Inside the international criminal court

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Audio Transcript:

Anchor Jeb Sharp speaks with Pamela Yates, director of a new documentary about the International Criminal Court. It's called ?The Reckoning,? and it airs tonight on PBS.

JEB SHARP: A point of distinction is worth mentioning here. Charles Taylor is being tried in the Hague, in the building that houses the International Criminal Court, but he's not being tried by the International Criminal Court. Taylor's going before the Special Court for Sierra Leone. That tribunal was set up specifically for this case. But the International Criminal Court has plenty on its plate, most notably, the ICC wants to try Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on charges of crimes against humanity in Darfur. The trials and tribulations of the ICC are the subject of a new documentary film, The Reckoning airs tonight on PBS. Director Pamela Yates is in New York. Pamela, did you find that in making this film about the ICC, you had to deal with a certain level of confusion about what exactly the ICC is, and what cases it deals with?

PAMELA YATES: That was precisely the inspiration for making The Reckoning. I heard about the International Criminal Court in 2002, just as it was coming into being. And I thought, this is an amazing story, so few people know about it, what if we documented the first tumultuous years of the International Criminal Court? I think especially Americans are very confused about the court. They confuse it with the court, as you said, that's trying Charles Taylor, or more likely the court that tried Slobodan Milo?ević, the International Criminal Tribunal for the form of Yugoslavia. Those are all either at Hague temporary tribunals, or they're courts for a special situation. The International Criminal Court is the first permanent independent criminal court to try individuals for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

JEB SHARP: I understand there've been all these different atrocities and various at Hague courts, but this trial, Charles Taylor, it's the tribunal for Sierra Leone, why isn't it under the jurisdiction of the ICC? Could he have been tried by the ICC?

PAMELA YATES: Well you know, it's always better to try someone through the domestic court system. And the hybrid courts, like the Sierra Leone one, is a mixture of international, as well as domestic jurors. And even the international criminal court, you know, it calls itself the court of last resort because what it would rather happen is if the effect of having an international criminal court meant that domestic judicial systems were strengthened. So, it doesn't need to step in in Sierra Leone.

JEB SHARP: Now you followed the ICC's chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo for three years. And one of the problems of the court, which you show in the film is that while it can issue arrest warrants, it has not force to then go out and actually arrest the indicted. So, for instance, as I mentioned, the ICC has famously indicted the president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, but unlike Charles Taylor, he's not in detention in the Hague. Can the ICC be effective when it has no police force to bring in its suspects?

PAMELA YATES: Well, the founds of the Rome Statue, the treaty that created the international criminal court decided not to give the court a police force. Instead, it would rely on the member states to the do the arresting, and to take responsibility for sending the indicted to the Hague. So it's really up to us, the international community, that's one of the reasons that the film is called The Reckoning. Are we going to effectively build this new international justice organization? And since the Sudan case was referred to the International Criminal Court by the United Nations Security Council. And we are all members of the United Nations, than I think we must find the political will to pressure our governments to sanction Omar al-Bashir, the president of Sudan. And don't forget, you know, he's now an international political fugitive. So, you know, there are things already beginning to happen.

JEB SHARP: Another of the issues you highlight in the film is that the US, along with China and Russia, are not parties to the ICC. And, in fact, the United States actively opposed it under the Bush Administration. It seems pretty clear from the film that it's an institution you think should exist with the support of the US. Do you think that's gonna happen?

PAMELA YATES: Well, I'm an American Citizen, so of course I would like the United States to be part of the International Criminal Court. But first and foremost, people have to learn about the court, and then we have to have the debate, and then it would have to be ratified in the senate. So it's a long road for the United States. But what we can do in the meantime is re-engage with the International Criminal Court before we actually become members, or if we actually become members.

JEB SHARP: Pamela Yates directed the film The Reckoning about the International Criminal Court. It airs tonight on PBS. Pamela, thanks so much for talking to us.

PAMELA YATES: Thanks so much, I appreciate it.