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20th anniversary of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court
by International Criminal Court, agencies
July 2017
On 16 and 17 July 2018, commemorative events in honour of the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court ("ICC" or "the Court") will take place in The Hague, The Netherlands.
High-level representatives of States, including representatives of national Senates and Parliaments, Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Justice, international and regional organisations, civil society and academia will gather for two days to reflect on the enduring value of the Rome Statute to humanity.
Adopted on 17 July 1998, the Rome Statute is the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court, supported by over 120 countries. The International Criminal Court is the first permanent international criminal court established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, namely war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and the crime of aggression.
The Rome Statute has also established the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) with a two-fold mandate: (i) to implement Court-Ordered reparations and (ii) to provide physical and psychological rehabilitation, and material support to victim survivors, their families, and affected communities. The TFV assists survivors to begin the process of healing and rebuilding their lives, for them to be able to promote peace and reconciliation.
# 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''.
July 2018
The Future of International Justice amid Boundless Cruelty - The ICC Turns 20 interview with Richard Dicker, Director, International Justice Program. (Human Rights Watch)
The ICC, the world’s only permanent international court designed to try war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, marks the 20th anniversary of its founding treaty on July 17, 2018. Richard Dicker, International Justice director for Human Rights Watch, played a role in the court’s founding. He speaks about some of the court’s challenges, its future, and why the world needs international justice.
You were there when the treaty establishing the ICC was completed 20 years ago. What was that like?
It was a rollercoaster of intense negotiations, preceded by three years of negotiations at United Nations headquarters in New York to create a draft treaty. There were ministers and lawyers from probably 150 countries around the world, and nongovernmental organizations from around the world, too.
We were looking at accomplishing a task that was so urgently needed. You have to remember, this was directly after the horrific conflict in the former Yugoslavia, where there was genocide in the mass execution of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica. It also followed on the Rwandan genocide, when in a three-month period about 800,000 Tutsis were slaughtered. The world was reeling and it needed a permanent criminal court that could deal with these kinds of horrors wherever they occurred.
What was your role in helping establish the court?
Civil society groups, including Human Rights Watch, had a lot to say about provisions that would be part of a final treaty, specifically the powers of the court and its officials. We had a say in what war crimes could be included, for example which crimes committed in civil wars.
We were not formally included in the negotiations. But another role for Human Rights Watch and colleague groups was to share strategy and tactics with the 70 or so countries that wanted to create a fair, independent, impartial, and effective court. We shared thoughts on ways to circumvent obstacles thrown up by some of the less supportive countries, like China, Saudi Arabia, and India. Also, the United States posed its own demands.
We also spoke to the media. We could say things that official delegations would not say and stigmatize certain governments that were being particularly obstructive.
The ICC’s current chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, is seen as someone who diligently works to uphold the rule of law, all while a new generation of world leaders are busy trying to tear down institutions.
She bases her actions, and the actions of her office, on the requirements of the Rome Statue itself. Investigation is taken very seriously. Getting the facts. Double-checking the facts. She conveys a sense of commitment to the law, a commitment to the victims in the communities most effected by the crimes, and a carefulness that is very important.
Which is not to say that the Office of the Prosecutor, or the court, does not still have challenges.
Like the fact that some countries are not parties to the ICC because they haven’t ratified the treaty. So the court’s justice isn’t universal.
When the ICC was founded, it was shortly after the end of the Cold War, the end of apartheid in South Africa, the transition to democracy in many Latin American countries, and the end of dictatorship in South Korea. Some even thought, what will be the need for this court?
Contrast that with today. What’s happened in Syria. What’s happened in Iraq, what’s going on in Yemen. The civil war in South Sudan and the ethnic cleansing of 700,000 Rohingya Muslim in Myanmar. We see the proliferation of the ugliest kinds of crimes that the ICC was created to address.
Yet the ICC cannot address them because none of the countries I just mentioned – not surprisingly – have ratified and joined the ICC system. And thus, these crimes unfold and the court’s prosecutor has no authority to intervene unless the UN Security Council – without any of its five permanent members casting a veto – asks the court to get involved.
Why was the court designed this way?
For the prosecutor to begin an investigation in a country, it is necessary for that country to have ratified this treaty. Nearly two-thirds of the UN membership – 123 states – are party to the treaty. Among the exceptions are some of the largest and most powerful states: China, the US, Russia, India, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.
The only other way for the ICC to reach these countries is if their forces commit crimes on the territory of a country that has joined the ICC.
The ICC is on the cusp of a shift away from where it traditionally operated in Africa to opening preliminary examinations in the Philippines, Venezuela, and other countries.
There is a shift that’s taking place. The court carried out all of its first investigations in Africa, in most cases at the request of the countries themselves, with two others at the request of the UN Security Council.
Some African leaders said the ICC was unfairly persecuting Africa. I think abusive leaders used that as a self-defense tactic. But it had resonance because of the dreadful centuries of Africa’s colonial history, where the continent and its people were ravaged by European powers.
So, then you have the president of Kenya saying the court was a tool of neo-colonial powers.
