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Published on June 26th, 2011 | by Zachary Waksman

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Tunisia Joins International Criminal Court

by Zach Waksman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

NEW YORK, New York, United States – Tunisia joined the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Friday, handing its instruments of accession to the Rome Statute, which governs the organization, to Ban-Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations.  Its accession makes the small African nation the 116th country, but the first from North Africa and only the fourth member of the League of Arab States, to do so.

The United Nations and the ICC were pleased with the decision to join the ICC, commending the government.  “This significant step is particularly important in light of the fundamental changes that have occurred in Tunisia this year,” Secretary-General Ban told the assembled press.

Due to government repression of protests regarding political freedom and unemployment, the population revolted against longtime President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.  In January this year, he fled the country as strikes and demonstrations, nicknamed the “Jasmine Revolution,” moved into the capital city of Tunis.  At the time, Errachad Majidi, a researcher for Paul Cézanne University, wondered whether the revolt’s success would create a domino effect in the Arab world.  In a January 26, 2011 editorial for Afrik.com, he considered Tunisia’s situation to be unique compared to the rest of the Arab world because it was one of the more literate countries in the region.  He believed this to be a potential reason for “the high level of political consciousness among the youth; the determined and peaceful nature of the revolt; and both its organization and decentralization, facilitated by the use of Internet social networks.”

“Tunisia’s accession to the Rome Statute is also a testament of the profound changes brought about by the ‘Arab Spring,’ which started in Tunisia,” said Ambassador Christian Wenaweser, President of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute in a statement to the press.  Within weeks of President Ben Ali’s overthrow, similar protests in Egypt met with equal success.  Several other protests of this nature have also taken place over the past few months.

Despite this apparent domino effect, Majidi remained skeptical.  “Finally, for a domino effect to work, the Tunisian revolt must lead to real political change: a change that is not guaranteed,” he wrote.  So far, that change appears to be happening, shortly after Ben Ali fled, the government, led by an organization of parties, associations, unions, and intellectuals, was changed into a more democratic assembly, with new elections scheduled for July 24.

Arab and Muslim states have generally not trusted the ICC, fearing that it is a political tool wielded by Western nations.  Tunisia’s accession may mark a small shift in that sentiment.  Reuters reported that Egypt, one of the countries who staged a successful revolution of its own, is also considering acceding to the Rome Statute and joining the ICC.

The Statute will have jurisdiction over Tunisia starting on September 1.

For more information, please see:

International Criminal Court — Tunisia becomes the 116th State to join the ICC’s governing treaty, the Rome Statute — 24 June 2011

International Criminal Court — Statement by H.E. Ambassador Christian Wenaweser, President of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court — 24 June 2011

MSNBC — Tunisia joins international war crimes court — 24 June 2011

UN News Service — Tunisia becomes first North African nation to Join International Criminal Court — 24 June 2011

allAfrica.com — Africa: Tunisian Revolution Did Not Come Out of Nowhere — 26 May 2011

Afrik-news.com — A domino effect in the Arab world after Tunisia? — 26 January 2011

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