Czechs - alone in EU - give cold shoulder to International Criminal Court

30-01-2007

104 of the world's countries are now members of the International Criminal Court or ICC, the tribunal established in 2002 to try genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. They include 26 of the 27 members of the European Union, with one notable exception - the Czech Republic. The country signed up to the ICC in 1999, but parliament has yet to ratify it. On Monday four Czech NGOs released a statement criticising this fact, including the League of Human Rights. Radio Prague spoke to the League's Jan Kratochvil.

"The Czech Republic has always supported international justice, so this non-ratification of the Rome Statute [which established the ICC] is rather foreign to the tradition of Czech justice. It's also very important that by one more ratification, the court will be even stronger and will have better preventive force against those terrible crimes that it has jurisdiction over, and it will also be stronger to try those perpetrators."

Countries that oppose the ICC argue that their primary obligation is to protect their citizens. They do have a point don't they?

"Obviously they do. You can view the International Criminal Court as an improvement of the protection of your citizens, because the International Criminal Court does not have jurisdiction if your country prosecutes the perpetrators of these crimes. It has jurisdiction only if the country is unable or unwilling to prosecute the alleged perpetrators of the crimes. And actually, if you are unable to prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes, the ICC can be another place where this can happen, and in this way you can better protect your people."

"I see the main reason as a simple lack of political will. It is just a simple misunderstanding, which arises from many false beliefs about the International Criminal Court, because it has not been thoroughly discussed so far in the Czech Republic."

But there is some discussion isn't there? The head of the government's legislative council says he'll discuss the matter with the justice minister, a member of the Civic Democrats who are largely against the ICC.

"I hope so. We think this is the right time to start the discussion, if it's not already too late. But better late than never."

30-01-2007

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