Human rights and humanitarian issues

73 - European policy on the ICC and ad hoc tribunals

Grade: B+
Unity 4/5
Resources 4/5
Outcome 7/10
Total 15/20
Scorecard 2012: B+ (15/20)

The EU has played a central role in sustaining both the ICC and international justice for the former Yugoslavia – although it was divided over ICC efforts to define the crime of international aggression.

The EU has a principled commitment to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2010, and a direct interest in the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which continues to deal with crimes involving countries that want to enter the EU. The EU also supports other international courts, such as those in Cambodia and Sierra Leone, but has less immediate interest in their work.

The ICC was the subject of a review conference in May and June 2010. The EU’s contribution has been assessed positively by legal experts. It made a promise to support the universality of the court and pledged funds to a Trust Fund for Victims linked to the ICC. Belgium played a lead role in amending the ICC’s Rome Statute to cover the crime of using poison gas and other unacceptable weapons.

The EU had less success on a proposal to define the crime of international aggression. The EU entered the conference divided about the merits of a definition: France and the UK were reportedly opposed, while Germany and other EU members were in favour – and the European Parliament’s delegation to the conference was particularly voluble on the need to achieve this goal. A compromise was devised by Argentina, Brazil and Switzerland.

The EU’s efforts to assist the ICC’s pursuit of Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir are described in component 55. Its support for ICTY has been sensitive because of Serbia’s failure to apprehend the former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic, who is linked to the Srebrenica massacre: the Netherlands, in particular, views this as a huge obstacle to Serbia’s progress towards EU accession. In October, the European Council devised a formula to let accession talks progress while still pushing Serbia to work with ICTY. Overall, the EU played a major role in keeping international courts on the global agenda throughout 2010.