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Canada and the International Criminal Court

Canada has enjoyed a reputation for diplomacy ever since Lester B. Pearson came up with a novel solution – peacekeepers – for the Suez Crisis in 1956. We've also been recognized for our involvement in human rights issues, nuclear disarmament, and the International Criminal Court. But have our efforts made for a more peaceful world, or is the image of the "good diplomat" a convenient holdover from the days when Canada actually made a difference?

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War crimes and genocide in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda have been tried by International Tribunals in recent years. But in the face of bloody conflicts around the world, a permanent court for crimes against humanity is what's really needed. Canada and like-minded states have been negotiating a new approach to humanitarian law: an International Criminal Court. Lloyd Axworthy, Canadas minister of foreign affairs, talks to veteran CBC political reporter Don Newman about the ICC.
• The idea of an independent international tribunal to prosecute individuals for crimes against humanity has been around since after the Second World War, when German Nazis and Japanese officials were tried in International Military Tribunals.
• Canada played an instrumental role in the founding of the new international court: it chaired the group of countries that got the idea off the ground, and donated money so developing nations could take part in the founding conference in Rome.

• The International Criminal Court was established by 120 countries in Rome on July 17, 1998, with the intent to "promote the rule of law and ensure that the gravest international crimes do not go unpunished."
• The court became effective on July 1, 2002, when the requisite number of countries -- 60 -- ratified the statute that established it. Anyone who commits a crime under the statute after that date can be tried by the ICC.

• The ICC's mandate is to investigate and prosecute atrocities -- such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes -- on behalf of the international community.
• The ICC does not replace national courts; it will take on cases only when national courts are unwilling or unable to.
• The Dutch city of The Hague is the home of the ICC.
• The ICC is not part of the United Nations, but it can accept recommendations from the UN Security Council.

• In February 2003, prosecutors and judges were elected to the ICC. Among the 18 judges was Canadian diplomat Philippe Kirsch, Canada's ambassador the Sweden. Kirsch's fellow judges also chose him to be the first president of the ICC.
• As of February 2003, 89 countries had ratified the court's statute. Among those holding out is the United States, which has said it's concerned its citizens would be unfairly singled out by the court.
Medium: Television
Program: Politics
Broadcast Date: April 1, 1998
Guest(s): Lloyd Axworthy
Interviewer: Don Newman
Duration: 2:31

Last updated: July 18, 2013

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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