Human Rights in Public International Law

Introduction

Human rights refer to basic privileges or freedoms that human beings are entitled to regardless of their sex, origin, economic status, social standing, race, or gender (Moriarty & Massa, 2012). These rights are based on the principle of respect for human beings and they are universal, inalienable, and inherent to every individual. Human rights are guaranteed by law and it is the responsibility of governments to protect citizens against violations (Shelton, 2013).

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International human rights law outlines the guidelines that governments should follow in order to protect their people from violation of their human rights. For example, it forbids governments from engaging in certain acts that promote the violation of human rights. International human rights law comprises agreements and treaties between states that outline how the states are expected to behave in order to protect and promote human rights (Moriarty & Massa, 2012). The International Criminal Court (ICC) is one of the bodies responsible for implementing international human rights law (Shelton, 2013).

The ICC and human rights protection

The International Criminal Court (ICC) was founded in 1988 and is based on the Rome Statute. It was created to prosecute individuals who committed crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide. ICC has sufficient legal backing through the Rome Statute to protect violations against human rights (Shelton, 2013). However, it has been highly criticized for failing to carry out its duties effectively. The organization prosecuted the first person in 2009, six years after it started functioning in 2003.

Initially, it was very aggressive and as a result, opened criminal cases against prominent personalities especially in Africa. However, very few cases have been tried and determined. Lack of cooperation between the court and the states has been one of the major causes of delays. Currently, the ICC is an example of an ineffective international organization because of its failure to maintain the human rights regulation in cases of civil war and other regional and international disputes. This failure has enhanced violations of human rights in wars and other disputes.

Africa is awash with numerous cases of gross violations of human rights that have led to calls for the ICC to take stern action against culprits. Before the creation of the ICC, many leaders violated the rights of their citizens because there were few international bodies to take legal action against them. The formation of the ICC was a sigh of relief to countries that experience wars and politically-motivated unrest. Even with the establishment of the organization, gross violations of human rights still occur especially during civil wars and periods of political instability (Moriarty & Massa, 2012). The ICC is required to protect the international human rights law by persecuting individuals who engage in activities that violate human rights.

Recent events in various counties and regions have shown that the ICC has failed terribly with regard to maintaining the human rights regulation. Only a few cases involving human rights violation has been resolved at the ICC since its founding (Moriarty & Massa, 2012). Numerous cases are pending due to slow and ineffective investigations by the office of the prosecutor. The court is required to collaborate with the states to conduct investigations, apprehend culprits, and try them. However, accusations of unfairness and corruption have tarnished the court’s reputation and many states have declined to collaborate with the organization.

The ICC has been widely criticized for being an ineffective adjudicator of justice because of incompetency and unfairness. For example, recent cases being handled by the court have revealed gross incompetence with regard to gathering evidence that is vital for prosecuting suspects of human rights violations. The office of the prosecutor has failed greatly and given the ICC a bad reputation for its incompetence. This incompetence is evident in how the court handled the Kenyan cases. The court did not conduct independent investigations into the cases.

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Instead, the office of the prosecutor relied on evidence furnished by individuals and non-governmental organizations in that country. Moreover, there were cases of witness bribing and the implication of certain individuals. Another reason for the ICC’s failure is a lack of independence. The court is subject to political manipulation hence its failure to address the gross violations of human rights happening around the world (Moriarty & Massa, 2012). It does not adhere to judicial principles and is biased towards certain regions of the world. There are numerous war crimes that violate human rights taking place around the world today. However, the ICC is slow to investigate and prosecute the culprits.

Israel/Palestine dispute

An example of ICC’s failure to maintain human rights regulation in international disputes is the case between Israel and Palestine. During the regional fight between Israel and Palestine in 2014 gross violations of human rights were committed (Deger, 2015). Israeli forces committed war crimes and human rights violations and it was expected that the ICC would intervene and address the situation. The altercation between the two nations lasted for 50 days and armies launched indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks. The clash led to the demise of more than 1, 5000 people (Deger, 2015).

Thousands were wounded and displaced, and the property was destroyed on a large scale. The attacks were indiscriminate because 539 children died (Deger, 2015). Israel carried out a blockade of Gaza and as a result, intensified its attacks especially on innocent civilians. The Israeli army killed Palestinian protesters and denied the Palestinians freedom of movement. They also detained and tortured many Palestinian civilians, and helped illegal Israeli settlers to attack Palestinians and destroy their property. Others were detained without trial.

On November 23, four Palestinian human rights organizations presented evidence of human rights violations committed by Israel during the 2014 raid on Gaza. The 2014 attack was the third time Israel was attacking Gaza and causing gross violations of human rights without any international organization intervening. The four organizations presented information that they hoped would help the office of the prosecutor to open a case against Israel for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The four organizations cited cases of murder, torture, unlawful imprisonment, restriction of freedom of movement, persecution, and other inhumane acts committed against Palestinians during the raid (Deger, 2015).

The failure of the ICC to address human rights violations in the Palestine/Israel clash is evident from the court’s failure to open a case against Israel. In June 2015, Palestinian leaders presented evidence of Israel’s violation of human rights in Palestine. However, the court is yet to open an investigation into the matter. The documents presented to the ICC covered three main areas in which Israel had violated human rights according to international law. The Palestinian leaders accused Israel of 23 counts and expected the court to give a fair trial. This is an example of the ICC’s ineffectiveness and incompetency with regard to addressing cases that involve violations of human rights. Palestine wanted to open an inquiry at the court earlier but their hands were tied because of a waiting period for new members who were joining the court (Westcott, 2015).

After the lapse of the four-month waiting period, Palestine delivered documents to the ICC containing evidence that would aid in the prosecution of involved individuals (Westcott, 2015). They hoped that the court would open an investigation into the matter. However, six months after presenting the evidence, the court is yet to open an investigation. There is a probability that the ICC will not take any action against Israel. On the other hand, Israel could take actions that will immobilize the court from investigating its officials. The issue is pending because the court does not prosecute individuals who are under investigation by their legal systems (Westcott, 2015). The legal system of Israel is one of the challenges that could block the ICC from prosecuting individuals who were involved in the gross violations of human rights in Palestine.

Conclusion

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is one of the international bodies with legal capabilities to protect people against human rights violations such as genocide, displacement, torture, and denial of legal freedoms. Human rights are privileges that every human is entitled to according to law. The ICC has failed to maintain the human rights regulation in cases of civil war and disputes due to incompetency and political manipulation. An example is a delay being experienced currently in opening an investigation against Israel for violations of human rights during the 2014 Gaza raid. The ICC is an ineffective international body that is doing little to promote the preservation of human rights according to international law.

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References

Deger, A. (2015). Exclusive: Palestine Seeks to Charge Israel with “Apartheid” and War Crimes at The Hague. Web.

Moriarty, B., & Massa, E. (2012). Human Rights Law. New York, NY: OUP Oxford.

Shelton, D. (2013). The Oxford Handbook of International Human Rights Law. New York, NY: OUP Oxford.

Westcott, L. (2015). Palestine Submits Documents to International Criminal Court Alleging Israeli War Crimes. Web.

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