The aggression debate

The International Criminal Court’s June review conference in Kampala is shaping up to be a showdown on the question of aggression (currently undefined–and therefore not prosecuted by the court). In today’s WaPo, Stephen Rademaker warns the Obama administration not to cut any deals with those eager to prosecute the crime. He notes that all current International Criminal Court cases arise from civil conflicts.

But this would change quickly if it is granted jurisdiction over aggression, which the United Nations has defined as occurring when one state uses armed force against another in a manner inconsistent with the U.N. Charter.

It’s not clear that he’s correct here. Given the prosecutor’s cautious behavior to this point, I expect that he would be unlikely to rush into the aggression morass. And if he did, it would likely be in a situation that the United States supports. The court has shown itself to be very hesitant to challenge the major powers, and that’s part of the reason so many African states are dubious about it.


About David Bosco

Assistant Professor at American University's School of International Service. Contributing editor at Foreign Policy magazine. Author of Rough Justice: The International Criminal Court in a World of Power Politics and Five to Rule Them All: The UN Security Council and the Making of the Modern World
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