International law is critical to keeping leaders accountable and fighting impunity, said the United Kingdom’s nominee to the International Criminal Court (ICC), Judge Howard Morrison.
Speaking on a visit to the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, on 25 November 2011, Judge Morrison reiterated the need for countries to support international law and the ICC.
“International law is vital if we are going to continue the fight against immunity and if we are going to continue the fight against impunity: there is no going back now.”
Judge Morrison, a member of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, is one of 19 candidates contesting the ICC elections, for six seats on 9 December 2011, in New York.
He has worked in the Commonwealth as a magistrate in Fiji and Tuvalu, and was a former ad hoc Attorney-General in the Eastern Caribbean. He was also a senior judge of the Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus.
Judge Morrison said one of the big achievements of international law is the legal recognition of rape as a weapon of war and a weapon of oppression.
“It has not always been at the forefront of what had been considered war crimes – people have concentrated on mass killings, genocide, forceful movement of populations - the reality is rape has always been part of the power used against a civilian population and now it has been fully recognised.”
For small states, such as those in the Commonwealth, international law is a great leveller explained Judge Morrison, as it gives equal protection to small countries as well as big ones.
An area that he foresees will become legally contentious is climate change.
“Climate change is generated largely by activities we know are causing harm to the atmosphere and have the consequence of changing the climate. If such activities are criminalised and if you know what you are doing is going to have a detrimental effect ... then that’s the mental element of the crime," he said.
“It’s a pretty severe consequence – how you put that into effect is a question for diplomats, not judges.”