors to ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] when his nine-year term expires next year. This month Moreno-Ocampo visited the Ivory Coast in response to allegations of war crimes committed during post-election violence in the country last November, and the prosecutor subsequently singled out individuals [JURIST reports] for the ICC to investigate. In June Moreno-Ocampo made worldwide headlines by presenting to the ICC sufficient evidence to procure arrest warrants [JURIST report] for deposed Libyan leader Mummar Gaddafi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and two of his high-ranking officials, including Gaddafi's son. Last month the ICC began hearings in Kenya's post-election violence cases against the "Ocampo Six" [JURIST reports] for incitement of violence during and after the 2007 Kenyan elections. In August the ICC concludde its first war crimes trial [JURIST report] with the prosecution of a Congo militia leader charged with enlisting child soldiers into his militia, one which is believed to have committed large-scale human rights abuses in DRC's violent Ituri district. A verdict in the case is expected in early 2012. In addition to the African investigations in Congo, northern Uganda, Libya and Kenya, along with others in the Central African Republic and the Darfur region of Sudan, the Office of the Prosecutor is looking at situations in Afghanistan, Colombia, Georgia, Guinea, Honduras, Nigeria and South Korea.

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