July 6, 2020

A Birthday Card to the ICC for its 20th Birthday

Dear ICC,

Happy Birthday! I can’t believe you are officially in your 20s! I know that you haven’t always had an easy time and that people don’t always understand you, but I just want to say that I am so proud of you and all that you have accomplished at such a young age!

I remember the day you were born. Your relatives, Gustave Moynier[i], the Treaty of Versailles[ii], and your favorite aunt and uncle, the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals[iii], were all there to wish you well. Everyone said you had a strong resemblance to your grandfather, Raphael Lemkin.[iv] Your parents, the United Nations General Assembly and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide[v] (whom I affectionately call UN GA and CPPCG) were proud to introduce you to the world! Your big sister, the International Law Commission (whom I have nicknamed ILC), even wore a t-shirt that said “Welcome little bro!”[vi] I have heard, although your relatives have never confirmed it, that ILC pushed your parents for years to have another child.[vii]

I so wish I could have been there in Rome, Italy in 1998 along with the other 160 countries awaiting your arrival at the “Rome Conference” hospital![viii] And wow, did your parents clean up at the baby shower! Of the 160 guests, 120 offered their support with substantial gifts![ix] I was 12 at the time, and unable to buy you anything with my measly allowance, but I did wish you well from afar.

When you launched your company at the young age of three on July 1, 2002, the world watched with great anticipation.[x] As of today, you have over 900 employees from some 100 nations, have field offices in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Central African Republic, Kenya, and Cote d’Ivoire, and a €147,431,500 budget (2018).[xi] Not bad for a 20 year old who can’t even order a drink at a bar in the US. And with all the work you have already done, I know there is so much more you hope to accomplish.[xii]

Like everyone, your teen years were awkward and mistakes were made, but I for one am very proud of all that you are and all that you represent. You give me hope in a future without crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide. Just like your day of birth 20 years ago, I am unable to make it to your party today, but I am still here wishing you well from afar.

Happy Birthday ICC! Here is 20 bucks, don’t go spend it all at once.




[i] In 1872 Gustave Moynier, one of the founders of the International Committee of the Red Cross, proposed the creation of a permanent court to try the crimes of the Franco-Prussian War.

[ii] In 1919, the drafters of the Treaty of Versailles envisioned an ad hoc international court that would try the criminals of World War I.

[iii] Following World War II, the Allies set up the Nuremberg trials and Tokyo tribunals to try the perpetrators of the Holocaust and Axis war criminals.

[iv] Raphael Lemkin coined the term ‘genocide’ in 1944.

[v] In 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which gave the United Nations an official mandate and jurisdiction to try criminals by international penal tribunals.

[vi] The UN GA invited the International Law tribunal to create a legal and judicial code “for the trials of persons charged with genocide.”

[vii] Following the Bosnian Genocide and the Rwandan Genocide in the early 1990s, the UN Security Council created two ad-hoc temporary tribunals to try criminals, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. These two temporary tribunals highlighted the need for a more permanent court. To this end the ILC presented a draft statute for an ICC in 1994 to the UN GA. From 1996 to 1998, the UN Preparatory Committee (created in 1995) met six times at the UN headquarters in NY to discuss the ICC charter.

[viii] During the Rome Conference, which took place from June 15 to July 17, 1998, 160 countries participated in the negotiations and refinement of the ICC convention.

[ix] After five weeks of negotiations, 120 nations voted in favor of adopting the Rome Statue of the ICC. Notably, seven nations voted against the treaty, including the US, Israel, China, Iraq and Qatar, and 21 states abstained from voting.

[x] The UN ratified the Rome Statue on April 11, 2002 and the ICC entered into force on July 1, 2002. To view the Rome Statue in its entirety, click here.

[xi] Today, the court has 900 staff members from approximately 100 States. The six official languages of the court are English, French, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, and Spanish. Along with its headquarters located in The Haugue, the Netherlands, the ICC has 6 field offices located in Kinshasa and Bunia (Democratic Republic of Congo), Bangui (Central African Republic), Nairobi (Kenya), and Abidjan (Cote d’Ivoire).

[xii] Over the past twenty years, the ICC has held 26 cases, with some having multiple suspects. The ICC has issued 32 arrest warrants: 9 have been detained and appeared before the Court, 15 have eluded arrest, and charges have been dropped against 3 due to the defendants deaths. ICC judges has issued 8 convictions and 2 acquittals over six cases.

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