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Never Enough: The International Criminal Court’s Budgetary Black Hole

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By Shawn Macomber

In the wake of the International Criminal Court’s controversial decision to allow Palestine join its ranks, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman vowed to lobby nations friendly to the Jewish state to cut funding to the aspiring transnational entity.

That effort, it appears, is essentially DOA, but the threat such a move, if realized, poses to the Court is hardly trivial, as the following excerpts from a Reuters report makes clear:

The continued support from countries which provide more than a third of the court’s cash, including Germany, Britain and France, averts the risk of paralysis at the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal.

The already financially-stretched court in The Hague — set up to hold to account leaders responsible for crimes that go unpunished at home — could have been unable to pay salaries…

[T]he 12-year-old court is financially strapped. Its caseload, already including six African inquiries, is growing while member states are unwilling to significantly up contributions as many face economic problems at home.

There is very little slack — redundancies were made last year to create more positions focusing on the caseload and legal aid budgets have been slashed, prompting complaints from defense lawyers.

The budget will be stretched further by the unexpected arrival last week of [Ugandan rebel commander Dominic] Ongwen, which could force prosecutors to dip into a contingency fund.

It might sound as if the Court’s benefactors are a bit stingy even without Israeli cajoling — until one considers the colossal amount of money currently being funneled into relatively puny output.

Here is how David Davenport memorably put it in Forbes last year:

The obvious question few seem to be asking is whether the I.C.C. is simply too expensive and inefficient to justify. Originally designed to make certain that war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity were not ignored, the Court is supposed to achieve a sufficiently robust presence that it contributes “to the prevention of such crime.” To that end, it has 34 judges, over 700 staff, and an annual budget of $166 million. They say you can’t put a price on justice but $500 million per warlord conviction seems high by any standard. And what do 34 judges do all day? You don’t >have to be a legal expert to figure that the preventive effect of convicting 2 warlords in 12 years doesn’t exactly leave international war criminals shaking in their boots.

Predictably, however, globalists do not see this state of affairs as a problem as cause for better accounting or institutional soul searching. Instead, the calls for larger and more frequent buckets to the trough are amplified to whatever decibel is necessary to drown out legitimate questions or criticism.

See, for example, Human Rights Watch’s senior counsel for international justice Elizabeth Evenson’s response to a 2014 seven million dollar budget increase (via the Institute for War & Peace Reporting):

It is obviously a positive thing that states parties didn’t shackle the court to a zero-growth policy this year. [But] I don’t think we’re out of the woods. Even though the budget is larger this year, I don’t see it as representing a significant break from wanting to really hold down the court’s resources and a reluctance to fund the court to the extent that it needs to be funded.

Expect the shakedown to continue — nations will either accept the ICC’s narrow vision, politicizations, inefficiencies, and sloth or face the charge that they are enemies of justice.