ICC - 10 years fighting impunity

Ten years ago, on 1 July 2002 the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) entered into force. At the moment there are 121 States Parties to the Rome Statute. The ICC is the first permanent international court for the prosecution of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

What has been achieved by the Court since 2002? Since its creation, the ICC has fought to put an end to impunity for perpetrators of international crimes . So far, the Court has delivered 1 verdict (The Prosecutor v. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo) and 15 cases in 7 situations have been brought before the International Criminal Court and the UN Security Council has referred 2 situations to the Court. According to judge Sang-Hyun Song, president of the International Criminal Court, the ICC "has turned into a major international institution".

The ICC has some innovative aspects. One of the great innovations of the Statute of the ICC and the Rules of Procedure and Evidence is that for the first time in the history of international criminal justice, victims have been given a voice. They have the possibility under the Statute to present their views and observations before the Court. Another innovation which is beneficial for the victims is that the ICC has the power to order an individual to pay reparation to another individual.

Despite the growing support for international justice, and rejoicing the accomplishments of the Court, the President of the ICC stresses that remaining shortcomings and the obstacles should be taken into consideration, and that commitment is necessary in order to further strengthen the Rome Statute system: "If we act wisely, pulling our strength together, we can prevent terrible suffering before it takes place."

Sang-Hyun Song also emphasises the important role of the domestic criminal systems in the fight against impunity: "The ICC is the centrepiece of the evolving system of international criminal justice, but the most important aspect of the fight against impunity takes place in each country, society and community around the globe. Domestic justice systems must be strong enough to be able to act as the primary deterrent worldwide, while the ICC is a "court of last resort", a safety net that ensures accountability when the national jurisdictions are unable for whatever reason to carry out this task."

For the proper functioning of the court, the cooperation of states and the enforcement of the orders of the Court is also crucial. Because the ICC has no police force of its own, it relies entirely on states to execute  arrest warrants, to produce evidence, to facilitate the appearance of witnesses and so on.  "Political will and international cooperation is crucial in order to bring these persons to justice", Sang-Hyun Song said.

According to the President of the Court, the work of the ICC is part of a  larger framework. One cannot be realised without the other. The bigger framework also concerns the protection of peace, security, stability, the suppression of conflicts and the protection of human rights. These elements should also be taken in consideration when fighting impunity, injustice and the prevention of crimes in the future: "It is vital that other essential elements of conflict prevention and post-conflict recovery are present where needed, alongside international justice mechanisms. Only when accompanied by education, democracy and development, can justice truly help prevent the crimes of the future. [...] We cannot rest until every victim has received justice."

All quotations were taken from an interview with ICC President Judge Sang-Hyun Song, "Ten years of the International Criminal Court", which can be found at the Mail & Guardian Online. For more information: see the external links below.

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