By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Ireland was one of seven states whose ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court has brought into force the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal.
Ireland’s depositing of its instruments with the UN in New York to ratify the treaty brought the number of countries above 60 — so triggering mechanisms to allow the court to come into force on July 1.
Judges and a prosecutor are expected to be elected in September and the court will become operational next year.
In a referendum last June, the people voted by over 64 percent to amend the constitution to allow a partial transfer of sovereign power to administer justice from the state to the court.
It was one of the few popular referendums held throughout the world on the new court. It was also debated by the Dail and Seanad and received cross-party support.
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Foreign Affairs Minister Brian Cowen said the establishment of the court — which will be based in The Hague — is a historic milestone.
“For far too long the world has witnessed serious violations of these norms go unpunished due to lack of an enforcement mechanism,” he said.
The court will ensure that the perpetrators of the worst crimes committed by individuals are brought to justice. It will have jurisdiction only over crimes committed after the treaty enters into force.
It will be empowered to investigate, prosecute and punish “the most serious crimes of international concern” — genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and in the future, the crime of aggression.
President Bush has not ratified the court. President Clinton signed the treaty but the Bush administration opposes the court and said it fears that American citizens, soldiers and officials could be subjected to politically motivated prosecutions.