We must be unwavering in our resolve to create a world that seeks justice for atrocity crimes
by Chile Eboe-Osuji, Fatou Bensouda
International Criminal Court
7:09pm 6th Jul, 2018
Remarks by Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji, President International Criminal Court at the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
''20 years ago today on 17 July 1998 members of the diplomatic community and of civil society and jurists from around the globe gathered in Rome to deliver a vision that was both tall and large to be seen around the world. It was a vision of a world in which atrocities that shock the conscience of humanity would no longer be committed against victims, with an assurance of impunity. The vision, then, was to establish this international criminal court – as a permanent institution capable of looming large in the consciousness of those inclined to commit such crimes, and beyond that to compel them to answer questions about their conducts, regardless of station.
That we are assembled here today in the permanent premises of this permanent Court bears the loudest testament to the very realisation of an international structure where such questions of accountability may indeed be asked – with real rigour and vigour.
Yet for many reasons, however, we are not entitled to celebrate achievement of vision. And I do stress the point. But, time permits me now to touch on just few reasons why very briefly. That is to consider that the very vices which this Court was created to address persist in many parts of our world as we speak. And, many may find it alarming that some statistics may even suggest the prospect of deterioration, judging by the comparative global incidence of armed conflicts.
For instance, statistics analysed and reported by the Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research suggest that the number of high-intensity conflicts has more than tripled in the last 20 years, since 1998.
Such statistics must truly trouble us: given the notorious phenomenon that armed conflicts are the most common vectors of atrocity crimes –typically those that come in the manner of ethnocentric mass violence, sexual violence and war crimes.
Yet, while those statistics would inhibit the celebration of achievement of vision; they should also not induce in us a depressing sense of fatalism, in our struggle against impunity. Quite the contrary, let them serve as an urgent clarion call to the following reality: that humanity’s need of the Rome Statute and the ICC is as critical today as was the case 20 years ago – indeed more so.
That clarion call, thus, urges us to the necessity to hitch our resolve to the sticking point, and double down our courage and tenacity to battle the forces of impunity - regardless of their origins.
The necessary battle front requires in us a determination to give this Court the political, diplomatic, functional and material support it needs, in order to do its work. It urges us to increase our drive for universal ratification of the Rome Statute, in order to cover the global terrain of jurisdiction for the Court.
And it encourages us to accept that as a human institution – like every other human institution, including national courts of even many hundreds of years – there will always be an ongoing need to reform the Court and its processes, in order to improve its ability to achieve its mandatewith greater purpose and efficiency: yet, leaving undiluted the essential properties that make this Court a vital instrument of accountability.
And, just as importantly, the temptations of apathy and indifference towards the Court must be resisted at all costs. For, they may be unwitting allies of impunity – implicated as such in Edmund Burke’s famous dictum, which holds that ‘all that is necessary for evil to prevail is for good men [and women, too] to do nothing.’
Remarks by Mrs Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court at the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
''The adoption of the Rome Statute, with the establishment of the ICC, was in and of itself a new force that changed the status quo of the world for the better, two decades after the Rome Conference, the system of international criminal justice created by the Statute continues to make significant waves towards building a culture of accountability for atrocity crimes.
The Statute has set the course and the ICC is moving ahead, with dedication and determination. The support and encouragement of its many proponents, and the plight of victims of atrocity crimes, are the driving force, which propel it forward.
Whilst not bereft of challenges, its work in practice is increasingly shaping norms, casting a deterrent shadow across the globe. Our commemorative activities today, and in different capitals, offer a unique opportunity to pay homage to the Rome Statute and to reflect on our responsibilities, our methods, and the means at our disposal to ensure the enduring value of this important international legal instrument to humanity.
As it undertakes its mandate, the ICC must be allowed the proper space to focus on its duties, free from unwarranted resistance. Attacks on the Court to undermine its important work or in the service of Machiavellian schemes to shield the culpable, must continue to be met with the determined and unequivocal voices of support from principled States Parties and civil society, who stand by international criminal justice without reserve or distinction.
Indeed, we are on this journey together. Each of us here today, has a responsibility to ensure we don’t disappoint the victims embroiled in devastating conflicts all over the world, past or present, who have been looking with hope at the ICC’s establishment and evolution.
Hope that the cold calculus of international politics does not abandon them, or worse, undermine humanity’s shared values and common yearning for peace, stability and the protective embrace of the law from the world’s gravest crimes.
The velocity of change has been fixed towards a more enlightened path for humanity. The Rome Statute is a critical instrument of that progressive change in the modern era.
As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute, we owe it to ourselves, our children and future generations to fully support and nurture the ever-evolving international criminal justice system, and the ICC as its central pillar; a more rule-based global order where mass atrocities are checked through the force of the law and the progress of humanity, demand it.
Today is yet another opportunity to recommit to the Rome Statute and in so doing, declare that the era of mass atrocities as merely the continuation of politics by other means is over.
We must be unwavering in our resolve to create a world that seeks justice for atrocity crimes, universally and impartially applied. Let the Rome Statute continue to guide us towards that better future for all''.
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