Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
The International Criminal Court
Background on the ICC and information on Judaism and international justice.

In 2002, the International Criminal Court (ICC) was created as the first permanent international court to try individuals for crimes against humanity. The ICC, which hears cases upon referral from the UN Security Council or upon acceptance of the Court's jurisdiction by a State Party or a State, is now able to bring to justice those perpetrators who would otherwise go unpunished. Currently, the ICC is formally investigating human rights atrocities committed in Uganda and those responsible for the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. The Court announced in January 2007 that it was ready to proceed with its first trial against warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Cases that are likely to be considered next include individuals involved in atrocities in the Central African Republic and the Ivory Coast.

The Rome Statute is the international provision that sets the legal bases for the International Criminal Court. Canada has already ratified the Rome Statue, but the United States has not yet ratified it on the grounds that it would curtail U.S. sovereignty and put U.S. soldiers deployed in conflicts or as peacekeepers across the globe at high risk of persecution. Supporters respond that the United States had a major role in the establishment of the legal precedents of the ICC, including the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials; they also point to the success of the existing safeguards and limited jurisdiction of the Court that protect against irrational cases in the form of the dismissal of all cases against UK and American soldiers in Iraq.

Judaism and International Justice
Our sages observed that a pattern of transgression brings in its wake further transgression. As it is written, "Run away from a transgression, for a commandment pulls along a commandment and a transgression pulls along a transgression" (Pirke Avot 4:2). They also tell us that there is no limit to the judgments for the wicked, and that we are not to stand idly by at the suffering of other human beings. Failure to apprehend and prosecute war criminals sends a message that such actions are acceptable, with the result that other evil human beings, at a later time, will also believe that they have nothing to fear.

How well we understand, from our own tragedies as a people, the awesome price human beings pay for indifference and silence. We must be alert to suffering and injustice any place in the world and be proactive in deterring the perpetuation of evil.

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