Putting the ICC’s Kenya Cases on Ice

Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya
Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya. Photo: World Economic Forum/flickr.

Kenya wants the United Nations Security Council to halt the trials of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto. With the African Union at its side, Kenya has asked the Security Council to temporarily defer ICC prosecutions through the invocation of Article 16 of the Rome Statute. Doing so will undoubtedly lead to accusations that the Security Council is actively endorsing impunity in Kenya. But will that stop them?

Recent reports have suggested that Western diplomats are busy drafting a Security Council resolution to defer the Kenya cases. This is significant. Presumably ‘Western’ powers – especially the US and ICC member-states France and the UK – are the key to any resolution passing. A veto from any of them would ruin Kenya’s chances at a deferral – although it should be noted that such a resolution is unlikely to ever come to a vote unless it is guaranteed to pass in advance.

1950s UN Resolution Could Break Security Council Deadlock on Syria

Security Council Summit on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament
Security Council Summit on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. Photo: United Nations Photo/flickr.

The August 21 chemical attack in Syria has put the UN Security Council back into the spotlight on this issue, after being virtually paralyzed for more than two years due to the use of the veto by Russia and China. While today’s agreement between the five veto-holding permanent members (P5) to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons gives fresh hopes for a renewed role of the Security Council, the reasons for disagreements remain numerous.

What is, and has been, at the core of the Security Council’s “embarrassing paralysis”—in the words of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon—is the possibility to impose coercive measures on the Syrian government, including the use of force, under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Made wary partially by the precedent of resolution 1973 on Libya, which opened the door to military intervention and, eventually, regime change, Russia and China have consistently rejected any resolution referring to Chapter VII. The latest bid to agree on a resolution giving a framework to the US-Russia agreement is no different since, in Western views at least, its viability rests on the credibility of coercive measures including, but not limited to, the use of force—a requirement French President François Hollande reiterated this week.

Germany: The Abstention Champion

Security Council Summit on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament
Security Council Summit on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. Photo: United Nations Photo/flickr.

The UN General Assembly has recently approved a motion to grant a non-member observing state status to Palestine. Exactly 138 states have approved this motion, 9 rejected, 41 abstained. As predicted, Germany was one of these abstaining countries, again.

The expiring membership of the UN Security Council by the end of this year provides an ideal opportunity to evaluate German foreign policy after this two year period – also regarding next year’s elections. If you summarize this period, the pure absence of foreign policy positioning cannot be ignored. In fact, there was no German foreign policy.

Hitherto, German foreign and security policy was marked either by a close transatlantic cooperation, or by a counter balance towards a stronger European position. In the past four years, German foreign policy was lost in crisis management, completely dominated by the Euro Crisis resulting in a priority shift towards monetary crisis remedies, leaving foreign policy fields on the side-line. Particularly, security policy was marked by self-limiting abstention in the UN Security Council during the 2011 Libyan War. The Syrian Civil War caused a direct follow-up to these developments; a reluctance to provide Patriot Missiles for Turkey for border protection is another dead-give-away for Germany’s confusing foreign and security policy strategy.

Missing the Mark: The ICC on its Relationship with the UN Security Council

ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo briefing the UN Security Council on the situation in Sudan. Photo: Coalition for the ICC/flickr

Last month, for the first time since the International Criminal Court (ICC) was established, the United Nations Security Council debated its relationship with the Court. After two Security Council referrals (Darfur 2005 and Libya 2011), it was high time that the relationship was critically analyzed. Unfortunately, key issues which have undermined the independence and legitimacy of the ICC were left largely unaddressed.

There are many problematic issues with regards to the relationship between the ICC and the UN Security Council. Broadly, most fall under three categories: the potential tensions and dilemmas between peace-making/conflict resolution and international criminal justice; the inevitable selectivity that only some situations of mass atrocity will be referred by the Council to the ICC while other cases, which are just as deserving, will not; and the political constraints imposed by the Security Council on the ICC when it decides to refer a case to the Court.

Global Voices

Thwarting UN Resolutions against Syria – The Battle over Interventionism

China’s and Russia’s recent decision to veto the United Nations Security Council resolution against Syria -has reignited debate over the relationship between ‘new’ powers like Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa –  the BRICS – with ‘old’ powers like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in international interventions.

Heads of BRICS states in New Delhi, India for for 4th BRICS Summit March 2012. Photo by Roberto Stuckert Filho/PR. Used with permission.
Heads of BRICS states in New Delhi, India for 4th BRICS Summit, March 2012. Photo by Roberto Stuckert Filho/PR. Used with permission.