As readers may know, I have been paying particular attention to the African Union’s attempt to put together a comprehensive counter-terrorism treaty, and have already posted some thoughts on the matter on the al-Wasat blog a few days before Christmas.
A few more thoughts occurred to me today as I was reading (for my current employer) the statements given by delegations to the Ninth Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court, which took place last month in New York. I still have a handful to go through, but so far the delegation from Nigeria’s statement (PDF file) has particularly caught my attention.
From the third paragraph of the statement, I quote and emphasize:
One significant contribution of our common efforts in developing an international criminal justice under the Rome Statute is the strengthening of the international community, acting in concert, to check the activities of armed non-state actors. As we all know, these are usually armed groups that operate outside state control or authority, often constituting threats to corporate existence of their victim states through operational styles marked by horrendous acts of impunity.
I was intrigued by the mention of ‘armed non-state actors’, also known as non-State armed groups. Of course, that term means many things. In fact, it is fairly self-explanatory: any armed group that is not under the direct control of a State is, logically, a non-State armed group.
But as I read that I subconsciously understood “terrorist groups” and that has brought me back to what I wrote last month.
In my post over at al-Wasat, I wrote that the AU’s efforts to create a comprehensive regional counterterrorism convention could give the necessary political impetus to pave the way towards a global comprehensive counterterrorism treaty that has been noticeably missing for the past decades.
It occurred to me that it could also pave the way for the inclusion of the Crime of Terrorism in the Rome Statute perhaps even sooner. The idea to include the Crime of Terrorism in the Rome Statute is nothing new: it was discussed at the Rome Conference in 1998, and has been pushed forward since, in particular by the Government of The Netherlands. So far efforts have failed, but should African States Parties – the largest regional bloc of the Assembly of States Parties of the ICC – decide to join the cause and prepare the groundwork for a common definition of the Crime of Terrorism, things could move forward fairly rapidly, perhaps even by the time of the next Review Conference, which should take place around 2017.
This is purely speculation – almost thinking outloud – and, for all I know, the Nigerian delegation simply meant rebel groups and other armed militias that have been plaguing the African continent’s stability and security for many years now. But considering the difficulty African States have in dealing with emerging terrorist groups in the Western and Eastern parts of the Continent, pushing for the internationalization of the prosecution of terrorist groups is not entirely senseless.
Or at least it would be an interesting strategy, had the Rome Statute system shown itself to be a little more reliable in executing arrest warrants against suspects. Unfortunately, as Northern Ugandans know too well, the arrest warrants issued in 2005 against the leadership of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), its leader Joseph Kony in particular, which is in a way a terrorist group itself, have yet to be executed and had had very little effect to deter the LRA’s activities. But that is a discussion for another time.