Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro has called on lawyers to play a greater role in guaranteeing countries live up to their commitments to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
In an address yesterday to the American Bar Association in New York, Ms. Migiro said the fight to bring an end to impunity for such crimes is one of the most important ways of ensuring that the rule of law is put into practice worldwide.
She cited the formation of the International Criminal Court (ICC), a permanent institution aimed at trying those responsible for the worst crimes, and the 2005 pledge by world leaders at the UN on the “responsibility to protect” populations from such crimes as important milestones.
“Now, the need to make this responsibility to protect fully operational represents a major priority and challenge for the United Nations and for our Member States,” Ms. Migiro said.
The Deputy Secretary-General said the emergence of international criminal law and such institutions as the ICC raised the question of how to reconcile the need for peace in a country emerging from conflict with the duty of justice for the victims of that war.
“For the United Nations, justice and peace are complementary requirements. We strongly believe that there can be no lasting peace without justice. The question therefore is not whether justice should be pursued, but rather how best to interlink the two in the light of the specific circumstances, without sacrificing one for another.
“The United Nations has a clear position that it cannot support any amnesty for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and gross human rights abuses. I hope that you, as legal professionals, will work wherever possible to ensure that justice is not sidelined in the short-term interests of an unsustainable peace.”