Friday 7 August 2015

The First Statute of an International Criminal Court?

What may very well be the first draft statute of an international criminal court was submitted by the United Kingdom to the Commission on Responsibilities at the Paris Peace Conference, in February 1919. In its final report, the Commission proposed that an international court be established, but the Americans dissented and subsequently the political leaders at the Conference rejected the idea. Instead - this is set out in articles 228 to 230 - the plan was for trials by national jurisdictions or, if victims were associated with alleged perpetrators in more than one State, by joint military tribunals.
Although the Commission proposed establishing a tribunal, it did not submit a detailed statute or scheme for its establishment and operation. The United Kingdom proposal is the only detailed attempt to outline the procedure and other features of the international court. It may well be the first such proposal within an international lawmaking context. This statute is also of interest to human rights law because it may also be the first to set out the components of a fair trial.
Of note, for example, is the recogntion of the right to counsel and to cross-examination of witnesses, but also the possibility of a trial in absentia. A bare majority of judges is required for a conviction but a death sentence can only be imposed with a two-thirds majority of the judges.