Prof. Kaye rallies global leaders to seek wider support of International Criminal Court


Iris Yokoi

On a recent November weekend, 30 diplomats, activists and academics from across the globe gathered in Laguna Beach. But they weren’t in Southern California for a sun-and-fun vacation – and in fact, the weather was unusually cold and wet this particular weekend.

The visitors were invited by UCI Law Professor David Kaye to tackle the weighty global issue of international justice. Specifically, the international leaders and observers spent the weekend discussing – often debating – how to improve United Nations Security Council support of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The independent court, created in 1998 by the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court, has attracted widespread global support, with 121 states as parties today. But the Court is still experiencing growing pains: the United States, China and other major powers have not embraced the Court, and the Court has had difficulty getting cooperation from governments in enforcing arrest warrants and other matters.

The UN Security Council, which has referred two situations (Sudan and Libya) to the ICC for investigation and prosecution, could play a major role in encouraging and possibly even requiring governments to cooperate with the ICC, but has done little to support the ICC.

Prof. Kaye, who worked extensively on international justice issues during his stint at the State Department in the 1990s and early 2000s, decided to address this lack of support by the UN Security Council. He developed the idea while at UCLA School of Law, where he worked with the foundation Humanity United, which agreed to support this project. The UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations also played an important role in formulating the ideas that led to the project.

The project was launched in 2011. Kaye’s students in UCLA’s International Justice Clinic conducted research related to support for the ICC, including interviewing diplomats and activists in New York and participating in a major conference on the subject in London. More recently, research was conducted in Beijing and Moscow, leading up to the high-level workshop in Laguna Beach in late November 2012.

The workshop brought together leading figures in international justice, including current and former diplomats from Costa Rica, China, Russia, Liechtenstein, South Africa, France, the United States, and the United Kingdom; non-governmental leaders from organizations such as Open Society, Human Rights Watch, the Coalition for the ICC, and the International Centre for Transitional Justice; representatives from all branches of the ICC itself, including a senior-ranking judge and senior registry official; and academics from UC Irvine, UCLA, Renmin University in Beijing, American University, and Oxford University. Full list and bios of participants here.

While rain and wind swirled outside, the participants kept warm with intense discussions, exploring the politics and goals of different entities and mapping out possible steps the Security Council could take to improve support of the ICC.

Prof. Kaye and Humanity United collaborators, to be assisted by students in UCI Law’s new International Justice Clinic launched by Kaye, will compile a report based on the year of research and the workshop discussion. They hope to present the report and recommendations at the United Nations in the spring.

“At the same time, we are thinking through how to engage key governments not naturally seen as supporters of the Court, especially China, Russia, and the United States,” said Kaye. He hopes to host workshops in Beijing and Moscow, “where the building of awareness and understanding is critical.”

For more information, visit The Council and The Court website.