Strasbourg – On 12 October 2016, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) unanimously adopted a resolution urging full co-operation with the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Parliamentarians, who represent 47 European Member States, acknowledged it as the first ever permanent independent judicial institution to prosecute the most serious crimes. They also urged the ICC Prosecutor to exercise her jurisdiction over the perpetrators of genocide in Syria and Iraq as far as possible. More than 7,000 Europeans are thought to be fighting for ISIS in the region.
“No person or group should live in fear of being killed, tortured, or oppressed because of their religious beliefs. Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East are deliberately targeted by ISIS for destruction. The Parliamentarians are rightly urging the International Criminal Court to do what it was set up to do. The thousands of European fighters clearly fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC,” said Robert Clarke, Director of European Advocacy for ADF International after the vote.
Change of approach needed at the ICC
In April 2015, the ICC Prosecutor decided not to launch preliminary examinations into crimes committed by ISIS foreign fighters. She stated that she would only get involved if the United Nations Security Council officially referred the situation in the Middle East to the ICC. Despite several attempts to pass a resolution, a referral from the UN Security Council in the near future seems highly unlikely given the political deadlock between its permanent members. The Parliamentarians therefore invited the Prosecutor to reconsider her decision.
“What is the point of the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court if they fail to act?” asked Laurence Wilkinson, Legal Counsel for ADF International in Strasbourg who was present during the vote. “There is irrefutable evidence and the legal jurisdiction is clear. What more has to happen before we start to act? The Assembly has clearly identified the Prosecutor’s responsibility to launch inquiries where she has the ability to do so. It is important to secure evidence while it is still obtainable. We must act with urgency, seek justice for the victims of genocide and prosecute the perpetrators.”