Prosecuting a crime against peace (otherwise known as a crime of aggression) depends on one of two factors: its status before the International Criminal Court (ICC) or its status in domestic law.
The Rome Statute, which established the ICC, determines (Article 5.2) that the Court
shall exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression once a provision is adopted in accordance with articles 121 and 123 defining the crime and setting out the conditions under which the Court shall exercise jurisdiction with respect to this crime.
Though the Statute came into force in 2002, and though the crime of aggression has been recognised in international law since 1945, it still hasn’t been adopted. One of our aims is to put pressure on governments to complete the process as quickly as possible so that those already suspected of committing this crime can be brought before the court. The United Kingdom signed the Rome Statute in 1998, and ratified it in October 2001: in both cases when Tony Blair was Prime Minister. It agreed in other words that the crime of aggression should fall under the competence of the court; now it has to ensure that this happens, whereupon a state wishing to uphold the law can deliver Mr Blair for prosecution.
The other possibility is to seek to have Tony Blair prosecuted for a crime against peace in a domestic court.
In her survey of 90 countries, Astrid Reisinger Coracini found statutory provisions connected to the international crime of aggression in some twenty-five countries. Most of these are in Eastern Europe or Central Asia.*
These provisions appear to have been adopted in a piecemeal and inconsistent fashion, and in most cases, it seems, they have yet to be tested. Whether the courts of these nations would be prepared to prosecute a foreign national for acts committed abroad remains to be seen: some legal scholars argue that as the crime of aggression is already recognised in international law, domestic legislation which makes provision for it could apply to anyone. We are especially interested in attempts to arrest Mr Blair in countries which have incorporated this crime into domestic law, and will attempt over the next few months to produce a complete list.
There remains no comprehensive account of the legal status of this crime around the world, so we are inviting people with knowledge of the law in their own countries to send in their assessments. If you can help, please send a summary of no more than 300 words, and we will post it up here.
We are also seeking to press governments to incorporate the supreme international crime into their own legislation. Its absence from the laws of most countries is a striking anomaly. In the United Kingdom, for example, you can be prosecuted for wearing an offensive T-shirt, but not for commissioning the murder of hundreds of thousands of foreigners.
*National Legislation on Individual Responsibility for Conduct Amounting to Aggression, in: Roberto Bellelli (ed.), International Criminal Justice. Lessons Learned and the Challenges Ahead (forthcoming)