Egypt to Join the International Criminal Court

This is what countries do when they want to be taken seriously as scrupulous adherents to international human rights standards and conventions.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil El-Arabi said on Tuesday that his country is to join the International Criminal Court, as Egypt strives in the wake of its revolution to become a “legally constituted state.”

“Egypt is currently taking the required steps to join all United Nations agreements on human rights and to join the International Criminal Court,” El-Arabi said during a joint press conference in Cairo with visiting German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle.

He said Egypt was working hard to become a “legally constituted state” after the overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak on 11 February.

In theory, once Egypt becomes a member of the ICC the court has jurisdiction over war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Egypt from July 2002 to the present.  (That’s the date the court came into force). But the likelihood of the ICC investigating the Mubarak regimes crimes is pretty low. Egypt has a somewhat functional judiciary, and all signs point to the fact that the emerging Egyptian governing institutions is actually quite eager to prosecute the recently overthrown regime.  So, the value of Egypt joining the ICC is mostly symbolic.

It shows that the country is eager to begin a new era in which the human rights of its citizens are more forcefully protected. It also shows that the ICC has become a stop along the way to becoming what Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil El-Arabi calls a “legally constituted state,” which bodes well for the court.

UPDATE:  David Bosco helpfully points out that Egypt wants to join the ICC, but not respect it.