ICC: Bolster Global Justice at Kampala Conference
Concrete Commitments Needed to Strengthen
International Criminal Court
York, May 10, 2010) – Member states of the International
Criminal Court (ICC) should use the upcoming review
conference in Kampala, Uganda to push forward justice
for the worst international crimes, Human Rights Watch
said in a report released today. Human Rights Watch
called on member states to use preparations, conference
discussions, and pledges of greater support for the ICC
to increase the likelihood that the most serious
perpetrators will be held to account.
The 102-page report, "Making Kampala Count:
Advancing the Global Fight Against Impunity at the ICC
Review Conference," assesses progress and recommends
steps to strengthen international justice. The report
addresses the four themes identified as part of the
conference’s "stock-taking exercise": peace and justice,
strengthening national courts, the ICC’s impact on
affected communities, and state cooperation.
"This is a moment for ICC members meeting in Kampala to
send a message to perpetrators and would-be perpetrators
that they will face justice," said Richard Dicker,
International Justice director at Human Rights Watch.
"Serious debate at the conference can make real progress
for the victims of mass slaughter and the use of rape as
a weapon of war."
At the conference, from May 31 to June 11, 2010,
representatives of the court’s 111 member states,
non-member states, the United Nations, and civil society
groups will reaffirm the importance of bringing to
justice those accused of genocide, war crimes, and
crimes against humanity, the crimes covered by the ICC.
The court’s treaty was adopted in Rome in 1998.
While the ICC has made important progress since it
became operational in 2003 – opening five investigations
and starting two trials in The Hague – more steps are
needed to extend and strengthen an emerging system of
international justice, Human Rights Watch said. The
two-week conference will address how to position the ICC
and national courts better to hold perpetrators to
account in fair trials, and will review proposals to
amend the ICC’s treaty, including exercising authority
over a newly defined crime of aggression, that is, using
force that is manifestly contrary to the UN Charter.
Human Rights Watch urged the governments at the Kampala
conference to promote joint efforts to improve
national-level trials of ICC crimes. Because the ICC
only acts where national courts are unable or unwilling
to hold credible trials at home, and its reach is
limited to a handful of cases, national courts are
essential for holding all perpetrators of the worst
international crimes to account.
"The ICC is meant to be a court of last resort," Dicker
said. "Advancing the fight against impunity means not
only strengthening the ICC, but also bringing justice to
the national level according to internationally agreed
Using the conference to improve state cooperation
with the ICC is essential to its success, Human Rights
Watch said. The court relies on governments to enforce
its decisions and assist its investigations and
prosecutions. The recent backlash over the court’s
arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan has
underscored the importance of strong public backing for
the court’s mandate. States are expected to pledge at
the conference to take specific steps at the national
level to bolster cooperation.
"States should come to Kampala with specific pledges to
increase their practical and political support for the
ICC,” Dicker said. “These pledges are crucial for
demonstrating commitment to the court."
The conference’s location in Kampala also offers a
unique opportunity to forge stronger links between the
ICC and those affected by egregious crimes in Africa,
Human Rights Watch said. States should consider how the
court’s outreach and field presence can better bridge
the gap between proceedings in The Hague and affected
communities in eastern Congo, northern Uganda, the
Central African Republic, Darfur in Sudan, and Kenya.
States will also negotiate the definition of the
crime of aggression and its implementation by the court.
While taking no
position on the definition, Human Rights Watch is
concerned about proposals to allow the UN Security
Council to decide whether the ICC prosecutor can
investigate alleged crimes of aggression. Human Rights
Watch has opposed Security Council control of any crime
within the jurisdiction of the court because control by
a political body would undermine the ICC’s judicial
Human Rights Watch also expressed concern that the crime
of aggression could link the ICC to highly politicized
disputes between states that could diminish the court’s
role – and the perceptions of that role – as an
impartial judicial arbiter of international criminal
society organizations and activists from around the
world will be in Kampala to raise their concerns. The
conference’s formal agenda will be complemented by a
number of side meetings, including in a "People’s Space"
hosted by Ugandan civil society.
The ICC is the
world’s first permanent court mandated to bring to
justice perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against
humanity, and genocide when national courts are unable
or unwilling to do so. The ICC treaty, known as the Rome
Statute, entered into force in 2002, just four years
after 120 states adopted the treaty during the Rome
An Assembly of States Parties was created by the Rome
Statute to provide management oversight of the
administration of the court. It consists of
representatives of each state member and is required to
meet at least once a year but can meet more often as
The Rome Statute mandates that seven years after the
treaty enters into force, the UN secretary-general is to
convene a review conference to consider any amendments
to the treaty. At its seventh Assembly of States
Parties, in 2008, ICC members agreed to hold this
conference in Kampala.
In addition to considering proposed amendments such as
on the crime of aggression, the agenda of the review
conference includes a general debate in which high-level
representatives of ICC member states are expected to
participate and two days of debate and discussion as
part of a "stocktaking exercise." At their eighth
Assembly of States Parties, ICC members decided on four
topics for stocktaking: cooperation; complementarity;
the impact of the Rome Statute system on victims and
affected communities; and peace and justice.
The court’s jurisdiction may be triggered in one of
three ways. States parties or the UN Security Council
can refer a situation (meaning a specific set of events)
to the ICC prosecutor, or the ICC prosecutor can seek on
his own motion authorization by a pre-trial chamber of
ICC judges to open an investigation.
The ICC prosecutor
has opened investigations in the Democratic Republic of
Congo, northern Uganda, the Darfur region of Sudan, the
Central African Republic, and Kenya. Based on those
investigations, 13 arrest warrants and one summons to
appear have been issued. The prosecutor is also looking
at a number of other situations in countries around the
world. These include Colombia, Georgia, Cote d’Ivoire,
Afghanistan, and Guinea. The Palestinian National
Authority has also petitioned the ICC prosecutor to
accept jurisdiction over crimes committed in Gaza.
are in ICC custody in The Hague. A fifth, Bahr Idriss
Abu Garda – who was charged with war crimes in
connection with an attack on African Union peacekeepers
in Darfur – appeared voluntarily during pre-trial
proceedings. The ICC’s pre-trial chamber subsequently
declined to confirm charges brought against Abu Garda.
The court began its first trial, of the Congolese rebel
leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, on January 26, 2009. Its
second trial, against the Congolese rebel leaders
Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, began on
November 24, 2009.
In addition to al-Bashir
and two other individuals sought in relation to the
Darfur situation, arrest warrants remain outstanding for
leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Uganda
and for Bosco Ntaganda, a former rebel commander now
integrated into the Congolese national army.
To read the Human Rights Watch report "Making Kampala
Count: Advancing the Global Fight against Impunity at
the ICC Review Conference," please visit:
To read the Human Rights Watch report, "Courting
History: The Landmark International Criminal Court’s
First Years," please visit:
For more Human Rights Watch reporting on the ICC, please
other materials about the ICC and the ICC Review
Conference, please visit:
review conference website: