Should the Subject Matter Jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court Include Drug Trafficking?

George Yacoubian, Jr., Pacific Inst. for Research & Evaluation

The international legal community has been contemplating the creation of a permanent international criminal court for more than seven decades. That goal was finally realized with the formation of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Established in July 2002, the ICC investigates and prosecutes the most egregious violations of international criminal law--the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. These four offenses are eligible for prosecution before the ICC because they violate fundamental humanitarian principles and, arguably, constitute the most serious crimes of international concern. Unfortunately, the court's subject matter jurisdiction is limited to only these four categories of offenses. One other crime of international significance--drug trafficking--has been excluded from the Statute and is thus ineligible for prosecution before the ICC. This is an execrable omission. In the current essay, the prosecution of drug trafficking before the ICC is assessed. Part II discusses the prevalence and associated problems of illicit drugs in the United States and on an international scale. Cross-sectional and longitudinal data are presented to illustrate the illimitable nature of the problem. Part III reviews the major narcotics conventions, describes the development and subject matter jurisdiction of the ICC, and reviews the arguments for and against expanding the subject matter jurisdiction of the ICC to incorporate drug trafficking. Given that modern states exist as part of an interdependent, international community, Part IV offers insight into the future of the ICC and discusses how the problems associated with drug trafficking might be remedied.

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Updated 05/20/2006