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Rights of Canadians Undermined by International Court


Canadians should be alarmed about the application of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in Canada.


C. Gwendolyn Landolt

 Author Notes

National Vice President, REAL Women of Canada

 Essay - 9/13/2000

Canadians should be alarmed about the application of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in Canada.

On June 29, 2000, Royal Assent was given to Bill C-19, which is a vast and convoluted statute by which Canada has agreed to accept and enforce in Canada all the decisions of the ICC. This agreement includes enforcing the payment of fines and reparations imposed on any Canadian convicted by the ICC.

There are many problems with this Court that will impact directly on Canadians.

One of the main concerns is that the ICC is not only a court to deal with established war crimes, but it is also a human rights court. That is, although the Court is supposed to deal with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, the definitions of these crimes are so breathtakingly elastic and wide open to manipulation, the Courtís jurisdiction has become extremely wide-ranging. For example, crimes against humanity and war crimes include such offenses as enslavement, rape, forced pregnancy, inhuman acts causing injury to mental health, sexual violence, sexual slavery and inhuman acts against "identifiable groups."

The powerful, independent and unaccountable ICC Prosecutor (subject to review by only a panel of ICC judges) has jurisdiction to investigate any alleged offence on the complaint of any state, individual, or non-governmental organizations (NGO) anywhere in the world. The Prosecutor can lay charges not only against states but also against individuals, including heads of state and government officials, as well as leaders and employees of institutions, such as churches. This broad mandate is the main reason why both the US and Israel have refused to back the ICC, since the ICC renders them vulnerable to those having a political or ideological axe to grind. It is significant that the ICC has jurisdiction if an accused nationalís own country is unwilling or unable to prosecute ICC offenses.

A political agenda has already been woven into the machinery of the ICC. All Court officials and staff must be selected according to gender and must also have expertise on gender issues, including sexual and other violence against women, which is to be considered a matter of central importance to the Court. The feminist NGOs, who have had undue influence on the establishment of the ICC, released documents in March in which they set out how the ICC will be used to restructure family life and religious practices world-wide. Specifically, the feminists intend that ICC violations are to become an engine for the elimination of cultural, ethnic and religious practices if they stray from the convictions of the ICCís gender sensitive judicial elites.

Since the ICC allows the Prosecutor to accept the offer of free personnel to assist in the work of the ICC, we can expect well-funded feminist NGOs and others with their own agenda, to play a major role in the ICC.

Moreover, the ICC is to be a "victims" court, with victims assisting every step of the way of the trial, through representation by counsel, cross examination of witnesses and the presentation of evidence. Also, contrary to our concept of a fair and reasonable trial, the accused may not necessarily know who is his accuser, or have the right to cross examine him - standard requirements for all justice systems in democratic countries.

The ICC also has extraordinary jurisdiction, even in countries that have refused to sign on to the ICC. The ICC claims jurisdiction over a non-signatory state and its citizens if one of its nationals commits an offence in a country that has ratified the ICC, (think US peacekeepers) and also in a non-ratifying country should a national of a ratifying country commit an offence there. This is a direct infringement on the national sovereignty of nations.

Of particular concern to Canadians is the fact that Bill C-19 requires the Canadian government to give full cooperation to any ICC investigations carried out here. This includes the seizure of assets of the accused, conducting searches and seizures of evidence, locating and protecting witnesses, and, of course, immediately arresting and surrendering persons accused of crimes to the ICC. Under Section 48, no Canadian can claim immunity or protection from arrest or extradition to the ICC by reason of any Canadian law. On the other hand, the ICC investigators, while operating in Canada, will be provided with full diplomatic immunity, which will continue even after they cease to be officials of the ICC.

Bill C-19 also provides that these crimes prosecuted by the ICC will, henceforth, also be crimes in Canada as well. That is, Bill C-19 has created a whole new category of offenses in the country. We can reasonably expect that our judicially activist courts will be happy to interpret and explain these new offenses to us over the next few years, according to their own philosophical and ideological assumptions.

Canadians, under the direction of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lloyd Axworthy, played a leading role in the establishment of this controversial court. Moreover, Bill C-19 was steam- rolled through Parliament after only a few hours of debate and with few MPs or Senators having read the bill, let alone having understood it. Mr. Axworthy, supported by the all-powerful Prime Ministerís Office, insisted that this bill be passed in haste so that it could serve as a model for other countries to follow.

Mr. Axworthy appears to have been so caught up with his vision of the international laurels he expects to receive for Canadaís leadership role in the establishment of the ICC that he has blinded himself to the "little" issues of Canadian national sovereignty, the manipulation and power of this court world-wide, as well as the negative implications and alarming loss of rights for Canadian citizens.

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