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Friday, July 14, 2006

CICC Statement on World Day for International Justice

On the Occasion of the World Day for International Justice
17 July 2006

Several years ago, the Coalition for the ICC and many of our members began observing July 17 as the World Day for International Justice, in honor of the adoption of the Rome Statute of the ICC on July 17, 1998. Each year, the CICC uses this day as an opportunity to not only evaluate the past, but also to look forward.

The ICC has been described as one of the greatest advances in international law and justice. As we celebrate the fourth anniversary of the entry into force of the Rome Statute, we are able to reflect on a period in which the ICC reached a number of milestones, showed continued growth, and demonstrated that it can truly become a permanent fixture for international justice and peace. Of course, the ICC and governments must overcome major deficiencies and remaining challenges, but no one could have predicted many of the positive developments in the last few years.

Among the major achievements for the ICC since July 1, 2002, are the referrals of situations from three States Parties, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda, and Central African Republic (CAR); the historic referral of the situation in Darfur from the UN Security Council; the continuation of formal investigations by the Office of the Prosecutor into the situations in DRC, Uganda, and Darfur; the announcement by the Office of the Prosecutor in February 2006 that it is carrying out intensive analyses of five situations on four continents, including situations in CAR and Côte d’Ivoire, in which the Court may have jurisdiction over the crimes committed; the recognition of the jurisdiction of the ICC by Côte d’Ivoire even though it is currently a non-State Party to the Rome Statute; the issuing of five international arrest warrants by the ICC for members of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which have been publicly acknowledged in Uganda and throughout the world; and the execution of the warrant of arrest issued by the ICC for Thomas Lubanga Dyilo in the DRC that facilitated his subsequent transfer to the custody of the ICC in The Hague.

Since last year, the new system of international criminal justice achieved an extraordinary 100th ratification with the depositing of the instruments by Mexico on 28 October 2005. In 1998, the most optimistic expert predictions were that it would take ten to twenty years to achieve sixty ratifications. With more than two-thirds of the world’s nations having signed or ratified the ICC treaty, the movement towards universal accession clearly confirms that the support for international justice is global, embraced by progressive nations of all regions and legal systems in our world. The one hundred ratifications also showed the determination of states not to yield to political pressure from a few powerful nations that continue to oppose the ICC.

Furthermore, just within the past year, there have been a number of important decisions made by the Court on a range of legal issues, including affirming victims rights to participate in the judicial process, requesting that assets of accused persons be traced and frozen, and clarifying certain concepts in the Rome Statute, such as the difference between the Court’s definition of a case and a situation.
Additionally, with the decision of the CAR Cour de Cassation (Supreme Court) that the CAR justice system was unable to carry out effective investigations and prosecutions, we finally witnessed a state examining the complementarity principle contained in the Rome Statute and recognizing its importance to the dispensation of justice on both the nation and international levels.

In spite of these achievements, many serious challenges remain for the ICC and the State Parties. One of the most pressing challenges for the Court will be to implement a dramatically improved communications strategy. The ICC has failed to reach out effectively to victims, media, civil society, and Parliamentarians in situation countries, and to provide essential information to governments and international organizations. Effective communication with states must occur, for state cooperation will become increasingly vital to the success of the ICC. Perhaps the most important need for state cooperation, given the Court’s limited ability, is to arrest accused persons.

The Assembly of States Parties (ASP), the UN Security Council and other UN agencies, including peacekeeping operations and rapid deployment forces, must step up to the challenge. Multiple investigations and warrants without arrests and trials could be disastrous for the ICC. Many other vital state and international organization cooperation issues will require much more effort by the ASP in coming years.

In the next year, the CICC not only looks forward to the start of the first trial at the ICC, but also the continued collaboration among CICC members that ultimately impacts the various aspects of the Court’s work.

On this World Day for International Justice, we celebrate the enormous strides that have been made in upholding and advancing the principles of international justice through the ICC. We remain convinced that international justice will have a deterrent effect on the perpetration of widespread and systematic atrocities. We believe that the ICC is a ‘root cause’ institution, one that will contribute to the prevention, and reconciliation of conflicts involving the worst international crimes.

Statements from states supporting the ICC during recent Security Council debates and General Assembly meetings show that the United Nations will continue to be a vital partner in strengthening the ICC. Members of the CICC will follow the activities of the Human Rights Council, the High Level Panel on Genocide Prevention, the Office of the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, the application of the new “Responsibility to Protect” norm, and the newly established Peacebuilding Commission, as they relate to the ICC.

However, we must not overlook the fact that even with one hundred State Parties and one hundred and forty signatories to the Rome Statute, some of the world’s most influential nations remain outside observers instead of inside actors in this fight against impunity. Thus, we as civil society, with the cooperation of governments and international institutions, are charged with the responsibility to speak on behalf of the victims of the world’s conflicts and lead this ever-growing global movement for peace.

In solidarity,

William Pace
Convenor, Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC)


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