Leading by example
Experiencing the loosening grip of repressive regimes and the impact of numerous civil wars, Latin America states and civil society were some of the most engaged and active supporting the idea of a permanent International Criminal Court (ICC), and the adoption of its founding treaty the Rome Statute.
In North America, rights groups were also among the staunchest advocates for the establishment of the ICC. The United States government has had a checkered relationship with the Court, but increased its cooperation under the Obama administration. Canada meanwhile has begun to reassume its role as a leading international justice supporter.
With many countries in the region dealing with transitional chronic violence, often spilling across borders, the support of states in the Americas is crucial in the global fight against impunity.
Since 1999, the Americas region has showed its support for the ICC by adopting General Assembly resolutions within the Organization of American States (OAS). Support by OAS states is today more indispensable than ever to make visible the importance of contined engagement and cooperation between the OAS and the ICC, and to preserve the message of unity in a region that has historically driven not only the ICC as an institution but also the principles behind its.
The Americas has also seen a growth of support for collaborative efforts to target impunity within the Rome Statute system, including among its non-ICC member states.
After an intense anti-ICC campaign under the government of George W. Bush, relations between the USA and the ICC began to improve in 2009 with the administration of Barack Obama, albeit when serving US national interests.
There has historically also been an encouraging degree of commitment and participation at the ICC by its high-level officials from the Americas region. These regional representatives include former ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo from Argentina and ICC judges from countries including Brazil, Costa Rica, and Bolivia.
In cooperation with key civil society organizations, the Coalition for the ICC closely monitors Rome Statute system principles in the region; works to achieve universal ratification; provides up-to-date information on ICC developments; liaises with regional organizations like OAS to broaden awareness of the Court and its mandate; and monitors implementation of Rome Statute crimes definitions and provisions to cooperate with the ICC into national laws.
International Criminal Court situations
There is currently one ICC situation ongoing in the Americas region: a preliminary examination alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes in Colombia in the context of the armed conflict between and among government forces, paramilitary armed groups, and rebel armed groups after 2002. The preliminary examination also focuses on the success of national peace and justice efforts.
The ICC prosecutor has concluded preliminary examinations in Venezuela and Honduras, declining in each case to open a formal investigation.
Campaign for Global Justice
While the vast majority of states in the Americas have joined the ICC, much remains to be done to achieve universal ratification and implementation of the Rome Statute on the continent.
To date, 28 out of the 35 countries in the Americas have become ICC member states: 12 in the Caribbean (Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago); 15 in Latin America (Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela,).
In North America, only Canada has joined the ICC. While the USA signed the Rome Statute in 2000, it subsequently notified the United Nations that it would not continue with the ratification process.
Three countries in the region—Argentina, Canada, and Uruguay—have fully implemented the Rome Statute into national legislation. Another three have partially done so: they are Chile, Colombia, and Paraguay.
The Coalition and its member organizations continue to push for the many remaining states in the region to take this important step. Enacting implementing legislation is crucial for national systems to exercise jurisdiction over ICC crimes, deliver justice to victims, and provide the Court with necessary cooperation and assistance.
Civil society activities
Civil society in the Americas were instrumental in pushing for the establishment of the ICC—support reflected in the large number of ICC member states and highly active civil society in the region.
The Coalition has a network of almost 300 civil society member organizations in the Americas, including in the USA and in Canada, and 14 national coalitions for the ICC.
In close cooperation with the Coalition’s regional office in Lima, these NGOs campaign to promote the ratification and implementation of the Rome Statute in the Americas region; consult on and provide legislation proposals to bolster the Rome Statute system throughout the Americas; raise awareness of the ICC mandate; promote cooperation and support to the Court; and organize events to support the fight against impunity.
With our local partners, we are working to ensure victims’ demands for justice are met in national courts and through the Rome Statute system.