- The Washington Times - Friday, May 14, 2010

What a difference eight years haven’t made.

Since its founding in 2002, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has not issued any verdicts or completed a single trial.

Though the court has two trials in motion and five suspects have been arrested, eight suspects in heinous crimes still remain at large.

As the 111 state parties to the ICC prepare for its first review conference in the Ugandan capital of Kampala this month, international legal experts say the court’s record has been mixed and its progress slow.

“People are surprised how slow things have been,” said Michael A. Newton, a law professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. “Obviously, it takes long to do justice, and these are enormously complex cases, but the process needs to be streamlined.”

Mr. Newton is considered an ICC skeptic, but even vocal supporters, such as Patricia M. Wald, former judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, said, “There are ways in which things can be sped up.

“It’s a big deal to get a court up and running, and it takes a lot to get suspects apprehended, so I’m not surprised they haven’t been able to get further along,” Ms. Wald said. “But I don’t wish to be a total apologist for the ICC.

“One of the things they could do to speed things up is to introduce a system of guilty plea, which currently doesn’t exist,” she said.

The ICC was opened as an independent institution in 2002, but its first case was not referred to it until 2004. Referrals must come from national governments or the U.N. Security Council.

In addition, the court’s 1998 Rome statute limits its jurisdiction to cases that cannot be handled by a country’s national judicial system or that a country’s government is unwilling to adjudicate.

Of the five cases now before the court, the Security Council has sent only Sudan’s Darfur conflict, which resulted in last year’s indictment of Sudanese President Omar Bashir.

Mr. Bashir’s arrest is not expected anytime soon. Last month, he easily won re-election in Sudan’s first multiparty elections in 24 years, although the voting process was marred by charges of fraud and boycotts by opposition parties.

Crimes committed during internal conflicts in Africa - the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, the Central African Republic and Kenya, in addition to Sudan - have occupied most of the ICC’s attention.

The first two trials began last year and involve rape, torture and mass murder in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The defendants are Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui.

A third trial - against Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo for “sexual crimes” in the Central African Republic - is scheduled to start in July.

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