The arrest of Ratko Mladić was a victory for the EU’s pursuit of justice in the Balkans. The ICC was even more active in Africa, including Libya and Côte d’Ivoire, but with mixed results.
2011 was a year of intense activity for the ICC, which became involved in the conflicts in Libya and Côte d’Ivoire, in part as a result of European initiatives. Prolonged EU pressure on Serbia also resulted in a success for the ICTY in May when Belgrade arrested and handed over General Ratko Mladić, the last major figure to be indicted for war crimes during the Bosnian war. Mladić’s arrest was a condition for Serbia’s progress towards EU accession – the Netherlands in particular had insisted on this, although some other member states favoured a softer approach. His capture was thus a belated win for EU conditionality.
The ICC’s engagement in Libya was more problematic. In February, the UNSC referred the situation in Libya to the ICC through Resolution 1970 in an effort to put pressure on the Gaddafi regime. Among the European members of the UNSC, Portugal reportedly expressed doubts about involving the court but was overruled. As the war dragged on, there were indications that some EU member states might be willing to let Gaddafi and his henchmen go into exile, sidelining the ICC. The Libyan rebels, who killed Gaddafi and refused to hand over his son Saif to the ICC prosecutor in November, also appear to have wanted to avoid ICC involvement. Thus, the ICC was primarily a political tool in the Libyan case.
The UNSC did not immediately threaten to involve the ICC in Côte d’Ivoire, but raised the possibility of doing so as the conflict worsened in March. In November, the government of Alassane Ouattara, who had won the elections held in November 2010, handed over the defeated former president, Laurent Gbagbo, to face charges of crimes against humanity. The ICC was less successful in its pursuit of members of the Sudanese government over Darfur. Nonetheless, the fact that sceptical members of the UNSC, including the US, China and Russia, backed its role in Libya represents a success for the EU’s long-term advocacy of the ICC.
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