NPWJ celebrates International Justice Day with partners around the world

17 Jul, 2012 | Press Releases

Brussels-Rome, 17 July 2012

Today, 17 July, is International Justice Day: after years of campaigning by No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) and others, this date was adopted by the Assembly of States Parties to the International Criminal Court (ICC) during the first Review Conference of the Rome Statute held in Kampala, Uganda, in June 2010. International Justice Day marks the anniversary of the adoption by 120 States in 1998 of the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the ICC, which entered into force on 1 July 2002.

Statement by Alison Smith, Legal Counsel of No Peace Without Justice:

“No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) and the Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty (NRPTT) celebrate International Justice Day together with our partners around the world. On this day on which the ICC was born, through the adoption of its Statute, we wish to commemorate this landmark moment with our partners and with everyone involved with the fight against impunity, including the ICC itself.

“Ten years ago there was no permanent international body with jurisdiction over crimes under international law: the fact that there is now an ICC where none existed before, and that it has remained in existence despite often very strong opposition, is in itself an achievement. Victims and populations that have suffered directly and indirectly from crimes under international law now have the potential for their suffering to be acknowledged, which was lacking 10 years ago. As survivors with rights, rather than objects of pity, they also have an important advocacy tool to which they can point and against which they can hold their governments accountable, whether because they are States Parties or because they are not.

“Crucially, the success of the Court cannot be measured through the number of investigations, prosecutions or convictions. Success is not a numbers game, but a question of the Court’s relevance and the impact it has on the global and national political levels, on the minds of would-be perpetrators of violations and in the lives of victims and populations that have suffered crimes under international law.

“The main impact the ICC has had on the global political level is that it is now no longer possible to sweep accountability – or impunity – under the carpet. Any discussions of situations where massive violations are taking place have, at some point, to touch on impunity and accountability, even in cases where strong political forces protect those committing violations, as is the case in Syria. There is also now a channel for those situations where there is united political will towards accountability at the United Nations Security Council; whereas ten years ago, the only option was to create an ad hoc tribunal, such as those for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, now there is a ready-made jurisdiction to which the UNSC can refer cases.

“The ICC itself may not be the answer to accountability in every situation, but its existence as a threat, a promise and a last resort has created an expectation that silence and inaction in the face of atrocities is no longer an option. The ICC has begun to prove itself as a deterrent for would-be perpetrators; its use as a tool between political actors, and by national civil society, has dampened violence even without the ICC’s direct involvement. Support for the ICC, and for accountability in general, has also begun to be something by which populations are measuring the political platforms of their leaders and representatives.

“To maintain and strengthen its relevance and impact, the ICC must have teeth: it must be sufficiently well resourced and supported, and sufficiently effective and efficient, to be a real threat, not merely a paper tiger. To give real teeth to the promise of justice, all States Parties should fulfil their obligations under the Rome Statute and cooperate fully with the ICC, notably by ensuring the enforcement of all its outstanding arrest warrants. We cannot – and must not – forget that there are still numerous fugitives from justice: their prompt arrest and transfer to face trial is the least that their victims deserve. All States must ensure that there will be no safe haven anywhere in the world in which alleged war criminals may hide.

“Beyond any doubt, the deterrent effect of the ICC is enhanced through the prosecutorial strategy of focusing on those who bear the greatest responsibility for the crimes as a whole. This strategy has the additional benefit of placing responsibility where it lies, namely those conceiving and planning violations, and avoiding the placing of collective responsibility on entire groups, including ethnic and racial groups. The ICC has also helped to reinforce that particular kinds of actions are crimes for which individuals may be held to account, particularly actions targeting those who struggle to have their voices heard, such as women, children and young people. Much more could be done in this respect, through careful charging that is representative of the crimes people suffered while maintaining a focus on gender-based crimes and crimes against children, which have historically been overlooked.

“As the next ten years begins, the ICC must not forget that its main challenges lie in strengthening its impact on people, through its outreach work and through increasing its field presence, two areas where important progress has been made but which remain woefully inadequate for the demands on the ICC and for the promise it can have. The success of the ICC mission depends crucially on its ability to deliver a sense of justice and accountability to its primary constituents, i.e. the victims of the crimes it investigates and prosecutes. These efforts will have a tremendous impact in the coming years on the ability of the ICC to ensure a positive and lasting legacy, by restoring trust in the rule and institutions of law and building sustainable peace, in countries in which it operates and how it is perceived.

“As we consider the successes and challenges of the ICC, we must bear in mind the “end goal”: the utopian dream for the ICC is that it will never have any cases, because these will either cease entirely or, more likely, be dealt with by States, who have the primary responsibility to investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute, crimes under international law”.

For further information, contact Alison Smith on or +32-2-548-3912 or Nicola Giovannini on or +32-2-548-3915.