International Justice Day 2018

Rome Statute 20

Curious how the world commemorated International Justice Day this year – during the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court? Check out our IJD 2018 round-up!

The 2018 edition of International Justice Day (IJ Day) was marked by events held around the world in honor of the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC)-the only permanent international court mandated to end impunity for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression.

ICC Commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute, The Hague, 16-17 July 2018

On 16-17 July, the International Criminal Court, in partnership with a number of  states, hosted a two-day event in The Hague for the Commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, featuring a Mock Trial, a symposium on the Enduring Value of the Rome Statute to Humanity, a tree-planting ceremony, and two interactive sessions on the impact of the judicial process and broadening the fight against impunity.

The event featured high-level representatives of more than 30 States, including the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, representatives of national Senates and Parliaments, Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Justice, as well as officials of international and regional organizations, civil society and academia.

The initial high-level public hearing featured a key note speech by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria H.E. Mr. Muhammadu Buhari, followed by opening remarks provided by the Court’s principals – ICC President Chile Eboe Osuji, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and by the President of the ASP H.E. Mr. O-gon Kwon. President Buhari praised a strong and effective ICC which “to send a powerful message about the international community’s commitment to accountability, a message that will be heard by both victims and perpetrators." President Kwon highlighted the necessity to increase the efforts towards the achievement of universality, and that in that regard “the Assembly of States Parties has a very important role to play." Prosecutor Bensouda advocated support for the Court, denouncing the attacks and resistances that undermine its work.

In the following high-level Symposium, moderated by President O-Gon Kwon, several ministerial representatives and speakers of parliaments reflected on the theme, “Enduring Value of the Rome Statute to Humanity.” The symposium featured remarks by Mr. Miguel de Serpa Soares, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel; H.E. Mr. Motoo Noguchi, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Trust Fund for Victims; Chief Charles Taku, President of the International Criminal Court Bar Association; Mr. Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch; and H.E. Mr. Peter Lewis, Registrar of the International Criminal Court. Mr de Serpa Soares highlighted the presence of the ICC in high level international discussions and in particular within the UN framework. Mr. Noguchi stressed the importance of the Trust Fund for Victims for the success of the Court, and highlighted the difficulties that the Fund faces in fulfilling its mandate. Chief Taku focused on the challenges entailed in defense before the Court, stressing however how the Rome Statute is still a living instrument. Mr. Roth reaffirmed civil society’s commitment to support the Court and the fight against impunity, and called upon member states to enhance and develop their support and non-member states to adhere to the Rome Statute system.

The afternoon sessions consisted of interactive panels. The first interactive panel, moderated by H.E. Mrs. Brândușa Predescu, Ambassador of Romania to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, followed opening remarks provided by former ICC president H.E. Judge Mr. Sang-Hyun Song and focused on the "Impact of the Judicial Process" and particularly on victims of atrocities. The panelists were Professor Fausto Pocar of the University of Milan, Ms. Laker Joyce Ocen, Trauma specialist from AVSI-Gulu and TFV partner & Ms. Lorraine Smith van Lin of REDRESS. Professor Pocar focused on the accessibility of the Court in terms of its understanding among victims and affected communities. Ms. Laker, focusing on the example of Northern Uganda, provided examples of the concrete necessities of victims, and on the impact of TFV activities on the ground; the necessity for an extended outreach to affected communities has been a crucial message conveyed. Ms. Smith van Lin, speaking also on behalf of the Victims’ Rights Working Group (VRWG), focused on the role of victims in ICC proceedings, praising the modernity of the Rome Statute in relation to victims’ participation but highlighting the need to translate this into practice into national legal systems; in that regard, the balance among the management of expectations, the protection of rights and the necessary resources has been pointed out as a major prerogative.

The second interactive panel, moderated by H.E. Mr. Philippe Lalliot, Ambassador of France to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, focused on the theme "Broadening the Fight Against Impunity". The panel was composed of Professor Gerhard Hafner of the University of Vienna, Ms. Evelyn Ankumah, Director of Africa Legal Aid & H.E. Mr. Sergio Ugalde, Ambassador of the Republic of Costa Rica to the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Professor Hafner focused on the future of the Court and on the importance of Rome Statute ratifications, even more now with the activation of the crime of aggression, which will bring us closer to the common good of humanity.  Ms. Ankumah recalled the challenges the ICC faces in the current era, indicating however its necessity for ending impunity and establishing criminal justice and the rule of law. Ambassador Ugalde focused on complementarity and cooperation, praising the “principles and the aims that we have established together in the framework of the court” and reflecting on the concept of positive complementarity and on the impact of the Court on national jurisdictions.

