International Justice Day Sees Progress, Challenges Ahead for ICC



17 July 2014

 New York/The Hague—Civil society and governments worldwide should reaffirm their support for the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the pursuit of peace through justice and the rule of law this International Justice Day, the Coalition for the ICC said today. 


“In effect, 2014 represents the 20th anniversary of the new age of international justice and International Justice Day offers all of us an opportunity to reflect on the threats, challenges and changes to the international justice system that must be addressed in the years ahead,” said William R. Pace, convenor of the Coalition. “Since 1994, with the beginnings of the UN Security Council tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and the General Assembly consideration of the draft that would become the ICC Rome Statute, there has been a revolution of prosecuting grave crimes at the national, regional and global levels.”


This past year, the new ICC leadership has taken important steps toward dealing with both the opposition to and the need for ICC reforms. ICC states parties have increased their support for the Court, and the prosecutor has demonstrated the resolve to investigate crimes wherever they occur. Additionally, support for the Kampala amendments to the Rome Statute—including the crime of aggression—has grown considerably this year.


“These historic developments have been met, however, by increasing opposition by some major powers and governments,” Pace added.


Opponents of the ICC have moved to strengthen their positions. Today, just as in the past, political and military leaders use national sovereignty to shield themselves from accountability for committing the worst crimes under international law. International Justice Day celebrates the creation of the Rome Statute which limits immunity for all officials whose governments have ratified the treaty. No immunity is a fundamental pillar of the ICC and Rome Statute system.


The 122 states that have ratified the Rome Statute have taken a powerful step towards ending impunity. However, some 70 states remain outside the system, creating an impunity gap. This is magnified by the selectivity shown by major powers on the UN Security Council, which all too often use their vetoes on resolutions that would hold accountable the perpetrators of grave crimes.


The recent veto of a Security Council resolution to refer the Syrian conflict to the ICC is a case in point. Although the resolution had wide support—including from 13 of the 15 members of the Council—the resolution was vetoed by Russia and China.


The Security Council has referred only Darfur and Libya to the Court despite well-documented mass human rights violations elsewhere—an inconsistency that has prompted an initiative calling on permanent Security Council members to refrain from using their veto-power when dealing with such crimes.


“Whenever governments block investigations into massive human rights crimes, often to protect powerful individuals from prosecution, they are not only robbing victims of justice, but blocking peace for all of us,” said Pace. “These actions make it more likely that atrocities will continue in the future.”


International Justice Day is celebrated on 17 July every year to commemorate the anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute, 16 years ago this year. It is a reminder of the urgency for all states committed to justice for victims around the world to ensure continued support for the international justice system.


Coalition members are holding events worldwide to celebrate this day in solidarity with victims of grave crimes everywhere.









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