Coalition for the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute 20th anniversary commemorations: 15-16 February 2018
Navi Pillay, former Judge at the ICC and ICTR and a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, spoke on behalf of the Africa Group for Justice and Accountability and its partner organization, the Wayamo Foundation, at the Coalition for the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute 20th anniversary commemorations.
Navi Pillay took the opportunity to this momentous anniversary, the 20th for the Rome Statute, to contemplate all that has been accomplished in the fight against impunity for international crimes in these twenty years — as well as all that remains to be achieved.
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court is the greatest single advance in the project of international criminal justice. Not only does it undergird all that the ICC does and achieves; since it came into force, it has inspired lawyers and human rights advocates in all corners of the world. In India, it has been used to help modernize definitions of international crimes in domestic legislation. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, it has been invoked to help to effectively prosecute sexual and gender based violence crimes. The core definitions of crimes within the Rome Statute have been essentially copy-and-pasted within the statutes of various hybrid courts. The Rome Statute resonates far beyond the walls of the ICC. It is a gold standard for which we should be proud.
Navi stressed however that challenges remain. Some of the most fervent supporters of the ICC, including her native South Africa, have political leaders who are second-guessing their commitment to international criminal justice. Populism in other parts of the world threaten the values upon which international criminal justice and respect for human rights were built. We must do better to distinguish between the self-interested and superficial criticisms of the ICC from the legitimate concerns that, if addressed, could help build a stronger Court and Rome Statute system.
It is for this reason that Navi Pillya is proud to be a member of the Africa Group for Justice and Accountability. Only by listening to the valid concerns of countries and communities can a better system of accountability for international crimes be built. She also acknowledged the important work of civil society organisations such as the Coalition for the International Criminal Court.
Furthermore, Navi welcomed the crime of aggression which is to be activated on 17 July 2018. It is timely in light of the conflicts that are ongoing right now.
On this 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute, Navi concluded that we must more than ever be prepared to defend the values that underpin the Statute: “International criminal justice is a project that is here to stay. The Rome Statute is here to stay. The ICC is here to stay. Let us muster the courage to entrench it, to protect it, and to improve it”.