The Rome Statute and the International Criminal Court

On November 11, 2015 the office assisted to the panel discussion “The Rome Statute, Accountability and the Protection of Human Rights”, co-hosted by the Permanent Missions of Denmark and Cyprus to the UN, at Palais des Nations.

The panelists were Judge Silvia Alejandra Fernandez de Gurmendi, ICC President, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Claudio Grossman, Chairperson of the Committee against Torture, Dr. David Donat Cattin, Secretary General – Parliamentarians for Global Action, Ambassador Christopher Onyanga Aparr, Permanent Representative of Uganda to the UN in Geneva and Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gomez, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the UN in Geneva.
The topic discussed was how the Rome Statute and the International Criminal Court do contribute to establishing broader international accountability for grave human rights violations. Has accession to the Rome Statute strengthened national judicial accountability and the ability of States to prevent human rights violations? In conflicts, is there a dilemma between seeking accountability and initiating a peace process?
The panel members discussed the importance of the Rome Statue and the ICC.
The ICC has a global nature but it is not yet universal, although it is unavoidable. The ICC has an “implementary condition” and it only intervenes when the country cooperates. The prosecutors can decide whom to prosecute but it is up to the member states to complete the job. The Court has to intervene because some national systems are not willing or not capable to carry judicial processes forward. Consequently, it is of great importance to enhance capacity.
One third of UN members have not join the Rome Statute, many because of misconceptions they have. Some countries fear that NGOs will bring the State Presidents before the ICC, but this is not what the objective of the Court. The Court does not monitor violations by states because this is done by the Universal Periodic Review, which also puts forward recommendations for the Rome Statute and to strengthen the national judiciary systems. The ICC follows the Nuremberg Model and prosecutes the biggest perpetrators of human rights violations, those bearing a bigger responsibility. Others countries complain that the Court does not respect human rights, but in fact, it does: the judges tend to restrain themselves and proceed with extreme caution when they decide about punishment. Moreover, in comparison to the Committee against Torture, the ICC does have a definition of torture and inhumane treatments.
The ICC needs to reach universal acceptance, this way perpetrators will have no safe heaven and peace will be achieved when victims know that justice has been rendered. Even in times of conflict, accountability is part of the solution. Every negotiation process needs to balance peace and justice; when the problem is put into the hand of the judges, the political dialogue diminishes and can be more objective.
Countries need to promote the universality of the Court and strengthen national capacities. In fact, only by being universal the ICC can expand its reach and enhance effectiveness. The ICC needs international cooperation to end the excess of huge violations of human rights. As the High Commissioner said, “It’s taking long for the people to understand the world must change, it MUST change”.