Czech parliament against ratifying International Criminal Court

A permanent International Criminal Court - the ICC - to try crimes against humanity became a reality earlier this week after several more countries ratified the treaty which sets it up. But the Czech Republic is not among them. Alena Skodova has more:

Many countries have welcomed the establishment of this international institution, with the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, saying "impunity has been dealt a decisive blow." But many important states have failed to sign or ratify the agreement, including the United States, China and Russia. The Czech Republic, too, is one of those which has not expressed support for the ICC.

Deputy foreign minister Pavel Vosalik says Prague is interested in contributing to the ICC's activities, but it can only do it after major changes to the Czech constitution. The changes would make it possible to prosecute the President, MPs and Constitutional Court judges. But these changes were rejected by the Czech parliament. The opposition Civic Democrats are strongly against the ICC, and MP Marek Benda explained there were even more serious reasons behind that opposition:

"In our view it's not a good idea, because it could lead to substantial complications in many international conflicts. We must realize that people who were once described as terrorists or at least members of hostile governments - for instance in South Africa, Northern Ireland or in the Middle East - eventually sat down at the negotiating table and some of them even received the Nobel Peace prize. We also think that it would be a dangerous precedent to create the impression that it is impossible to safeguard peace in each individual country. The ICC as a deterrent will in our view only mean the worst dictators will try to retain power at all costs. This is the main danger."

MPs have returned the proposals to the government for revision, but the law does have many supporters in the country. Philosopher Erazim Kohak is one of them.

"I think it is excellent to have international institutions, I think nationalism is an anachronism of the 19th century and I regret very much that my country has not ratified the agreement. It's a matter of a very short-sighted perspective."

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