By Muheed Jeeran –
These days the most spoken about topics in Sri Lankan political circles are the UNHRC resolution and the Electric Chair of the International Criminal Court (ICC). All the leaders, from the ruling party to the opposition, talk primarily about the electric chair, and I was wondering why these political mavericks are talking about something which is not in place at all in the ICC.
Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa accused his local political enemies on many stages that they are trying to take him to the electric chair. President Rajapaksa has offered to even sit on an electric chair rather than betray the troops who brought victory and global fame to his government.
On the other hand, Former Army Commander and Democratic Party Leader Sarath Fonseka said that if there are war crimes allegations against the Sri Lankan Army and somebody goes to the electric chair, it would be him.
Then the opposition leader and Leader of the United National Party Ranil Wickremesinghe started firing his part too in this saga. He said, “the President, any military personnel or a war hero cannot be summoned before the International Criminal Court and I have taken measures to prevent it. If someone is saying that it is not, I am ready even to go to the electric chair for the country”.
While watching this political pow-wow I thought to analyse the topic, though I know they are talking about something which is not in place in the past or present system of ICC. The first purpose and function of the court is to prosecute war criminals, and others guilty of “enumerated” crimes. It is also important to note, the ICC is intended to complement existing national judicial systems, and may only exercise its jurisdiction when national courts are unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute such crimes .
However, does the international criminal court have a death sentence? According to the Rome Statute – the document that created the International Criminal Court – the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. So in order to have an electric chair or any type of execution methods, they should have law in place for the death penalty. So why are these political leaders talking in public regarding a matter which is not in place in the ICC? Are they stating unwittingly or purposely to gain political benefits?
On other hand Ranil Wickramasinghe is emphasizing that he did not sign the Rome Statue, which was established in 2003 with the signature of 93 states and allows the country to be tried before the ICC. Therefore the President or any other military personnel cannot be summoned before ICC. But does our opposition leader make this statement with a clear state of mind or failing to understand how ICC is working on prosecuting any criminals?
I agree with some points from Wickremesinghe’s statement above, such as the ICC was created by the Rome Statute which came into force on 1 July 2002. There are currently 122 states that are signatories to the Statute and Sri Lanka did not sign the treaty. The law of treaties obliges these states to refrain from “acts which would defeat the object and purpose” of the treaty until they declare they do not intend to become a party to the treaty. But it doesn’t mean Sri Lanka can be evading from ICC. Does Wickremesinghe fail to understand the system or is he playing a political ploy or trying to show the public he is smarter than Rajapaksa?
We must clearly know that the court has four mechanisms which grants its jurisdiction. Firstly, if the accused is a national of a State that is party to the Rome Statute. The second mechanism is if the alleged crime took place on the territory of a State party to the Statute.. Third, if a situation is referred to the Court by the United Nations Security Council. And lastly, if a State not party to the Statute ‘accepts’ the Court’s jurisdiction. It clearly stating that, even if you are not a State party to the Rome Statute, you are more likely to prosecute at the ICC on the basis of recommendation from the United Nation Security Council to prosecute a state which is not a member of the Rome Statue.
Although Sudan is not a state party to the Rome Statute, the treaty which created the ICC, the situation in Darfur was referred to the ICC’s Prosecutor by the United Nations Security Council in 2005. Later the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, was charged with war crimes over the conflict in Darfur, becoming the first sitting head of state issued with an arrest warrant by the ICC.
Therefore the continuing public statement of Ranil Wickremesinghe is a complete farce. Another jurisdiction mechanism that is also not helpful in evading ICC prosecution, is whether the accused is a national of a State party to the Rome Statute. As we know the United States is not a member of the Rome Statute, but there are some western nations that are member states.
It looks like all the political leaders are seriously playing a dirty game to get the vote bank of Western and Southern Provincial council election rather than the vote block in Geneva.
It’s a real shame that politicians talk about national and international issues to grab votes in the provincial election, which is the system only created to manage provincial level local issues. These politicians know that the voters are not going to make any impact on the national or international issue by voting on the basis of this subject they deliver in the election campaign stages.
Even securing 100% of votes to the ruling government is not going to change the minds of the international community who supports the resolution or building more confidence for countries which are opposing the resolution in the Geneva session. When a politician is trying to fool the voters for their own political benefits, the voters must become smarter on casting their votes by sending a clear signal that ‘we are not fools to be trapped in your political blunders’.
Freebies are a fact of life in Sri Lanka politics. Candidates mostly offer free food packages and many other freebies to the voters in order secure their votes. Voters should teach a lesson to these politicians. It’s important to know that the ballot paper is your right. Don’t waste the only right you have as a citizen of this nation. People also should change their attitude of voting for a candidate on the basis of relative, friend, from their own community, culture and religion etc. They should vote for a candidate who can make an impact to a political system via successful policies.
What should we expect from our politicians? Should we expect moral perfection? Or should we expect them to do the job they were hired to do? Back in ancient times kings were considered Gods. People didn’t have books, television, Internet and the social media. The kings had absolute power and control over who lives and who dies. Virgins were tossed into volcanoes. These people knew how to party!
Things have changed since then. This is a world of democracy, though it is lacking in Sri Lanka. However, we elect people to do a job. Our “leaders” really aren’t leaders as much as public servants. They work for us. They are our employees. And we need to keep reminding them of that to keep them in their place, but that’s a different subject. They don’t wear a crown, they wear a national suit and get paid to do a job, and that job is to wisely spend the taxpayer’s money and to pass laws to keep the good order of society.