Tue, Jun 24, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan should join ranks of ICC

By Chien Hsi-chieh 簡錫土皆

In the history of civilization, war could be said to top the list of mankind's cruelest and ugliest creations. In the past, the perpetrators of all the various atrocities men commit against one another in the course of fighting and warfare could only be condemned in writings. There was no way to impose real sanctions on them, and for this reason the world could only stand by helplessly and watch while ambition-ridden megalomaniacs repeatedly trampled on human rights.

After World War II, when the US took the lead in guiding post-war reconstruction of the world order, it perceived the fearsome and destructive nature of war. Thus, when plans were being laid for the UN, it was clearly stipulated in the UN Charter that any warlike actions not approved by the UN and undertaken for the sake of preserving peace are illegal. In the half century after World War II, however, the world still experienced many incidents of war, aggression and genocide because there existed no organization or judicial institution able to restrain the individuals responsible for these crimes or accept appeals from victims.

In July 1998, however, when the Rome Conference was convened, the situation changed completely. No longer was it impossible to go after those who commit war crimes or genocide. At the conference, the countries in attendance voted unanimously to pass a resolution (known as the "Rome Statute") establishing a permanent International Criminal Court (ICC) responsible for trying people accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, crimes of aggression and so on. By July last year, this statute designed to protect human rights had already been signed and approved by over 60 countries. The ICC was formally established and ready to begin operations.

The ICC is a permanent, independent judicial institution under the guidance of the UN. Its establishment could be called a milestone in mankind's march toward realizing the rights to peace, security and the rule of law. Its function is to indict and punish those guilty of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression. Moreover, its jurisdiction is not limited to affairs between countries.

The ICC has the right to investigate, indict and try anyone guilty of one of the four crimes listed above. The difference between the ICC and the International Court of Justice under the auspices of the UN is that the ICC is only responsible for investigating individual criminal culpability and it exercises jurisdiction only if the courts of any given country are unable to try a case on their own.

Furthermore, apart from countries applying to the court to open an investigation, the court's prosecutors may also carry out an investigation on their own initiative based on their knowledge of criminal activity. In addition, the court's jurisdiction is not limited to nations that are signatories of the Rome Statute. Even if the nation where criminal activity takes place or the accused has citizenship is not a signatory, the court can still exercise its powers. And it is precisely because it has these special characteristics that the ICC can act as a deterrent to individuals who would arbitrarily violate the human rights of others.

As a member of the international community, Taiwan has been relentlessly oppressed by China in international forums of all sorts and has been kicked out of numerous international organizations. Nevertheless, Taiwan still scrupulously abides by its responsibilities and duties as a member of the international community and does its utmost to respect and comply with many international treaties.

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