Justin Zinda reports on the trial of Mr Charles Taylor and how the International Criminal Court works in practice

By Justin Oliver Zinda – This video is about the trial of Mr Charles Taylor. It also describes in brief how the International Criminal Court works in practice.

The conference for The European International Model United Nations took place between the 14th and 20th July 2009 in The Hague (Netherlands). Keen to improve my legal skills, I participated in this venture as an ‘Honourable Judge’ representing Brazil at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) – one of the 7 councils of this conference – where we heard, debated and decided on the case of the armed conflict in South Ossetia (Georgia v The Russian Federation). One of the other activities I took part in at TEIMUN 2009 was a visit to the International Criminal Court (ICC). This visit coincided with the hearing for Mr Charles Taylor (the former President of Liberia) who was being re-examined by his defence lawyer. Both the discussions at the ICJ and the hearing at the ICC were fascinating for aspiring barristers like me! The above video focuses on the latter experience.

The filming was totally impromptu and was just acting for fun. Therefore, plausibility notwithstanding, nothing said in this video represents the actual views of those who took part in it, nor does it come from TEIMUN. However, your comments would be greatly appreciated!

How does the International Criminal Court work in practice?

Some individuals, like heads of state, can avoid being confronted with accusations such as crimes against humanity and war crimes within their countries. Therefore they would never get punished for the things they are accused of under the law of their own countries. However, it is possible now to force them to face these accusations at the international level, thanks to the existence of the International Criminal Court.

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court can start a case against an accused. The ICC has the power to issue a warrant of arrest against an accused, meaning that if s/he travels to a country that has ratified the statute of the ICC, s/he would be arrested and sent to the ICC in The Hague. This seems like saying any head of state can no longer commit whatever crimes s/he wants and get away with them, as s/he can now be forced by the ICC to face accusations and be punished for her/his crimes. However, I discovered that many countries, especially the developed ones have refrained from ratifying the statute of the ICC so that their leaders would be able to escape being arrested and tried at the ICC. This state of affairs has engendered many criticisms for the ICC, as it is considered to be carrying out the victor’s justice brought for reasons of revenge and, de facto, confirming the principle of ‘might is right’.

I am particularly interested in the progress of the ICC (and ICJ). That is why I am planning to return to The Hague to report on the trial of another accused, Mr Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former presidential candidate of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The famous impending case of Mr Bashir, president of Sudan that by the way had not ratified the statute of the ICC, is another development I would be monitoring very closely, because of its ripple effects and long term consequences in international law. So, please look out for my new reports on the ICC on both this blog and YouTube in the coming months.