Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Convener's Comment: International Justice Day, Birthday of the International Criminal Court




 By John Washburn

The court which is our cause celebrates its 14th birthday and its life in full today. It has 121 member states, a third generation of judges, its second prosecutor and second president and its first verdict and sentence in the Lubanga case. In the middle of the night on July 17, 1998, a diplomatic conference adopted the Rome Statute, the treaty which created the Court. There have been other moments to mark and remember as the Court grew into full existence: the Statute's taking effect on July 1, 2002 after 60 countries had ratified it, the swearing-in of the first judges on March 23, 2003, and now the Lubanga verdict on March 14, 2012.

Yet it is right to make the agreement on the Rome Statute the birthday of the Court. There are moments in human affairs when circumstances make the seemingly impossible happen: a window in time, the sudden effect of a long summoning of will, the arrival of new actors and the coming together of many events in a single conclusion to act. July 17, 1998 was such a moment that in the words of the poet Seamus Heaney widely quoted on that day made "hope and history rhyme."

For those involved or at least aware then, this was an act of creation by women and men at their best and determined to make accountable through justice other men and women at their worst. There is something especially important to remember about these creators - so many of them, especially those serving non-governmental organizations - were young. At most in their twenties, they were intelligently practical in the service of idealism, interconnected electronically and by their principles. They transcended varieties of nationality, culture and origins. They will never forget Rome and now in their thirties and forties, some of them are our best friends and supporters. They are everywhere in the United States and we must find and bring more of them to us.

This was the generation that made and started the Court. Now there is another generation that will make it work to its full strength and preserve its mandate. One of the joys of AMICC's task is that we work with so many of them. They take the Court as a natural part of the lives of nations and of their own. They will have much to do - to make the Court reach further, to get the resources it needs for its now rapid natural growth, to see it governed well and above all to drive it to serve its joined and fundamental purposes of condemnation, justice and redress. Now, we move faster and harder with them toward a future - their time - that will bring our country to the Court.

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