Thursday, December 1, 2022

ICC President: 17 July – A day to unite in building a more just world

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Speech by Judge Sang-Hyun Song, President of the International Criminal Court, on the Day of International Criminal Justice.

When representatives of 120 States adopted the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), on 17 July 1998, they did so to build a more just world. Conscious that all people are connected, and that mass atrocities committed anywhere threaten the delicate mosaic of modern societies as well as world peace and security, they set up a permanent, international justice system to address crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide by holding individuals accountable either at the national or international level. Through such action, the Rome Statute system aims to help prevent such crimes, to protect all peoples from them, and to uphold what is best, but also most fragile, within us: the shared sense of justice that is a common bond of all humanity.

Years later, when States Parties to the Rome Statute decided to name the 17th of July as the Day of International Criminal Justice, they invited all of us to commemorate the tremendous efforts of the many international courts and tribunals created in the last two decades while looking forward to what remains to be done. Among these courts is the ICC, the first and only permanent international criminal court with jurisdiction granted by States through a multilateral treaty.

By commemorating 17 July, we recognize past efforts that have fostered reconciliation in societies across the world and have positively affected the lives of hundreds of thousands of victims. We also look to the future, and reaffirm the international community’s commitment to fight against impunity for the most serious crimes, and thereby to stop them from ever being repeated again.

We are all exposed on a daily basis to news of massacres, crimes and war in multiple regions of the world. Where the ICC has jurisdiction, it endeavours to bring justice to the victims of these crimes. And where it is already involved, the Court’s intervention has galvanised more international attention to communities affected by crimes and the efforts essential to aiding the survivors. However, we are all conscious of the limits of the ICC’s current jurisdiction, which have to be remedied by continued progress towards universal ratification of the Rome Statute.

We recognize that the ICC is only one element in the wider Rome Statute system, the core of which is the responsibility of States themselves to investigate and prosecute the Rome Statute crimes whenever possible. The Statute is built on the principles of universality, complementarity and State cooperation, with the ICC itself as a court of last resort. Like many other parts of the emerging international system, it is still under construction. We continue our efforts and engagement  with the international community so that this new global system can be established with firm foundations, where the law is sovereign and respected, and where  justice for all is recognised as being crucial for peace, stability and development worldwide.

We cannot succeed on our own. All States, organisations and individuals have a role to play in the fight against impunity. Each of us can make a difference. Every year, on 17 July, we review and rededicate our efforts to build a more just world, because we are all connected, and because justice matters to us all.


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