Global justice advances as Paraguay adopts ICC law

Paraguayan Legislators commit to full implementation of the Rome Statute and ratification of the Kampala Amendments © Parliamentarians for Global Action
In a step forward for global justice, the Paraguayan parliament has approved the implementation bill of the International Criminal Court (ICC). By incorporating Rome Statute crimes, as well as provisions on ICC Cooperation and principles, within domestic legislation, Paraguay is demonstrating its commitment to justice for atrocity crimes and to strengthening the Rule of Law.

The bill was approved on 16 August 2017 following a lengthy process in both chambers of Parliament, and received significant input from civil society. Under the leadership of the Paraguayan Chapter of Amnesty International, as well as its International Secretariat, the last 12 years have seen NGOs such as Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) and the Coalition for the ICC’s International Secretariat work tirelessly on this issue.

“With this implementation, we join the international community that is persistent in its attempts to prosecute individuals responsible for committing international crimes, namely crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes and after activation, the crime of aggression,” said Dip. Juan Félix Bogado Tatter, PGA member.

“Notwithstanding a few concrete observations, the approved bill constitutes a significant contribution to Criminal Law,” added Hugo Relva*, Legal Advisor of the International Justice Team, LPP at Amnesty International’s Secretariat. “The bill includes a definition for the crimes of genocide and incitement to genocide, as well as the definition of crimes against humanity and war crimes, in accordance to International Law. The bill also includes provisions on universal jurisdiction to some extent, and prohibits the granting of amnesties to those suspected of criminal responsibility for such crimes. Furthermore, the bill bars the jurisdiction of military courts over these crimes, which places the Paraguayan law amongst those incorporating the highest standards of International Law. Finally, the bill has included provisions that will allow for Paraguay to cooperate accordingly with the International Criminal Court”.

“By adopting this law, Paraguay has fulfilled a concrete pledge on fully implementing the Rome Statute, expressed, inter alia, at its 2016 Universal Periodic Review,” commented Michelle Reyes Milk, Regional Coordinator for the Americas at the Coalition for the International Criminal Court. “Furthermore, through this important step, Paraguay has sent a strong message of commitment to the ICC and the Rome Statute system – and to the principles enshrined therein – by stating unequivocally that, were crimes under International Law ever to be committed in the country, these will not go unpunished.”


The path to implementation

Despite having ratified the Rome Statute in 2001, the implementation process had to overcome several obstacles during the past decade, including other legislative priorities.

In January 2013, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs formally introduced the implementation bill to Parliament, after several consultations with civil society, spearheaded by AI Paraguay. The bill was debated for the next three years within the Paraguayan Senate, including in five separate committees.

In August 2016, the bill was submitted to the Lower House of Parliament, which reviewed it and sent it back to the Senate in December 2016 with amendments and observations. In June 2017, the Senate approved the bill and returned it to the Chamber of Deputies for a final debate and approval. On 16 August 2017, the Lower House of Parliament approved the bill. The bill has now been sent to the Presidency for its enactment into law, which is expected in the following weeks.

“We would like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to all who those who have contributed to this bill, including all members of Parliament, and call on the President to enact the bill into Law shortly,” added Michelle Reyes Milk.


Civil society in action

Coordinated actions among civil society groups were integral to the approval of this bill.

“We must highlight the important role that civil society played in the implementation process, largely thanks to the opportunity that was provided by the Paraguayan government, which called for civil society participation and contributions in numerous steps along the process,” explained Michelle Reyes Milk. “Indeed, the Paraguayan bill which implements the Rome Statute into domestic legislation is the product of numerous coordinated efforts of civil society working together with the Paraguayan government, both at the Executive and the Legislative level.”

Concerted advocacy efforts were conducted in parliament by Amnesty, PGA and CICC, comprising joint letters; joint contributions to several versions of the implementation bill by the three organizations; as well as numerous meetings with key parliamentarians coordinated by AI Paraguay and PGA under the leadership of the former.

Following the MFA’s submission of the bill to parliament, PGA worked closely in coordination with AI Paraguay in identifying and working together with key parliamentarians, inviting several Paraguayan MPs to PGA Rome Statute implementation workshops held across the region. In addition, the actions that were collectively carried out within the framework of the Coalition’s Universal Periodic Review campaign, in light of Paraguay’s 2016 periodic review, as well as actions with the Paraguayan delegations at the ASP and, particularly, during the Review Conference, provided for advocacy across multilateral forums.

Finally, AI, PGA and the Coalition’s joint mission to Asunción, Paraguay, in July 2016 enabled all parties to push for the debate of the bill at the Paraguayan Senate and, subsequently, at the Chamber of Deputies, following PGA’s Consultations on the Implementation of the Rome Statute and Support for the International Criminal Court, held at the seat of parliament.

This in turn provided an opportunity to garner support among other stakeholders, including Paraguayan judges, prosecutors, lawyers and academia following panels and workshops held at the Supreme Court and the Universidad de Columbia de Asunción, which bolstered important support in Asunción.

Read the full bill.


* The following quote has been extracted from an article written in Spanish by Mr. Relva for A.I. Paraguay, with his full consent.