President Sang-Hyun Song and Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the President of the Assembly of States Parties, Tiina Intelmann, today concluded a three-day mission to South Africa.
During their mission, President Song and Prosecutor Bensouda held bilateral meetings with key government and justice officials and engaged with civil society, academics, students, diplomats and the media in the context of Dialogues on Peace and Justice, a programme organised by the Kingdom of the Netherlands, that brought a delegation of Hague-based international legal institutions to Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town for engagement with local stakeholders. Together with President Intelmann, they also participated in the conference: "Africa and the International Criminal Court: Lessons Learned and Synergies Ahead" organised by Africa Legal Aid (AFLA) in Johannesburg.
In their meetings with South African officials, both President Song and Prosecutor Bensouda commended the leading role South Africa – one of the first countries to sign and ratify the Rome Statute – has played in the evolution of the ICC, through its continued support and cooperation.
In his remarks, President Song underlined that South Africa, with its unique experience, has a tremendous amount to contribute to the global pursuit of peace and justice through the rule of law. "This country is known worldwide for the historic leap it made from apartheid to democracy, with the help of a process of truth-seeking and reconciliation," he said. "While we work side by side with States, we must also look to each other for guidance. I think it is fitting to discuss how we can form synergies in the evolving international criminal justice system. We can look to States like South Africa for lessons in overcoming painful histories through accountability, but also how this can be achieved through truth-seeking and reconciliation."
During the AFLA conference, Prosecutor Bensouda stressed the link between accountability for mass crimes and the rule of law to stability, security and prosperity. She further emphasized the crucial importance of the support of the African Union (AU) for the work of the ICC. Together in a complementary fashion the ICC and the AU can cooperate and support one another to promote and implement their critical work with full respect for their respective mandates. As such, she welcomed opportunities for further dialogue and cooperation.
"Attacks against civilians; sexual and gender-based violence in times of war and recruitment and use of children as soldiers are just some of the examples where the ICC and the AU can work together" said the Prosecutor. "In addition to sharing our policies on some of these issues, we can contribute to enhancing the AU's efforts to stem the tide of these scourges by sharing our expertise and experiences in the investigation and prosecution of these grave crimes."
ASP President Intelmann, recalling the Assembly meeting last year, highlighted that States Parties, in the framework of the Assembly, have been open to addressing concerns of all States Parties. She further called for continued political support of States and other stakeholders for the Court: "We need to keep investing our energies in the fight against impunity and ensure the independence of the Court."
ICC Officials called for greater support for the Court. They reiterated the importance of our collective duty to never neglect the calls of victims whose rights and dignity have been trampled on by mass crimes. Today, thousands of African victims continue to suffer the brunt of mass atrocities. The ICC encourages and supports all genuine efforts at the national level aimed at bringing to justice, those alleged to be responsible for commission of mass crimes. In the absence of this primary responsibility, however, it would be an abdication of duty if the ICC were to fail to exercise its jurisdiction, especially when it is called upon to do so by African states themselves, in the face of such brutality.
Ending impunity for mass crimes is a common responsibility of humanity as a whole and justice for victims of such grave crimes should never be sacrificed at the altar of political expediency.
The ICC is an independent and impartial permanent international court with jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute persons accused of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. In addition to the situations under investigation, the ICC is also assessing through "preliminary examinations" whether the legal criteria under the Rome statute have been met to warrant opening investigations in a further 10 situations around the world, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Colombia, Honduras, Georgia and Ukraine.
For further information, please contact Fadi El Abdallah, Spokesperson and Head of Public Affairs Unit, International Criminal Court, by telephone at: +31 (0)70 515-9152 or +31 (0)6 46448938 or by e-mail at: [email protected].
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