See also the Press release by the International Criminal Court

20th anniversary of the Rome Statute: the need for universality and the International Criminal Court’s Jurisdiction over the Crime of Aggression, New York, 17 July 2018

In New York, on 17 July, the Coalition, together with Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA), were proud civil society co-sponsors, along with the Permanent Missions of Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Republic of Korea, Liechtenstein, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Uruguay, of the event, 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute: the need for universality and the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction over the crime of aggression. The interactive panel discussion offered a unique high-level platform for States Parties and other international partners to project publicly a strong and compelling narrative about the ICC’s mission in today’s world. The event, which was well attended by both civil society and States, also marked the activation of the Court’s jurisdiction over the crime of aggression. For the first time since the post-WWII trials in Nuremburg and Tokyo, an international court will be able to hold leaders individually criminally responsible for waging aggressive war.




35 State representatives took the floor to voice their unwavering support for international justice and the significant role the Court has played in the global fight against impunity. A number of Ministers, including the Deputy Prime Minister of Slovakia, the Vice Minister of Norway, and Finland’s Minister of the Environment, attended and spoke on behalf of their countries, further demonstrating the commitment to the Rome Statute system that exists on all levels.

H.E. Dr. Aurelia Frick, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Principality of Liechtenstein and author of a related opinion piece published that same day, addressed those in attendance as part of the five-person panel. “The Rome Statute was adopted, not by consensus, but with an overwhelming majority of the States participating in the vote. It was a unique triumph of multilateral diplomacy, of untiring civil society engagement and of the belief in international law. It was a memorable moment of collective commitment to speak law to power. This is history, and a proud memory for many who were able to contribute to it.”

Coalition Convenor Bill Pace, who participated in the event as a panelist, pointed out the stark differences between the year of adoption and where we find ourselves today. “The political environment and climate in 2018 is much different – we are experiencing unbelievable and dangerous retreats from the post-World War II international legal order – a global security system established after the two worst world wars in all history – killing hundreds of millions of people, destroying scores of nations.  Thus, the retreat from historical progressive alliances for peace and cooperation is of utmost importance to this commemoration.”

Deputy Permanent Representative Mrs. Karen Van Vlierberge of the Kingdom of Belgium expressed how the Court is needed now, more than ever, “with the alarming proliferation of the gravest crimes around the world and the culture of impunity unfortunately still prevailing in many countries…Justice is today still one of the core elements towards reconciliation and sustaining peace.”

Ambassador Jan Kickert, Permanent Representative of Austria to the United Nations, reflected on another milestone, the activation of the Court’s jurisdiction over the crime of aggression. “The activation decision, by consensus, on the crime of aggression by the ASP in December 2017 and the exercise of its jurisdiction as of today are undoubtedly a big milestone in the Court’s most recent history… This decision completes the legacy of the Nuremberg trials and we believe that it has the potential to play an important part in the maintenance of international peace and security as a deterrent of war in the future.”

A representative speaking on behalf of the State of Palestine, which recently self-referred the ongoing situation in the country to the Court, emphasized that, “Diplomacy matters, multilateralism matters, international law matters, international justice matters, and at a time where international developments have placed unprecedented constraints on these mechanisms, we need to have greater ambitions, not smaller ones. We need to display strength, not weakness, resolve, not fear.” “We stand proudly, on the right side of history, carrying the weight of the lessons past wars have taught us and honoring the memory of victims abandoned to their fate across history. We are here because we know that justice is the path to peace.”

Mr. Benjamin Ferencz, former Nuremberg War Crimes Prosecutor, provided closing remarks focusing on the crime of aggression. "It's been a tough fight. We've made tremendous progress. When I began this, I consulted with knowledgeable people and they said, 'Ben, you're wasting your time,'... but I did it anyway...and I came up with this slogan. 'Law, not war.'...It can be done. We can have a peaceful world."

In addition to the events held in New York and The Hague, several other events took place in the days leading up to, on, and following IJ Day. Read on for a sampling of some of these events.

On 18 July, Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA), the International Association of Penal Law (AIDP – Italian chapter), and No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ), co-organized a Conference on the 20th Anniversary of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The conference, held in the Sala della Protomoteca of the City Hall of Rome, Italy, "reunited high-level experts and professionals who thoroughly reflected on the Statute of the ICC and its underlying system, inspired by a shared desire to 'relaunch it'." "While emphasizing the vital importance of the ICC and State action against impunity for crimes under international law, the participants analyzed the main issues directly and indirectly hindering the universality and effectiveness of the Rome Statute system, and proposed ways to overcome them. Various challenges were identified within the ICC, at the level of the States, and at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC)."

