July 17, 2014, marks the 16th anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute, the treaty that led to the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC is the first permanent, treaty based, international criminal court established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the gravest crimes in the international community. The Court has a mandate to investigate, charge and try people suspected of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity when states party to the Rome Statute are “unable” or “unwilling” to bring perpetrators to justice. Today 122 countries are party to the Rome Statute, including all of Europe and Latin America.
The adoption of the Rome Statute and establishment of the ICC marked a milestone for the rule of law. As Mona Rishmawi, Chief of the Rule of Law, Equality and Non-Discrimination Branch of the UN Human Rights Office, has explained:
Through the justice process, an account of what actually happened, who was involved and responsible, the truth comes out. This record of events is incredibly important both to the individual victims, but also because it prevents the victims from being silenced by those who commit these terrible acts. And, they provide a means by which we can all learn about how to prevent such violations from being committed again in the future, such as the policies and structures that must be put in place to ensure non-recurrence. At the same time, trials can give victims recognition for what has happened to them.
By creating avenues for justice and accountability, mechanisms like the ICC are critical to the prevention of future genocides and mass atrocities. AIPR applauds signatory states to the Rome Statue and their public commitment to the ideals of the court. On this important anniversary, the Auschwitz Institute acknowledges the vital work of the ICC. “Failure to seek accountability for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetuates the cycle of atrocity,” said AIPR Director for Policy and Planning Samantha Horn. She added:
We must view the quest for justice as part of the process of prevention of future atrocity crimes. The ICC is an important tool in this process, and the international community should continue to support its efforts to bring perpetrators to justice and recognition to the victims of these gravest of crimes.