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Is this the end of the road for the International Criminal Court? Yesterday’s announcement by Russia that it was formally withdrawing its signature from the ICC’s founding Rome statute of 1998 came weeks after similar moves from South Africa, Burundi and Gambia — Now add to that a warning today from Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte that he might follow Moscow out the door, and it starts to look like the global justice body is bound to never gain the legitimacy it needs to survive.

Of course, much is being said about the timing of Moscow’s decision, amid reports it might be investigated over its actions in Syria and Ukraine. Still, the fact that Russia never ratified the treaty it signed in 2000 meant it was already out of the ICC’s reach.

Same holds for China, which never even signed the treaty, and the U.S., which also withdrew without ratifying 14 years ago.

Thus the core weakness of the ICC seems to only deepen: How can a court be respected if the most powerful are untouchable? The announcement last summer that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair wouldn’t be prosecuted for war crimes, despite incriminating evidence, but that British soldiers who were deployed to Iraq under Blair’s tenure might be, only reinforced the sentiment that Western leaders were above the law.

Though its founding mission may have been noble, the ICC risks being one more global body that fuels local resentments.


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