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ICC Marks 20th Anniversary             07/01 06:22


   THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -- The International Criminal Court marked the 
20th anniversary of its establishment Friday as its prosecutors probed war 
crimes in countries around the world, including what one expert called a "make 
or break" investigation in Ukraine.

   The court, long criticized for tackling only crimes in Africa and failed 
prosecutions of senior leaders in Kenya and Ivory Coast, now has investigations 
underway in 17 countries, from Afghanistan to Ukraine, although the majority of 
cases are in Africa.

   David Crane, the founding chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra 
Leone that convicted former Liberian President Charles Taylor and others as war 
criminals, said the Hague-based ICC is a crucial legal institution despite some 
criticism of its work.

   "The ICC is the cornerstone now of how we deal with atrocity crimes at the 
international level," Crane told The Associated Press. "With the aggression by 
the Russian Federation against Ukraine, the ICC must be the lead in holding 
President Vladimir Putin accountable. This is the ICC's moment. They have to 
get this right."

   The court has registered only three war crimes convictions and five for 
interfering with justice in the 20 years since its founding treaty, the Rome 
Statute, came into force on July, 1, 2002. Without a police force of its own 
and relying on national authorities to carry out arrests, getting suspects to 
The Hague has been a problem from the outset and is likely to remain a critical 
stumbling block to meting out justice.

   And that justice does not come cheap. The court's budget for 2022 is nearly 
155 million euros ($161 million), and it has spent more than 2.2 billion euros 
($2.3 billion) over its two-decade life.

   A total of 123 countries are members of the court and accept its 
jurisdiction, but global powers the United States, Russia and China do not. 
That means that if Prosecutor Karim Khan's investigations in Ukraine lead to 
charges against Russian suspects, Moscow is not likely to willingly make them 
available for trial in The Hague.

   Friday's anniversary should be a moment to "reflect and to try to refresh 
the process of international justice," Khan said.

   "If we work in a collective manner, I am confident that international 
justice can accelerate and advance and have the required impact," he added.

   In a statement marking the anniversary, the European Union highlighted the 
ICC's achievements and called on nations that have not yet joined to do so.

   "Its landmark decisions have contributed to the fight against impunity and 
the development of international criminal jurisprudence, for example on sexual 
and gender-based crimes, the recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts 
and the destruction of cultural property," the EU said.

   Crane conceded that the court, which only takes on cases when local 
authorities cannot or will not act, "has stumbled from time to time causing a 
mixed reputation of viability."

   Despite that, "the ICC is a worthy international effort that must be 
supported. Frankly, we cannot let it fail," he said. "What the ICC does with 
its work in Ukraine is a make or break moment."

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