Geoffrey Andrew Henderson of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has
acknowledged that the achievements of ICC in international criminal justice in
the past decades are truly impressive and there is much to celebrate.
However, he maintained that as “we enter the 20th anniversary of the creation of the court” there are some concerns, as populism, bigotry and xenophobia are on the rise. Thus, he said, there is a danger of a serious push back with potential of undermining international criminal justice and more broadly a rule-based order. The Trinidad & Tobago born ICC judge was speaking on Thursday at a reception in honour of the 20th Anniversary of Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court at a hotel in Kololi.
“The idea that certain offences cannot go unpunished was certainly not new and several initiatives were undertaken in the past to bring perpetrators to justice. In the aftermath of the Second World War, the International Military Tribunals of Nuremberg and Tokyo laid the foundations of international criminal justice and served as a powerful precedent for the establishment of the International Criminal Court,” he lamented.
He recalled that in 2015, the judges of the ICC signalled their recognition and respect for this precedent by holding their first retreat aimed at revising the criminal proceedings in Room 600, where the Nuremberg trial had taken place. This trial, he said, was indeed historic and continues to be a permanent reminder that as famously declared then, crimes against international law are committed by men, not by abstract entities, and only by punishing individuals who commit such crimes can the provisions of international law be enforced.
“During the five decades that followed, however, there was no similar endeavour. Instead, important norms and principles were adopted in areas of human rights and humanitarian law including provisions intended to expand the basis to investigate and prosecute beyond the confines of territorial jurisdiction. Amongst them, this year the International community will not only mark the 20th Anniversary of the Rome Statute but also the 70th Anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948, with which the statute is inextricably linked”. However, he observed that prosecution continued to be rare at the national level and non-existent at the international level. While the normative development was extraordinary, he went on, impunity flourished as there was no effective enforcement of international law.