India should ratify ICC, ensure justice to all: experts

April 25th, 2008 - 6:28 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, April 25 (IANS) Calling the International Criminal Court (ICC) “the need of the hour”, lawyers, rights activists and journalists gathered here Friday for the second national consultative meet of the ICC and India said the country should ratify the treaty for the global court to ensure justice for everyone. Created in 2002, ICC is the only permanent global court capable of trying individuals accused of the most heinous crimes under international law. Also called as the “court of last resort”, it is an independent treaty-based organisation which is designed for use only when national courts are unwilling or unable to act.

Vrinda Grover, advocate, said that the need of the hour, especially with mass crimes going unpunished, is to forge new legal tools and added that the ICC is an ideal one.

“The Indian Penal Code (IPC) lists a whole lot of crimes but not the context in which those crimes were committed. There, a murder committed because of a person’s religious affiliation will require the same proceeding as a murder in any other context, which is just not done.

“I have seen so many acquittals because the FIR was lodged six months after a murder was committed. How can you expect a person to lodge an FIR within 10 days when his own life is at risk and he is on the run from the mob? It’s only after he finds his family or finds security that he can come and do that… These are the glaring lacunae of our system,” Grover said.

“Similarly, in cases of sexual violence, there is no definition of the kind of sexual assaults that so many women reported after the Gujarat carnage in 2002. When there is no definition, how can one expect justice? ICC, in that context, is the need of the hour,” she added.

At present, 106 countries have ratified the ICC treaty and India is not one of them. ICC is able to prosecute individuals for violations of humanitarian law, namely genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

India was actively involved in the formulation of a draft statute of the ICC by the International Law Commission. However, at a conference in Rome in 1998 to vote on the statute, India and 20 other countries abstained from becoming signatories.

Since then India has been disengaged with the ICC process. In December 2002, it concluded a pact with the US not to surrender each others’ citizens to the ICC for prosecution.

“An important feature of the ICC is that it has the potential to make individual perpetrators criminally accountable without having to depend on the political will of the government in power within the country,” said Saumya Uma, coordinator ICC-India.

“That is because there are human rights commissions at the international, national and state levels but these are not courts of law and can’t prosecute individuals for grave crimes. They can make enquiries and submit observations which are recommendatory and not binding to the government,” she added.

“Also, in most of the cases of mass crimes like the 2002 Gujarat riots or the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, the criminal justice system expects the state to act as the guardian, but will the state ever prosecute itself? There has to be accountability and an independent investigative agency. Simply making laws won’t help,” Grover said.

Father Cedric Prakash, director of the Prashant centre for human rights, justice and peace, has been actively involved in bringing relief to the victims of the Gujarat riots. He said ICC will bring in not only a sense of accountability, but also a sense of security to the minorities all over the world.

“India should become a global member of justice for the sake of its people,” he said.

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