WASHINGTON, July 14, 2016 – The American Bar Association (ABA) joins others around the world in observing International Criminal Justice Day on July 17, 2016. On this date in 1998 the Rome Statute was adopted, creating the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is the world’s only permanent international court for mass atrocity crimes – genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
The occasion offers an important opportunity to hail successful efforts to hold accountable those found guilty of atrocity crimes and, in so doing, to achieve justice for survivors. It is also provides a critical moment to urge a redoubling of global efforts to end impunity for the world’s worst crimes, as the ABA has done through the ABA Center for Human Rights and its International Criminal Court (ICC) Project.
The past year brought significant achievements in international criminal justice: A high ranking Bosnian Serb leader was convicted of genocide and other atrocity crimes committed during the Bosnian war; a senior Congolese politician was convicted of widespread sexual violence committed by subordinates; and the former president of Chad was held accountable for mass torture perpetrated during his regime. Other atrocity crime trials continue at the ICC (and in national courts), most notably the ICC’s trial of a religious extremist for the deliberate destruction of cultural treasures in Mali.
Much more remains to be done. Atrocity crimes happen in many places around the world and at home, and the law mandates that there be accountability in all instances. Certain states with legal obligations to the ICC fail to cooperate and assist the Court fully in their investigation, apprehension, and prosecution of suspects and accused individuals. As a result, not only is justice for the victims of these horrific crimes evaded, but impunity also becomes more entrenched; atrocity crimes may become more attractive as a means to attain, retain, or increase governmental power; and durable peace and security under a just rule of law drifts farther out of reach.
The ABA for decades has supported the ICC because a permanent international tribunal for the atrocity crimes must be an integral part of establishing the rule of law and protecting human rights worldwide. The ABA Center for Human Rights established its ICC Project to effectuate ABA policy by advancing international criminal justice and US-ICC relations through advocacy, education, and practical legal assistance. The Project also helped established the ABA Working Group on Crimes Against Humanity in order to forge and strengthen US and international law on this atrocity crime.
On this anniversary of the ICC, the ABA renews its call to the United States to accede to the Rome Statute treaty; to provide greater support to the prosecution of ICC cases; and to enact long-overdue federal crimes against humanity legislation. These steps are critical to maintaining America’s historical leadership in protecting human rights, securing international peace and security, and safeguarding its own people.”
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