Top QC warns on international court

THE PLANNED new International Criminal Court (ICC) could hinder rather than speed up the prosecution of suspects accused of committing crimes against humanity if it is set up on the wrong basis, Geoffrey Robertson QC has warned.

The leading human rights barrister spoke last week of the “grave danger” that the new treaty, which is being thrashed out at a United Nations conference in Rome, could “turn back the clock” if those countries who were seeking to curtail its powers got their way.

Delivering the fifth Bernard Simons Memorial Lecture at Middle Temple, Robertson said that it was essential that crimes against humanity were treated as “universal crimes” which could be tried in any jurisdiction.

And he described as “disgraceful” a call by France for states to have a right to halt prosecutions when the alleged crimes had taken place within their borders or when their citizens were accused of committing them.

Robertson divided the countries attending the Rome conference, which is scheduled to last five weeks, into three categories: a group of 42 countries, including Germany, Canada and the UK, which wanted an ICC that would work; the other superpowers, including the US and France, which wanted the ICC to be beholden to the United Nations; and a third group, led by India, which, said Robertson, “doesn't want a court at all”.