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This text was written by Nikita Lourenco Calling, Communications Officer at RWI.
The World Day for International Justice, also known as the International Criminal Justice Day, is celebrated worldwide on July 17th each year. This significant day serves as a reminder of the need for continued support and commitment to the international justice system by all states. It highlights the crucial role of civil society in holding the International Criminal Court (ICC) member states accountable and standing in solidarity with victims of serious crimes worldwide.
17th July is of vital importance as it commemorates the adoption of the Rome Statute on the same day, in 1998, attended by 160 countries. The Rome Statute established the ICC, a permanent international tribunal aimed at prosecuting individuals responsible for the most serious international crimes. These include genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and aggression. The ICC seeks to protect people and ensure justice for victims, promoting peace and security.
After intense negotiations, the treaty was adopted with the support of 120 countries. Only seven voted against it and 21 abstained (including China, Libya, Iraq, and the United States). For the court to be fully operational, 60 countries need to ratify the treaty. By 31 December, 2000, 139 states had signed the treaty. It entered into force on 1st July, 2002. To date, 108 states have ratified the treaty, demonstrating a global commitment to international criminal justice.
International criminal justice serves multiple essential purposes. It holds individuals accountable for serious crimes, serving as a deterrent to potential perpetrators. By prosecuting and punishing those responsible, it sends a clear message that human rights violations will not go unpunished. Additionally, international criminal justice mechanisms focus on restorative justice, acknowledging the harm caused and providing justice and reparations for victims. This contributes to the healing process and restores dignity.
Another crucial aspect is ending impunity. International criminal justice strives to break the cycles of impunity by ensuring that those responsible for gross human rights abuses face justice. This promotes the rule of law, rebuilds trust, and discourages the recurrence of violence.
Moreover, international criminal justice contributes to the development and consolidation of international legal norms and standards. Through the interpretation and application of international law, it shapes the scope of human rights protections. This strengthenes the overall framework for safeguarding human rights.
International cooperation plays a vital role in the success of international criminal justice. States must collaborate in investigating crimes, apprehending suspects, and enforcing sentences. This cooperation strengthens the global commitment to human rights and fosters a sense of shared responsibility in addressing and preventing mass atrocities.
Lastly, international criminal justice intersects with transitional justice processes in post-conflict or transitioning societies. It provides a platform for truth, justice, reparations, and institutional reforms, contributing to reconciliation and stability.
On the World Day for International Justice, let us recognize the importance of international criminal justice in upholding human rights, promoting accountability, and standing with victims. It is a day to reflect on the progress made. We acknowledge the challenges ahead, and reaffirm our commitment to a just and peaceful world.
In summary, international criminal justice upholds human rights by holding perpetrators accountable, deterring future crimes, restoring justice for victims, ending impunity, developing legal norms, fostering international cooperation, and supporting transitional justice processes. By addressing grave human rights violations, these mechanisms contribute to building a more just and rights-respecting world.