IV- London's confident realism

20 November 2006 by Adele Waugaman

The United Kingdom, one of the earliest and strongest advocates of the International Criminal Court (ICC), has been challenged continuously by the task of balancing its principled support for international justice with practical policy decisions. At home, London has rethought how to legally address criminal acts committed by its soldiers in Iraq; on the UN Security Council, it has sought to broker compromise between its ICC support and the formal opposition of its closest ally, the United States; and in The Hague, it has established a close yet critical relationship with an institution it played a key role in creating. In its response to the challenges presented in each of these settings, London has demonstrated confident realism in its principled yet pragmatic support for the ICC.

"A general perception remains that the ICC is for other countries, not for us," said Stuart Alford, a criminal barrister in England and former prosecutor at the UN-sponsored tribunal in East Timor. "I don't think the UK signed up [for the ICC] expecting to see a UK service member tried in The Hague," he added. Britain's frontlines involvement in the Iraq conflict proved to be a litmus test for the UK and its commitment to ICC principles. Numerous petitions accusing UK and U.S. forces of war crimes in Iraq spilled into the court's prosecutorial office, but were rejected due to lack of evidence or jurisdiction, and because the ICC's complementarity principle stipulates that it may act only when national courts fail to do so.

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