More work remains to ensure justice for war crimes victims, says head of ICC

17 July 2009

The creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and its achievements to date are vital to ensuring justice for millions around the world, but much more work remains to be done to advance this noble ideal, according to the head of the landmark institution that was established 11 years ago today.

“Where national courts are unwilling or unable to act, the ICC can play a crucial role in delivering justice for victims, in sending a message of deterrence to potential criminals and in contributing thereby to the re-establishment of peace and the rule of law,” the Presidency of the Court said in a statement issued for International Justice Day, observed on 17 July.

Based in The Hague, Netherlands, the ICC is an independent, permanent court that investigates and prosecutes people accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. It is based on a treaty known as the Rome Statute, of which 109 countries are now States Parties.

The statement noted that the creation of the ICC was a “small but significant” step towards the realization of the vision of a world in which peace and justice prevail in accordance with the rule of law.

Since its creation, the Court has been investigating four situations – the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), northern Uganda, the Darfur region of Sudan, and the Central African Republic (CAR). Each one has been referred to it by the country concerned or by the United Nations Security Council, and the first trial began in January.

Other situations under analysis by the Office of the Prosecutor include Colombia, Afghanistan, Chad, Kenya and Côte d’Ivoire.

“The creation and early achievements of the ICC are only a beginning,” the statement noted. “Much more remains to be done to advance the cause of international justice.”

This includes strengthening the capacity of national courts to investigate and prosecute serious crimes, and the enforcement of decisions of the ICC or other courts.

“Adherence to and respect for the rule of law must become the norm and not the exception. The ideal of a world governed through law is what motivated the establishment of the ICC, it is what we celebrate today, and it is our aim for the future,” added the statement.

The President of the Court is Judge Sang-Hyun Song (Republic of Korea), and its Chief Prosecutor is Luis Moreno-Ocampo (Argentina).

Ambassador Christian Wenaweser of Liechtenstein, who serves as President of the Assembly of States Parties of the ICC, noted that the goal has been, and remains, universal membership in the Court.

“That means that all Member States of the United Nations will become States parties to the Rome Statute,” he told a news conference in New York, adding that the expected ratification of the Statute on 21 July by the Czech Republic will bring the number of parties to 110.

Mr. Wenaweser also reminded States of their obligation to cooperate with the Court, particularly in the area of arrests of indictees-at-large, such as Joseph Kony, the leader of the notorious Ugandan rebel group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

The ICC issued arrest warrants for Mr. Kony and two other LRA leaders, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen, in 2005.

The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the LRA-affected areas, Joaquim Chissano, told reporters today that Mr. Kony “will not go to The Hague” if he signs the final peace deal negotiated between the Government of Uganda and LRA.

A series of accords struck by the rebels and the Ugandan Government last year raised hopes that they could reach a permanent, wide-ranging agreement ending the conflict, but Mr. Kony has repeatedly failed to sign a comprehensive deal mediated by the Government of Southern Sudan that his representatives have already initialled.

“Once the agreement is signed and the Ugandan Government is willing and capable of undertaking a juridical system, it may do so provided that it can prove to the ICC that it is following the minimum required international standards,” said Mr. Chissano, the former President of Mozambique.

“You cannot expect the ICC to come and just drop the warrants. They will drop the warrants in the face of the capability of the Government of Uganda to implement the case by themselves.

“We are ready to give [Mr. Kony] this explanation if he shows up,” he added.

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