Coalition for the ICC

On 17 July 2019, the world witnessed the commemoration of the International Justice Day and celebrated the 21st anniversary of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). On this day, civil society organisations came together to share their views on the need for international justice, the current state of the Court, its achievements, challenges and how we can fulfil the promises of Rome.

On International Justice Day, Coalition for the ICC gathered voices of its members to help remind everyone that it’s our responsibility to ensure the effective delivery of justice and redress for victims of the gravest crimes.

Kirsten Meersschaert, Director of Programs, Coalition for the ICC talked about the importance of accountability and our role in ensuring international justice. "Accountability is an important component of preventing violent conflict and is the only way to provide true redress to victims. States, the ICC, civil society, and people the world over must each do their part to ensure that the international justice system created by the Rome Statute 21 years ago lives up to its promise and ends the far too long-lasting history of impunity," remarked Ms. Meersschaert.

Many civil societies also held events, discussions and shared views on the importance to strengthen the Court during these challenging times.

On International Justice Day, the Permanent Missions of Argentina, Ecuador, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, Norway, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Spain as well as Parliamentarians for Global Action hosted a high-level side event to commemorate the historic adoption of the Rome Statute of the ICC on 17 July 1998 and to highlight the crucial role of international criminal justice in achieving Sustainable Development Goal16 (SDG16). The event offered a unique high-level platform for States Parties and other international partners to publicly highlight their efforts to support the implementation of SDG16 including their efforts to support the work of the ICC and other international justice institutions and initiatives.

“Accountability is as a prerequisite for peace, stability and sustainable development based on the effective protection of human rights,” Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) President Margareta Cederfelt, MP (Sweden), emphasized this message as she joined the President of the ICC, Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji, to address before the UN in New York: “there is no lasting peace without justice and no justice as long as there is impunity.” PGA’s members also stated that it will stay united and put an end to crimes that threaten global peace, commit to utilizing their full legislative and political prerogatives in the fight against impunity, and call upon others to join them.

The ICC and the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) hosted an event in Gulu, northern Uganda, where they discussed the trial of Dominic Ongwen, which is currently ongoing at the ICC, the situation of victims as they wait for the trial to conclude, the limited the scope of the ICC investigation in northern Uganda, and the ICC’s methodology for identification of victims and witnesses for participation in the trial. Speaking at the opening of the ceremony, Maria Mabinty Kamara, the ICC Outreach Coordinator in Uganda reiterated the significance of the ICC and noted that the possibility of reparations at the end of the trial. “The ICC is dedicated to bringing to justice some of the world’s most heinous crimes. Without justice, there can be no lasting peace. There will be requests for reparations at the end of the trial by victims if there is conviction,” she said.

On the occasion of the World Day for International Justice on 17 July, the International Nuremberg Principles Academy and the International Criminal Law Research Unit of Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg co-organized a panel discussion. Academics and practitioners explored possible criminal responses to the complex situation in Syria. The discussion focused on both the situation in Syria and of Syrian refugees in Germany. The participants stated that the international community was weakening and underlined the fundamental need to renew multilateralism and strengthen civil society.

The ICC launched its year-long call for stories with the theme "My #journeytojustice" on International Justice Day. Participants can submit selfie-style video stories of under one minute by using the #journeytojustice hashtag or emailing The stories are personal accounts of how those participating in the campaign first became interested in matters of justice, why, and where that led them to this day. These stories will be featured on the ICC social media platforms in the form of videos or photographs with their message.

On International Justice Day, member organisations of the Georgian National Coalition for the ICC (GCICC),  Article 42 of the Constitution, Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, Human Rights Center , Justice International ,The Georgian Center for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (GCRT) launched a report entitled “10 Years after the August War: Victims of the Situation in Georgia” during an event dedicated to the victims of the 2008 August War, in Tbilisi. The report aims at informing the public about the situation in Georgia vis-à-vis the ICC and shed light on the victims’ state of affairs a decade after the conflict.

FIDH published a press release calling upon all State Parties to the ICC to recommit fully to supporting an independent, impartial and credible ICC. “We call on States to commit in not only word but deed to ensure that the Court is staffed by judges, lawyers and investigators of the highest caliber who are provided adequate resources – especially in the investigative stage – to fulfill their duties. We call on States to affirm, publicly, that they will meet their obligations to cooperate with the Court in providing information during the investigative stage, in effecting arrest warrants and in providing support and protection to victims and witnesses – even when such cooperation is politically uncomfortable. We call on States to take seriously their commitments to uphold the rule of law, whether at the ICC or in their national courts, in their actions domestically and through their foreign policy, so that next year, all victims can mark this International Justice Day as a cause for celebration,” added FIDH.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated that member countries of the ICC should renew their commitment on International Justice Day, to defend and strengthen this important justice institution. “Twenty-one years after its creation, the International Criminal Court is needed more than its founders ever imagined,” said Richard Dicker, international justice director at HRW. “Despite the challenges the court is facing, its mandate and founding aspirations remain vitally important.”

Marina Riera Rodoreda, Communications and International Justice Associate, HRW, also reflected on the successes and challenges of bringing justice to victims over the past year.

Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice believes it is important to reflect on the current issues before the ICC, including progress on gender justice issues. Women’s Initiatives, on International Justice Day, calls on States, international organizations and civil society to continue confronting the widespread use of sexual violence in conflict, and work towards accountability for these heinous crimes.

