World observes International Criminal Justice Day on 17 July 2020

Representatives of member States sign the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court on 17 July 1998 Representatives of member States sign the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court on 17 July 1998 © ICC-CPI

 In Focus by Roos Middelkoop

International Criminal Justice Day 2020 was commemorated last Friday, on July 17. On this day, 22 years ago, 120 countries adopted the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), establishing the world’s first and only permanent system for international criminal justice. The ICC is seated in The Hague and currently embodies the collective commitment of 123 State Parties, all dedicated to fighting impunity for the world’s most atrocious crimes – genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and aggression – to the international community. The Office of the Prosecutor currently has 13 ongoing investigations, covering conflicts in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of  Congo, the Central African Republic, Darfur (Sudan), Kenya, Libya, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Georgia, Burundi, Bangladesh/Myanmar and Afghanistan.

In celebration of this day, four public video statements by ICC representatives were published. The statement of ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda stressed the need for redoubling efforts of the ICC, especially in the face of the “cold calculus of international politics”. The ICC President Chile Eboe-Osuji also referred to the challenges of this year, including man-made sources and the global pandemic. In addition, he promised a redoubling of the ICC’s efforts to fulfil their mandate to humanity. The video statements also included Mr. Lewis (Registrar of the ICC) and Mr. O-Gon Kwon (President of the Assembly of State Parties), who both reiterated commitment to the ICC’s pursuit of peace and justice. With the launch of this year’s #resilience campaign, numerous (online) events and activities were and will be organized by and with the ICC.

With the Court facing threats, especially from the United States, Richard Dicker (international justice director at Human Rights Watch) said earlier in June that “multilateral support for the ICC is key to deterring the chilling effect of the Trump administration’s outrageous effort to undermine justice for victims. Member countries will need sustained vigilance and to be ready to take further steps to push back against US bullying of the court”. Several member States, such as Australia, Canada and Uruguay, have indeed used the 17th of July to show support through public statements. Joseph Borrell also issued an official declaration on behalf of the European Union (EU), to reiterate commitment of all EU-member States to the Rome Statute and the ICC. While the ICC has faced opposition before, the latest US executive order is a significant escalation of efforts to undermine the court and obstruct access to justice.


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