City Bar Statement Celebrating International Justice Day and the 20th Anniversary of the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute

Today, July 17, 2018, is International Justice Day and the 20th Anniversary of the International Criminal Court’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute. 

The Association of the Bar of the City of New York takes this opportunity to express its support for international justice—that is, the prosecution of, inter alia, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity before international and hybrid tribunals, as well as domestic courts. The Association also notes the important role that the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands, has been playing as one of the key institutions leading the fight against impunity as to atrocity crimes.

Tribunals such as the ICC, as well as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon have been playing, and/or continue to play, significant roles in advancing the field of international justice.

The ICC has had jurisdiction to prosecute the most serious crimes of concern to the international community. To date, it has been able to exercise jurisdiction over genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. As of July 17, 2018, the ICC will also be able to exercise limited jurisdiction over the crime of aggression, a crime that has not been prosecuted at the international level since the historic prosecutions of the International Military Tribunals at Nuremberg and Tokyo. This is an important step towards a system of enforcement for essentially the key norm in article 2(4) of the UN Charter prohibiting aggressive use of force.

The Association of the Bar of the City of New York was one of the earliest leaders in endorsing the ICC, with a statement in 1997 towards the end of the negotiations supporting the creation of the Rome Statute. The Association also went on record as supporting U.S. accession to the Rome Statute in 2002. The Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice, a non-profit program of the Association, has for many years also supported the ICC in various ways, including collaborating with a Salvadoran human rights NGO to raise awareness of the ICC in El Salvador after the country ratified the Rome Statute; convening a conference in Bogota, Colombia, with the participation of ICC Deputy Prosecutor James Stewart to discuss the role of the Court in the ongoing negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas; assisting NGOs from the Americas, Africa and Asia in bringing information to the ICC regarding Rome Statute crimes committed in their countries; and, most recently, conducting a survey assessing the implementation of the Rome Statute in domestic legislation of ICC Member States.

The ICC is especially important for lawyers as a strong advance for the rule of law internationally, for setting and applying high standards of due process, and for developing ways for victims to participate and have their voices heard. 

One hundred and twenty-three countries are parties to the Court’s Rome Statute. The U.S. is not a party, although there was a close relationship between the U.S. and the Court under the past administration. The Association calls for the current administration to resume a productive relationship with the Court, and progress towards removing legislative obstacles to U.S. cooperation with the Court. The Association also looks forward to the day when the U.S. can become a party to the ICC, an institution designed to ensure justice for the most serious atrocity crimes of concern to the international community.

About the Association
The mission of the New York City Bar Association, which was founded in 1870 and has 24,000 members, is to equip and mobilize the legal profession to practice with excellence, promote reform of the law, and uphold the rule of law and access to justice in support of a fair society and the public interest in our community, our nation, and throughout the world.