ICC holds first sub-regional Seminar of Counsel and the Legal Profession in Dakar, Senegal

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Building on the many years of continuing dialogue between the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the legal profession and civil society, the ICC is today, 27 October 2014, holding its first sub-regional Seminar of Counsel and the Legal Profession in Dakar (Senegal).  The aim of the event, the first of its kind to be organised in Africa by the Registry of the ICC, is to help build the knowledge of members of the legal profession in law, ICC practice and issues concerning the rule of law, to facilitate the sharing of experience and good practice, and to discuss topics of interest to the legal profession.

In his address, H.E. Mr Sidiki Kaba, Keeper of the Seals, Minister of Justice of the Republic of Senegal and guest of honour at the seminar, observed that the creation of the ICC reflected the fact that the principles of humanitarian law have penetrated international law and that the protection of human dignity is now an imperative. He pointed out that the Court is a permanent international court which complements national jurisdictions, and is geared towards the values of peace, equity, justice and reparation. Having mentioned Senegal's support of the Court's activities and the immense progress made by the ICC since its inception, he remarked that it was unquestionable that without cooperation, there could be no expectation of effective criminal justice. Without cooperation with criminal justice, he observed, international society will continue to face spiralling violence, departing further from the key objective: to fight impunity through justice. Lastly, he stressed that the involvement of the legal profession in the Court's activities was key to justice.

The First Vice-President of the ICC, Judge Sanji Mmasenono Monageng, congratulated H.E. Mr Sidiki Kaba on being the first African to become President of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute, the ICC's founding treaty. She said that this was a sign of the vitality of the legal profession in Senegal and commented that "it is important that lawyers on the List of Counsel of the ICC maintain high skills in international criminal, humanitarian and human rights law." Judge Monageng added that "when it comes to concrete situations and cases, the Court will take its decisions purely on the basis of the factual and legal merits, and nothing else".

In his speech at the launch of the seminar, the ICC's Registrar, Mr Herman von Hebel, highlighted Senegal's special place in the history of the ICC as the first State to have ratified the Rome Statute, in February 1999. Referring to the challenges faced by the Court and the discussions held with Africa, the Registrar also remarked that "[t]he overwhelming majority of cases before the Court have been referred independently by the African States concerned, which have requested the Court to prosecute because their national legal systems have been unable to do so" and that "through dialogue and cooperation, we will face the challenges together". The Registrar went on to welcome the "mobilisation of Counsel, all highly skilled experts, who have responded positively to the call for knowledge sharing".

Thanking the participants on behalf of the ICC Prosecutor Mrs Fatou Bensouda, Mr. Amady Ba, Head of international cooperation at the Office of the Prosecutor, said: "Here in Dakar, the Court has demonstrated its proximity to the legal practitioners". Introducing the June 2012-2015 strategic plan of the Office of the Prosecutor, Mr. Ba explained that the Office developed it "to improve the quality of its investigations and prosecutions, their efficiency and their effectiveness." He concluded by noting that "the Office intends to expand and diversify its collection of evidence and will continue to pay particular attention to sexual crimes and gender-based crimes, including against children."

During the seminar, participants will examine such vital issues as the rights of the defence, the status of victims before the Court, witness protection and ethics. They will also discuss the importance of collaboration by all stakeholders – State and non-State – with the International Criminal Court, and will explore avenues for building the capacity of the Court and that of the States in those areas.

Participants in the first sub-regional seminar include representatives of the State of Senegal and other high-ranking officials from several countries (magistrates, prosecutors and other practitioners in the justice system), representatives of the diplomatic corps, the academic community, civil society, ICC staff, magistrates of the Senegalese courts and of the Extraordinary African Chambers, members of the Senegal Bar, independent experts as well as students and trainees of Senegal's judicial training centre.

The seminar, which will be followed by training sessions spread over four days (28 – 31 October), is organised by the International Criminal Court in partnership with the International Development Law Organization. It is funded by the European Commission and the Government of the Republic of Finland, and supported by the Government of Senegal.

The International Criminal Court is an independent permanent court that tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole, namely the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.

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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