The Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) recognizes Monday, July 17, 2017 as the annual Day of International Criminal Justice, marking the 19th anniversary of the international community’s adoption of the Rome Statute. The Rome Statute, which entered into force in July of 2002, established the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a permanent body, headquartered in The Hague, with “the power to exercise its jurisdiction over persons for the most serious crimes of international concern.”
The ICC represents the world’s first treaty-based permanent international judicial body dedicated to enforcing individual accountability and ending impunity in grave criminal matters. 124 countries from across the globe are currently party to the Rome Statute, with El Salvador serving as the most recent addition in March of 2016. The ICC employs more than 800 individuals from approximated 100 countries and operates in 6 official languages, with French and English serving as working languages.
The ICC issued its most recent conviction in March of 2016 against Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, who was found guilty on two counts of crimes against humanity (murder and rape) and three counts of war crimes (murder, rape, and pillaging). These crimes were committed between 2002 and 2003, during the time when Mr. Bemba Gombo was in command of a contingent of troops belonging to the Armée de Libération du Congo.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuk, Executive Director of UN Women, released a statement on the conviction, identifying the importance of the judgment to the prevention of future atrocities, especially gender-based and sexual violence:
The conviction sends a clear message that the international community will hold accountable those who fail to exercise their responsibilities as commanders to prevent and punish the use of sexual and gender-based crimes as weapons of war. UN Women acknowledges the commitment of Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and her Office to end impunity for sexual violence in conflict. We will continue to support the pursuit of gender justice at the Court to ensure that the Rome Statute is used to bring perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence to justice and deter future crimes.
In observing this Day of International Criminal Justice, the Auschwitz Institute reaffirms its support for the essential work being done by the ICC in ending impunity and reinforcing the Rule of Law. The efforts of the ICC and other bodies of international criminal justice are crucial elements working to promote the value of truth, justice, and accountability in the fight to prevent future genocide and other mass atrocities. As stated by AIPR Director of Academic Programs, Dr. James Waller:
The ICC conducts admirable work in the pursuit of justice and accountability for perpetrators who violate international law. Past cases attest to the commitment of the ICC to hold responsible parties accountable. On this 19th anniversary of the Rome Statute, AIPR commends the work of the ICC and recognizes their vital role in the prevention of atrocities.