Philadelphia Global Initiative on the Rule of Law celebrates 10th Anniversary of International Criminal Court, 225th Anniversary of US Constitution

Melody Nielsen, for GPA -- On September 10, the Philadelphia Global Initiative on the Rule of Law celebrated the 10th anniversary of the International Criminal Court with a conference at the Free Library of Philadelphia. A panel of ambassadors and legal experts discussed the future of the ICC, the organization formed in 2002 with the passage of the Rome Statute to prosecute perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity when their countries cannot or will not. The conference also commemorated the coinciding 225th anniversary of the US Constitution.

The panel included Ambassador Thomas Graham, Ambassador-at-Large Stephen J. Rapp, James R. Silkenat, president-elect of the American Bar Association, John L. Washburn, convenor of the American NGO coalition for the ICC, and Ambassador Christian Wenaweser.

The ICC, according to the panelists, has been successful. Twenty-one states are currently members, which accounts for 60 percent of sovereign nations. This year, it passed its first verdict, sentencing Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga to 14 years in prison for his use of child soldiers. They kept an eye toward the future, however, acknowledging that 70 states have not yet joined, including China, India, Russia, and the US. The issue of US ratification of the Rome Statute was of universal concern to the panelists, who agreed that although the initial absence of the US helped the ICC gain smaller states’ membership, it has become a hindrance. They emphasized that there must be a push toward US ratification through executive and grassroots efforts. Other goals for the future include the expansion of Middle Eastern membership, speedier process of cases, and a better organized system for reparations to victims.

The panel also compared the Rome Statute to the US Constitution, the standard for Rule of Law in the US, both of which, according to moderator Jacqueline C. Reich, establish standards of relations between people and include checks of power. Among the shared rights granted by both documents are presumption of innocence, the right to remain silent, protection against double jeopardy, requirement of warrants, and exclusion of illegally obtained evidence. The atmosphere in Rome was even reminiscent of Philadelphia in the summer of 1787, according to Washburn, who described it as an “enormous act of collective creativity.”

Also featured were Judge Sang-Hyun Song, president of the ICC, former president of the American Bar Association Michael S. Greco, who spoke of the ABA’s efforts to encourage ratification of the Rome Statute, and Don Kraus, chief executive director of Citizens for Global Solutions. Patrick Madden, executive director of the United Nations Association of the USA, also spoke of this year’s Jerry Shestack Model United Nations Conference on the Rule of Law, to be held in Philadelphia in February of 2013.

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