Row over ICC mandate on "acts of aggression" divides Dutch coalition

The International Criminal Court building in The Hague (Photo: Hanhil/Wikimedia Commons). (The International Criminal Court building in The Hague (Photo: Hanhil/Wikimedia Commons))

With reporting by Graeme Kidd.

The governing coalition in the Netherlands is split on a new proposal to extend the mandate of the International Criminal Court, housed in Den Haag. Joost Taverne, a member of parliament for the conservative VVD party, called into question the mandate’s definition of a “crime of aggression,” calling it unfocused and vague.

His fear is that the actions of western nations against ISIS in Syria and Iraq could be considered crimes of aggression under the current definition, the Reformatorisch Dagblad. Taverne expressed his concerns in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, on Thursday.

His sentiment is not shared by coalition partner VVD. To somehow argue over the ICC “would be an embarrassment,” said Labour party member Michiel Servaes, as quoted by BNR. “When the ICC was formed in the late nineties, there were a number of crimes included in the Rome Statute, [like] genocide, crimes against humanity and aggression. It was always intended that the ICC would deliberate over laws of aggression.”

He went on to detail that an agreement over the definition of a crime of aggression was agreed upon in Kampala, Uganda at a 2010 summit, making it even more suspect to suddenly stand up and say, “I’m not so sure.”

A “crime of aggression” is the “planning, preparation, initiation or execution of an act of using armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State,” the ICC states on its website. It “includes, among other things, invasion, military occupation, and annexation by the use of force, blockade of the ports or coasts, if it is considered being, by its character, gravity and scale, a manifest violation of the Charter of the United Nations.”

Serves said the Netherlands has a special responsibility to accept the mandate as the host nation of the court, and it would be particularly embarrassing to oppose it.

On the other hand, Taverne replied, "Whether or not something is an embarrassment is for others to decide, but it is vital that we, as legislators, judge what is presented to us."