Last week in Canada, with federal MPs returning to Parliament amidst the continuation of countrywide protests by indigenous peoples, an opposition MP introduced a private member’s bill (Bill C-469) to require the Canadian government to ensure that all federal laws are consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (A/RES/61/295). I’ll state clearly at the outset that this isn’t the first such proposal of its kind, with two other private member’s bills with the same general intent of giving domestic legal effect to the Declaration having been introduced in June 2008 (Bill C-569) and February 2009 (Bill C-328), later reinstated in March 2010. But the discussion that has ensued with respect to enacting domestic legislation to give a non-legally binding declaratory text status and pull within domestic law raises interesting questions for our understanding of the sources of international legal obligation (versus the sources of aspiration and political commitment), as well as concerns about the impact of UN efforts that raise unmet expectations. On the other hand, this may simply strike readers in other jurisdictions as very strange, at least in those jurisdictions where there is no chance that a domestic court would ever rely upon, or even cite, a General Assembly resolution text.
Professor Kai Ambos is Chair of Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Comparative Law and International Criminal Law at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany and Judge at the Provincial Court (Landgericht) of Lower Saxony in Göttingen
On 14 November 2012 the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) published the “Interim Report” on the “Situation in Colombia”. The Report is exceptional for the fact that the OPP usually does not submit such kind of country report at this (preliminary) stage of the proceedings; instead, the Office’s activities are reported in its Annual Report on Preliminary Examination Activities. The reason why this is different in this case is “the high level of public interest” in the Colombian situation. In fact, the very existence of the Report demonstrates the seriousness with which the Office continues to monitor the situation in Colombia.
Despite all its shortcomings, the Report still deserves praise in that it constitutes a unique effort to subsume the complex Colombian situation under the legal regime of the Rome Statute. In fact, the OTP offers the first “official” and impartial account of the Colombian violence in ICL terms and this constitutes an advance in itself, not least with regard to the domestic discussion in Colombia. More concretely speaking, however, the Report offers a mixed picture. While some issues are treated adequately, contributing significantly to an accurate assessment of the Colombian situation, especially with regard to the topic of the “false positives”, the treatment of other aspects leaves more questions than answers. In this sense, the Report makes it difficult to determine with some precision the further course of the OTP’s evaluation of the Colombian situation. Indeed, the Report does not provide for clear standards that could serve as a framework for current and possibly future peace negotiations. Perhaps the question of an “alternative punishment” is the most important one effectively left open by the Report. Clearly, the report reflects the complexities of the Colombian situation which make it so difficult to come to a balanced and satisfactory judgment with a view to possible intervention by the ICC. It may well be argued that this situation demonstrates more than any other the importance of cooperation and mutual learning between local and international criminal justice.