17 July is International Criminal Justice Day

by: Judge Sang-Hyun Song, President of the International Criminal Court/

On 17 July the world celebrates International Criminal Justice Day. This commemorates the adoption on 17 July 1998 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC for short). States and civil society from all continents came together to end impunity for the gravest international crimes – genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression.

In 2002, the ICC opened its doors in The Hague, Netherlands. Today, it is a major international institution, securing justice for victims when this cannot be delivered at the national level. 14 suspects and accused have appeared before the judges to face accusations against them. The first trial is concluding soon, with closing arguments set to be heard next month.

I am delighted to see support for international criminal justice growing around the world. 114 nations have already joined the ICC, and Grenada from the Caribbean and Tunisia from North Africa will become the next two States Parties later this summer. Several other countries have announced their intention to follow in the near future. But many more countries have still to join if the ICC is to be seen as representing the will of the overwhelming majority of the world’s peoples.

During the past year, I have met representatives of governments, civil society and regional organisations in the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe and most recently the Arab world. Time after time, I have found that the goals of the Rome Statute resonate everywhere, regardless of culture, language or nationality. People of all nations want peace, justice, rule of law and respect for human dignity. These are the very goals for which the ICC exists.

Let us cherish our spirit of solidarity while we commemorate 17 July. Let us show our compassion for all the innocent civilians who continue to fall victim to unimaginable crimes. Let us state loudly and clearly that mass crimes such as mass murder, rape, torture and the use of child soldiers cannot and will not be tolerated. The perpetrators of such crimes must be held accountable, regardless of their official position.

I call on states and people everywhere to join the international justice movement, as we work toward a more just, more peaceful future for children, women and men around the world. We must be united in our resolve to defeat impunity and the lawlessness, brutality and disdain for human dignity that it represents. We must persevere.

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