2005 – Old and frail from the ravages of Parkinson’s Disease, His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, sat quietly yesterday in the dock on the first day of his controversial human rights abuse trial before the newly convened International Criminal Court. “The accused, Karol Wojtyla, is charged with vilifying same-sex relationships, imposing traditional sex-role stereotypes upon women everywhere, and propagating hate-speech against basic reproductive rights,” said the prosecutor. “How do you plead, Mr. Wojtyla?”

This nightmarish scenario may not be so far-fetched, REAL Women of Canada vice-president Gwen Landolt has told The Interim. “The Pope or the president of the United States could easily be brought before the ICC if either one were charged with causing harm to a designated group. It’s appalling, but it could happen.”

Created in the aftermath of the Rwandan and Yugoslavian massacres by the July 1998 Rome Statute, the ICC only recently went into effect with the ratification of 60 countries. The court is currently in the process of choosing personnel and is expected to be operational sometime next year.

Unlike nearly every treaty, the ICC statute not only takes precedence over national law, but even binds countries that did not sign it in the first place – the first such document since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648.

The court was established to deal with some truly horrible offenses: genocide, aggression, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Yet critics charge the ICC could be used by feminists and the cultural left to impose their agendas, and moral traditionalists could wind up as criminals. “There are no checks and balances in the ICC,” said Landolt. “The prosecutors have absolute power, and when one of them makes a decision, a judge will merely rubber-stamp it. Moreover, it contains none of our Western protections for the accused. A person making a complaint can become part of the trial with his own lawyer, and the accused might not even know who his accuser is, or have a chance to cross-examine him.”

Landolt sees other problems with the court, including its basic structure. “You have to remember that radical feminists were involved in the establishment of the court,” she said. “The judges have to be selected on the basis of gender, which part of the world they’re from, and they have to have experience dealing with domestic violence. Where are they going to find those people? They’re clearly trying to pack this court with feminist judges.” For that matter, Landolt wonders if the definition of “gender” could be broadened to include gays, lesbians and the trans-gendered, in order to include even more sympathetic jurists.

She adds that feminist non-governmental organizations such as Planned Parenthood are allowed to contribute money and materials to the ICC, and wonders what effect that will have. “He who pays the piper calls the tune.”

Perhaps the biggest problem with the Rome Statute, said Landolt, is the deliberate vagueness of its text. “Some of these definitions are horrendously vague: genocide, crimes against humanity, enforced pregnancy, causing harm to a group – the court will have to decide what these terms will mean, and I’m not optimistic.”

In a special report written earlier this year, Richard G. Wilkins, who is a professor of law and the managing director at the World Family Policy Centre at Brigham Young University, noted that under the Rome Statute, “the crime of ‘persecution’ consists simply of the ‘intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights contrary to international law by reason of the group or collectivity.'”

He added: “At present, no international lawyer or jurist can predict with any certainty how this language might sweep.”

Wilkins believes “such language could be used to completely refashion social policy on a world-wide scale” and his report pointed to a Special Assembly on HIV-AIDS held in June 2001 as an example. At the meeting, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, issued a document titled: “HIV-AIDS and Human Rights International Guidelines.”

It called for the repeal of all laws condemning homosexual sodomy, the legalization of same-sex marriages, mandatory sex education for children, and the creation of “legal penalties” for anyone who “vilifies homosexual behaviour.” These guidelines were mandated by established international “human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Furthermore, it is not clear what “enforced pregnancy” will mean. Technically it means rape, but feminists are aching to have it mean anything that stands in the way of abortion on demand.

The difference between two UN courts

It is easy to confuse the International Criminal Court with the International Court of Justice. Both are creations of the United Nations, but that is more or less where the similarities end. The ICC is a “human rights” court, with the power to place individuals on trial, and claims a “universal” jurisdiction, meaning its decisions not only overrule national law, but apply even to countries that did not ratify the 1998 Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court.

The ICJ is a very different kettle of fish. Sitting at the Peace Palace in The Hague, the ICJ’s function is “to settle in accordance with international law the legal disputes submitted to it by states, and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by duly authorized international organs and agencies.” The ICJ was established in 1946 in order to replace the Permanent Court of International Justice.

Only states may apply to, and appear before the ICJ, while individuals are excluded. Decisions by the court are final and without appeal, but depend upon the co-operation of all parties involved. Should one state fail to comply with a judgment, the other party has recourse to the Security Council of the United Nations.

Cases currently before the ICJ include a dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria over land and maritime boundaries, a similar dispute between Indonesia and Malaysia regarding sovereignty over two Pulaus, and a case between the Democratic Congo and Rwanda regarding armed activity on the territory of the Congo by Rwandan forces.

Eli Schuster