The Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) commemorates Sunday, July 17, 2016 as the Day of International Criminal Justice, marking the 18th anniversary of the international community’s adoption of the Rome Statute. The commemorative date was established by the Assembly of State Parties of the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the 2010 Review Conference on the Rome Statute, held in Kampala, Uganda.
The ICC is the world’s first treaty-based permanent international judicial body dedicated to enforcing individual accountability and ending impunity in grave criminal matters. The ICC is built upon the framework provided by the Rome Statute, which entered into force in July of 2002. 124 States are currently party to the Statute, with El Salvador recently having joined in March of 2016.
On last year’s Day of International Criminal Justice, Judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi, President of the ICC explained the necessity of the Court’s work:
Effective deterrence of such crimes requires a credible expectation that the commission of such atrocities will be met by a robust, fair and predictable legal process. The road to justice may be long and arduous, but when the demands for justice are sufficiently strong, the obstacles can be overcome.
In March of 2016, the ICC issued its most recent conviction. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo was found guilty of two counts of crimes against humanity (murder and rape) and three counts of war crimes (murder, rape, and pillaging). These acts were committed in 2002-2003, during the time when Mr. Bemba Gombo was in command of a contingent of troops belonging to the Armée de Libération du Congo.
Ms. Fatou Bensouda, Chief Prosecutor of the ICC, said of the conviction:
While the reality of the crimes is appalling, the significance of this Decision is to be celebrated… It is my sincere hope is that this conviction brings some comfort to Mr. Bemba’s victims, including those subjected to sexual and gender-based crimes. I hope that it will contribute to preventing atrocity crimes in future so as to spare others from the same fate.
On this Day of International Criminal Justice, the Auschwitz Institute joins with others around the world to recognize the incredible importance of the work being done by the International Criminal Court in providing for truth, justice, accountability, and the promotion of the rule of law. AIPR applauds the 124 states that are party to the Rome Statue as well as the organizations and individuals working around the globe in support of the ICC and other bodies that have embarked upon essential work in international criminal justice.
Judge Patricia Whalen, former International War Crimes Judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY) and AIPR instructor, explains:
Our common humanity demands that as individuals and as nations we cannot stand silent. We must continue to make international criminal justice meaningful, coherent and accountable. This day must stand for our commitment to adjudicate these crimes with integrity along with our commitment to prevent their recurrence.