5 Steps Forward, 5 Steps Back: Catching and Convicting War Criminals

international justice fugatives

Click image to view full infographic and list of wanted fugatives

Today, supporters of human rights mark the Global Day for International Justice, an anniversary the need for which makes ‘celebration’ difficult, if not impossible.  A cursory look over last year of developments as it relates to securing justice for the most egregious of crimes—war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide—might yield cause for optimism, however.

Five Steps Forward for Justice

  1. Over the last year, following a UN Security Council referral of Libya, the International Criminal Court (ICC) found reasonable grounds for issuing arrest warrants for top Libyan officials, even as conflict was ongoing, demonstrating the ability and importance of the court in active crises.
  2. The ICC saw the first verdict and sentence handed down as Thomas Lubanga answered for conscription of children in devastating conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
  3. Also over the last year, Laurent Gbagbo, the former head of state of Cote d’Ivoire, became the first head of state to be surrendered to the ICC for alleged crimes, only one week after his indictment.
  4. At the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, Ratko Mladic finally faces prosecution for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide for the largest mass murder in Europe since the end of World War II.
  5. The first conviction of a former head of state since the Nuremburg trials, as my colleague Angela Chang describes, was a historic step for international justice.


13 Years of International Justice

Today we celebrate International Justice Day.

13 years ago, on July 17, 1998 2002, the Rome Statute came into effect, enabling the creation of the International Criminal Court. A few years later, signers of the Statute designated July 17 as International Justice Day, a day to all come together and celebrate the advances made in international justice – and reflect on ways in which we can strengthen the system and ensure no crimes are left unpunished.

Today, 116 countries have ratified the Rome Statute and are members of the ICC.  To date, three states – Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic – have referred situations in their countries to the Court, the Prosecutor of the ICC has initiated an investigation in Kenya, and the UN Security Council has referred the situations in Darfur, Sudan and Libya to the Court.  The Prosecutor is also in the process of conducting preliminary investigations in several countries, including Colombia and Cote d’Ivoire.

Meanwhile, trials are winding down at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which is expected to render a verdict in the Charles Taylor case in the next few months, the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, which are expected to wind down in 2012 and 2013 respectively . SEE THE REST OF THIS POST