I think this prosecutor sees her legacy in part as bringing the court out of Africa. She has requested opening investigations in Afghanistan, which implicates the US. She has opened an investigation in Georgia in the Caucasus, which may implicate Russia. In the case of Palestine, she may open an investigation into settlements in the West Bank that would implicate Israelis.
This is an effort to realize the promise and potential that inspired so many of us in Rome. We were creating a court that could reach people from the most powerful countries, as well as the less powerful states, wherever horrific crimes have been committed.
Does the ICC have the resources to do this?
I think they are stretched very thin. And that’s in part because the major contributing governments – France, Germany, the UK, Japan, Canada, and Italy – refuse to increase the court budget commensurate with the demands. These governments want to limit the court’s budget increases to keeping with inflation when the number of countries where the court is investigating, or deciding whether to investigate, has increased dramatically.
The court has a budget of 150 million euros per year. But it costs a lot less than a month’s UN field operations in some war-torn countries.
Can the court manage without additional resources?
Yes, but in a more restricted way than the court’s treaty intended. The question, though, is whether in diversifying its investigations it will step on the toes of very powerful countries. And the sheer obstacles of doing this difficult work well with limited funding. Will the ICC be able to rise to the challenge? These are the stakes for 2018. Is the court strong enough to withstand the attacks on the rule of law happening throughout the world? After all, these are coming from both authoritarian countries and democracies headed by autocratic populists.
The governments that created this court 20 years ago need to convey publicly, to their own people, why the court is important. And they need to increase the support – politically, diplomatically, financially – for this institution. That’s what this 20th anniversary should be about.
Why do you see the court as essential?
People are still committing horrible and cruel crimes. The court will not cure and correct all the cruelty and crimes human beings inflict on one another. But there is a clear lesson to be derived from history. Overwhelmingly, with one or two exceptions, when these crimes occur, if there is no proper accounting for them – no impartial trials – the same crimes will likely erupt again in an uglier, more intense way.
Trials are essential, along with truth telling, documenting crimes, providing reparations, and ridding security forces of people who committed grave crimes. As is fostering the development of war-torn countries in the context of a durable peace.
So, you ask me what’s the importance of the court? First and foremost, it’s a matter of honoring the victims and their memory by holding to account those found to be responsible for their suffering. I think that’s a mark of civilization. But pragmatically speaking, if you want to prevent the recurrence of such crimes, these trials and other measures are crucial to prevent another, even more vicious, cycle of violence.
I was trained professionally as a lawyer. And I’ve seen the role that law can play in advancing and defending human rights. I think that even with its shortcomings the court still represents a qualitative advance in the rule of law and the protection of human beings.. Not letting those who fear accountability have their way to commit heinous crimes without fearing being held responsible. And the people I’ve met, the survivors of the genocide, the victims of the limb amputations..

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Toxic narrative on migration endangers lives
by Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
July 2018
A new report by the world’s largest humanitarian network is calling on governments to remove the barriers that prevent vulnerable migrants from accessing basic services and humanitarian aid.
Speaking in New York during the final round of negotiations of the Global Compact for Safe Orderly and Regular Migration, Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said:
“All people, regardless of immigration status, should have access to basic services and humanitarian assistance.
“There is no need to mistreat people to have proper border control. Preventing access to adequate food, basic health care, and legal advice about their rights is completely unacceptable. Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect.”
IFRC’s report, New Walled Order: How barriers to basic services turn migration into a humanitarian crisis, identifies a number of factors that prevent vulnerable migrants from accessing the support they need. Such factors range from the overt – including the fear of harassment, arrest or deportation – to the less obvious, which can include prohibitive costs, cultural and linguistic barriers, and a lack of information about their rights.
In addition, in some parts of the world, governments are enacting laws that effectively criminalize humanitarian assistance, including search and rescue and emergency assistance for undocumented migrants.
“This criminalization of compassion is extremely worrying, and could undermine more than a century of humanitarian standards and norms,” said Mr Rocca.
“What’s more, the idea that the prospect of basic assistance or search and rescue somehow acts as a pull factor for migration is simply not true. People decide to move for reasons that are much more profound than this.”
This year, governments are negotiating a new “Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration”. IFRC is advocating for governments to ensure that their domestic laws, policies, procedures and practices comply with existing obligations under international law, and address the protection and assistance needs of migrants. National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are ready to support their authorities to carry out critical humanitarian actions.
Specifically, IFRC is calling on States to:
Ensure that National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and other humanitarian agencies can provide humanitarian services to migrants irrespective of status and without fear of arrest. Such services might include legal information and advice, information on rights, first aid, basic health care and shelter, and psychosocial support.
Create “firewalls” between public services and immigration enforcement. This involves abolishing rules that require health care providers and aid agencies to report on the people they assist to enforcement authorities.
Proactively identify and address factors that prevent migrants from accessing essential health services.
Ensure that domestic laws, policies, procedures and practices comply with existing obligations under international law, and address the protection and assistance needs of migrants.
States have a sovereign right to control their borders, subject to their obligations under international law. However, minimum standards in terms of meeting basic humanitarian needs must nonetheless be upheld to ensure that legal status does not become a barrier to the basic protection of life and dignity.
* Access the IFRC report via the link below:

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