Advocates of a permanent international court to try perpetrators of
war crimes and other "crimes against humanity" achieved a major
success in July 1997, with the adoption of a multilateral agreement
called "the Statute of Rome." This treaty will enter into force after
ratification by sixty states (which is expected to occur in 1999 or
soon thereafter), creating the first new global juridical institution
since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1945. In the eyes
of its supporters, the nascent International Criminal Court (ICC) is
simply an overdue addition to the family of international
organizations, an evolutionary step up from the Nuremberg tribunal,
and the next logical institutional development over the ad hoc war
crimes courts in Bosnia and Rwanda.
On the surface, this logic is straightforward. Through the Genocide
Convention of 1948, the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, and
subsequent agreements, many of the "principles" of Nuremberg have
been adopted in international treaties. The Cold War, however,
essentially froze any prospect that the United Nations could serve as
a useful vehicle for the creation of new institutions to "enforce"
these conventions. Until the Security Council created the Bosnia
tribunal in 1993, and a copy for Rwanda shortly thereafter, there
were no international war crimes courts. Only the sporadic use of
national judicial mechanisms existed, and more often than not these
legal systems were either unavailable to the victims of war crimes
and crimes against humanity, or were deemed inadequate afterthoughts.
The ICJ, although popularly known as "the World Court", has
jurisdiction only over disputes between states, not the adjudication
of individual guilt or innocence for violations of international
codes of conduct.