The Kurdish Organizations Network Coalition for the ICC (KONCICC) organized different events throughout KRG, celebrating the special anniversary and calling on Iraq to ratify the Rome Statute, in an effort to prevent future war crimes against the people of the region.

In Venezuela on 17 July, a seminar was held at the Catholic University Andrés Bello in Caracas on the 20thanniversary and the activation of the jurisdiction over the crime of aggression, titled “Jormadas en Celebración del XX aniversario del Estatuto de Roma, Día de la Justicia Internacional, Entrada en vigor del crimen de agresión, y el bautizo del libro “Genocidio y otros crímenes atroces,” where Professor Fernando Fernandez’ book on Genocide and other international crimes was launched. The seminar, which included opening remarks by Dean Salvador Yanuzzi, included an assessment of the first 20 years of the Statute, a look into the crime of aggression, an analysis of the legal and procedural aspects of Preliminary Examinations, and an assessment of the different elements of the crimes included in the Statute.

The Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court (NCICC) together with the The House of Representative Committee on Treaties, Protocol, and Agreements, held a public hearing on the Bill for “An Act to provide for the Enforcement and Punishment of Crimes Against Humanity, War Crimes, Genocide And For Other Related Offences" on 18 July  at the National Assembly Complex. The Honourable Chairman and deputy Honourable Chairman of the House Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreements, Honourable Members of the House of Representative, members of the Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court as well as members of the general public were in attendance.

In honor of the 20th anniversary, civil society groups, States, regional and international organizations issued statements around International Justice Day.

The Coalition for the ICC’s  statement reflected on the achievement that was the adoption of the Statute and the creation of the ICC, while also taking the opportunity to consider what still remains to be done to provide effective justice and redress for the victims and communities affected by these crimes and the many challenges that lie ahead.

Click on the links below to see what other international justice stakeholders from around the world had to say on the occasion of International Justice Day 2018.


State Support

Declaration by the High Representative, Federica Mogherini, on behalf of the European Union on the occasion of the Day of International Criminal Justice, 17 July 2018

Council of the European Union: Conclusions on the International Criminal Court on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute

Chair of the European Parliament Sub-Committee on Human Rights (DROI), MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, marks the Day of International Criminal Justice

Press release from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade, and Development Cooperation of the Kingdom of Belgium

Press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Czech Republic

Statement by Ms. Minna-Liina Lind, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Estonian Mission to the UN at the Interactive panel discussion on the occasion of International Justice Day, 17 July 2018

Press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland

Press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France

Statement by Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office of Germany on the Day of International Criminal Justice

Press release from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Embassy of Ireland, the Netherlands 

Diplomatic Statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands 

Press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland

Press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia

Opinion piece by Dr Aurelia Frick, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein

Opinion piece by Ms Ine Eriksen Søreide, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway (NO)

Statement by Ms Maria Ubach, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Andorra (CA)

Statement by the Principality of Liechtenstein delivered by H.E. Dr. Aurelia Frick, Minister of Foreign Affairs  

Statement by Kingdom of Belgium delivered by H.E. Mrs. Karen Van Vlierberge, Ambassador, Deputy Permanent Representative

Statement by Austria delivered by H.E. Mr. Jan Kickert, Permanent Representative of Austria to the United Nations 

Civil Society/International Organization Support

Opinion piece by Philip Grant, TRIAL International 

Statement by Georgian Civil Society Organizations Article 42 of Constitution, Georgian Young Lawyers Association, Human Rights Center, Justice International, Georgian Center for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims

Opinion piece by Emma Bonino, No Peace Without Justice 

Opinion piece by George Kegoro, Executive Director Kenyan Human Rights Commission

Statement by Ms. Petra Bayr, MP (Austria), Treasurer and Board Member, Parliamentarians for Global Action

Statement by Uganda Coalition for the ICC in colaboration with Human Rights Network Uganda 

Press release by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect 

Press release by Human Rights Watch

Statement by Ken Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch

Statement and report by International Federation for Human Rights

Joint statement by International Federation for Human Rights and its member organisation in Bangladesh, Odhikar

Press release by Le Centre Marocain de la Paix et la Loi (FR)

Press release by the Nigerian Coalition for the ICC

Press release by the Chadian Coalition for the ICC (FR)

Statement by Judge Theodor Meron, President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (UNMICT)

Statement by the New York City Bar Association

Statement by Mr Donald Deya, CEO of the Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU) and Chair of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP)

Press Release by Southern Africa Litigation Centre

Statement by Hilarie Bass, President of the American Bar Association (ABA)

Africa Legal Aid, Quarterly Special Edition, "Commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Rome Statute of the ICC"

#RomeStatute20 Twitter Takeover