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How to punish human rights violators around the world is focus of conference

Loyola press release - October 7, 2003

“International Criminal Law: The Expansion of Individual Rights and Responsibilities for Human Rights Violations” is the title of the conference that runs Thursday through Saturday, October 16 to 18 at Loyola’s School of Law, 514 Pine St.

The conference will bring together legal scholars from around the globe to discuss the structure and jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court as outlined by the 1998 Rome Statue. The International Criminal Court’s goal is to secure peace, justice, and human rights by punishing individuals who are responsible for acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, crimes of aggression, and war crimes. This includes individuals who commit murder or bring about the destruction of a group in whole or part, torture, slavery, various sexual offenses, and apartheid.

The Hon. Maureen Clark, who is currently drafting the new policy for the court, will present the keynote lecture on October 18, at the end of panel discussions. Clark was elected and sworn in to a nine-year term as trial judge to the International Criminal Court in March. She has expertise in criminal law, with extensive experience in both the prosecution and defense of serious crimes.

The panel discussions will be conducted throughout Saturday, October 18. The first panel will discuss the procedures that the international community has developed in the past century to achieve justice for all individuals. The second panel will discuss the principles of the Rome Statute. The third panel will discuss the United States opposition to the Rome Statute and the affects of this decision. The fourth panel will discuss possible alternatives to international criminal prosecutions.

Through this conference, Loyola explores the issues of international criminal law to educate students and practitioners about the legal and political implications of this ever evolving and argumentative area of law.

The International Criminal Court

The United Nations first recognized a need to establish an international court nearly a century ago to prosecute the crime of genocide. Then in 1993, when the conflict in the former Yugoslavia commanded national attention with acts of genocide and crimes against humanity in the guise of “ethnic cleansing,” the United Nations moved aggressively to establish the International Criminal Court.

The International Criminal Court was first approved in 1998 by a treaty known as the Rome Statute. One hundred twenty of the 160 countries that are members of the United Nations agreed to it in 2002. The court is headquartered in The Hague in the Netherlands. Unlike previous war crime courts with jurisdiction limited to specific conflicts, the court is a permanent institution whose jurisdiction extends globally. Even individuals from countries that are not parties to the Rome Statute may be subject to the court’s jurisdiction under certain circumstances. This is a major bone of contention for the United States government, which has refused to sign the treaty. The United States objects to the court’s independent power to initiate prosecutions and prefers that the U.N. Security Council have more influence. Proponents of the court confirm that the court may not exercise jurisdiction if a nation is adequately prosecuting accused criminals.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has three primary functional divisions: the judges, the registrar, and the prosecutors. There are 18 judges who are elected by the Assembly of States Parties. Only counties that are parties to the Rome Statue provide funding for the court. The Office of the Prosecutor is responsible for conducting investigations and prosecutions. The court may convict only if at least two of the three judges are convinced of the suspect’s guilt. The court can fine or imprison those convicted and order reparations to victims; it may not impose the death penalty. The maximum sentence is life imprisonment. Sentences of imprisonment will be served in The Netherlands or in another country that voluntarily accepts the prisoner.

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