Celebrating 20 Years of the Rome Statute

(Photo: the signing of the Rome Statute in Rome, 1998)

On 17th July, the International Criminal Court (ICC) celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute; the international treaty which brought about its existence.

Adopted at a diplomatic conference in Rome in 1998, and entered into force in 2002, the Statute established what is now known as the core four international crimes: war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity, and crimes of aggression. The Statute provides that the jurisdiction of the ICC only encompasses international crime in circumstances where a state is either “unwilling” or “unable” to do so. Moreover, the ICC does not have jurisdiction to investigate crimes committed by a national of a state party or outside the territory of a state party. Authorisation from the United Nations Security Council can be an exception to this rule.

In mid-2010, a review conference was held by the states party to the Statute in Uganda; aimed at defining the crime of aggression, and lengthening the list of war crimes. Since 2002, the ICC has seen the sentencing of Malian jihadist, and two militia leaders from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Further investigations are currently underway in occupied Palestine, Ukraine, the Phillippines, and Aghanistan.

Last year, Burundi was the first state to withdraw from the ICC; following judicial authorisation to begin an investigation in the nation for crimes against humanity. Over 1,200 are said to have been killed.

In light of the 20th anniversary, New York-based human rights organisation, Human Rights Watch, used the day to call upon member countries of the ICC to strengthen their support for the court’s quest for justice.

Richard Dicker, of Human Rights Watch, stated that “the ICC’s hard task of bringing justice to victims of grave international crimes is needed more than ever before … ICC member countries should use the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute to demonstrate their support for this critically important court of last resort.”

See the video of the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute at the ICC, The Hague, below:

Phoebe Egoroff

Founder and of Jurist International, a website focusing on the latest developments in international human rights and criminal law.

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