EU Day Against Impunity: States on the frontlines

"The universal respect for human rights & the rule of law must be the bedrock in fight against impunity." Photo: Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU
On 23 May 2017, the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU), the European Commission, and the EU Network for investigation and prosecution of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes (Genocide Network) marked the 2nd EU Day Against Impunity, aimed at raising awareness of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, and promoting national investigations and prosecutions.

This year’s main event, hosted by the Permanent Representation of Malta to the EU in Brussels, recognized the common efforts and duty of EU member states and the EU in enforcing international criminal law and served as an opportunity for the EU to reiterate its commitment to ending impunity for core international crimes.

Find out what voices from all sides of the conversation – from EU and state officials, practitioners, and civil society participating in the event, to advocates following the 2nd #EUDayAgainstImpunity on Twitter and elsewhere – had to say.

 

EU Genocide Network Strategy at heart of Day Against Impunity

In 2014, the EU Genocide Network adopted the Strategy of the EU Genocide Network to combat impunity for the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes within the European Union and its Member States  to identify key challenges and provide recommendations toward the successful national investigation and prosecution of core international crimes.

Established in 2002, the EU Genocide Network brings together prosecutors, police investigators and other experts from the EU member states – responsible for dealing with crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide – to exchange information, best practices, and specific experiences in investigating and prosecuting Rome Statute crimes at the national level.

 

National jurisdictions on the frontlines of fighting impunity

After Malta’s Ambassador to the EU H.E. Marlene Bonnici opened the 23 May event, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Ms. Věra Jourová and Eurojust President Ms. Michèle Coninsx delivered keynote addresses reaffirming their respective institutions' commitment to fighting impunity for international crimes and the work of the EU Genocide Network and domestic efforts.

 

 

Commissioner Jourová highlighted the Directive on minimum standards for the rights, support and protection of victims of crime  - establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime - as it applies to victims of core international crimes.

Commissioner Jourová insisted, “We have to make sure that justice is served in cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Impunity is not an option. People who were deprived from their dignity and suffered unimaginable crimes deserve to see these criminals condemned.”

 

 

One case study was presented by Ms Kristina Lindhoff Carleson, Public Prosecutor, Sweden with examples of domestic cases and introduction to the work and challenges  of investigating and prosecuting international crimes in Europe.

 

 

The panel discussion that followed featured International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) President Carmel Agius, Mr Ben Waites, Senior Specialist at Europol, Ms Raija Toiviainen, Deputy Prosecutor general of Finland, and Director of Human Rights Watch’s international justice program Richard Dicker, emphasizing the key role of the EU Genocide Network and national war crimes units/teams to ensuring domestic fight against impunity.

 

 

 

Civil society: Fighting everyday

The Coalition – represented at the EU Day Against Impunity event by its Europe Regional Coordinator Virginie Amato – used the occasion to highlight some of its NGO members’ voices on the key role of States in fighting impunity and supporting the work of the ICC within the Rome Statute system of justice. An Op-Ed by Valérie Paulet of TRIAL International makes the case for how the principle of universal jurisdiction represents one main way forward.

 

 

 

Noting some of the key challenges for national investigations and prosecutions of serious international crimes highlighted during the event, the Coalition pointed to its civil society members’ and their daily fight against impunity to inspire progress among all actors in the Rome Statute system of international justice.