IJMonitor published an article that focused on the challenges faced by the ICC and the importance of civil society to strengthen the court. James Goldston, the Open Society Justice Initiative’s executive director noted, “The ICC owes its existence to the courage and persistence of independent voices, activists and victims of grave crimes who kept the dream of a permanent tribunal alive for decades. With the Court facing historic challenges today, civil society has a vital role to play in helping shape a review process that is credible, thorough and impartial.”

The High Representative, Federica Mogherini, on behalf of the EU reaffirmed its longstanding support towards the international criminal justice system and in particular its unwavering commitment to the ICC, as part of the EU's wider commitment to a rules-based international order on International Criminal Justice Day. "The EU and its Member States will pursue their work towards the universal ratification and implementation of the Rome Statute. The EU and its Member States are committed to uphold and defend the principles and values enshrined in the Rome Statute and to preserve its integrity, as persistent challenges to the international criminal justice constitute a serious obstacle to its full efficiency," declared Ms. Mogherin.

The Philippine Coalition for the ICC observed 17 July by addressing the serious concerns of the Philippine government considering withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), "neglecting the fact that families of human rights defenders killed and victims of extrajudicial killings in the “war on drugs” welcome and support an independent probe into the human rights situation in our country,” lamented Dr. Aurora Corazon Parong, Co-Chairperson of the Philippine Coalition for the ICC.
"The Philippine officials must uphold human rights and make the human rights standards their guide now. They must reject abuses, selfishness and impunity. Citizens of the Philippines and other countries must not be deprived of processes and venues for truth, human rights and justice when their domestic courts and institutions fail them,” concluded Mr. Parong.

The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GlobalR2P) celebrated the World Day for International Justice and commend the commitment of various states, regional bodies and multilateral institutions to uphold their responsibility to protect by pursuing justice for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. "From Nuremburg to today, the struggle for international justice has always required legal innovation and political courage. But despite positive action over the past year, Yazidi and Rohingya survivors of genocide, as well as vulnerable civilians facing ongoing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan and elsewhere, are still waiting for their day in court. On this day we reiterate our commitment to ensuring that all victims and survivors of mass atrocity crimes receive the recognition and justice they deserve," stated GlobalR2P. In July, they also released a factsheet on the International Court of Justice & the Genocide of the Rohingya.

TRIAL International acknowledged that the 21st anniversary of the ICC may have lost some of its shine due to constant criticism but strongly believes that these criticisms are a sign of strength, and can even be beneficial to the fight against impunity.

ABA President Bob Carlson Re released a statement calling International Criminal Justice Day as an opportunity to reflect on progress made in advancing accountability for atrocity crimes, and to renew our commitment to strengthening international justice. "The American Bar Association has long supported the ICC as essential to holding accountable those who commit genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and has urged greater state support, including from the United States, for the ICC and its cases," noted Mr. Carlson

On 17th July, the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) reaffirmed its support for ICC, International Court of Justice, and other bodies working at the international level to combat impunity and create accountability. AIPR also recognized the valuable contributions of these bodies to the global fight against mass atrocities through the prosecution of those directly responsible for these crimes.

Dr Denis Mukwege, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, on the World Day for International Justice, honoured the many survivors of wartime sexual violence whose courage and perseverance challenge injustice everyday. After the recent conviction of Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda by the ICC, Tatiana Mukanire, the national coordinator of the Survivor Movement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), responded, “As victims of these atrocities, we salute the work done by the ICC, which tempers our anger and gives us hope. Deep down, we are inspired that other criminals can be charged so that the hearts of thousands of raped women can find some solace and the millions of souls lost to years of violence in DRC may finally rest in peace.”

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute, No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) founder Emma Bonino called for a new compact, noting that “The Court needs to do better. It needs to review its past performance, ask itself some hard questions and make some hard choices so it can work more effectively and efficiently. If it does that, it will have the moral high ground when it asks for what it needs and we will be in a better position to support and promote it.”

An article was published, reflecting on the situation of Afghanistan before the ICC and what the affected communities may be feeling on International Justice Day. It curated by Amal Nassar, Representative of FIDH to the ICC, Guissou Jahangiri, Vice-President of the FIDH and the Executive Director of Armanshahr Foundation/OPEN ASIA and Anushka Sehmi, international criminal lawyer, currently practicing before the ICC with the Victims Representatives in The Prosecutor v Dominic Ongwen.

JusticeInfo released an in-depth interview with Mark Drumbl, Professor of Law and Director of the Transnational Law Institute at Washington and Lee University on his thought-provoking perspectives on the state of international justice, from the ICC to climate change to reparations and corporate responsibility. "What we should celebrate on international justice day is alchemy, processes that are not perfect. International justice day should be an embrace of imperfection rather than some kind of fetishisation of purism. Maybe that would be something worthy of celebration. Maybe that’s the new period," remarked Mr. Drumbl

Messages from the States and Civil Society

Also read:

1. The Conversation:
Why the United States rejects international criminal justice: Looking back at Nuremberg.

2. ICC 21st anniversary. Experts to 31mag: let’s save it, but reforms are urgent.
Kirsten Meersschaert, Director of Programs at the Coalition for the ICC, stated that “there is more to say about the number of states in the ICC than those out of it.” and that “122 countries are in, and this says a lot about the collective desire for accountability.” Ms Meersschaert added, “Collaboration with international institutions such as the ICC often fluctuates with time and administrations in place.”

3. Sui Generis: Rule of law matters with Marites Vitug: International Justice Day. Ms Meersschaert remarked, "The ICC is still finding its way in the international arena…It is seen as a beacon of hope by civil society, to uphold a culture of accountability versus a culture of impunity."