JULY 17th : "DAY OF INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL JUSTICE"
-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*
July 17th, 2011, is for the first time being celebrated as 'Day of International Criminal Justice'. This date was adopted by the Assembly of the States Parties during the Review Conference of the Rome Statute held in Kampala (Uganda) in June 2011. It also marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC), thirteen years ago.
The day is a celebration of the landmark steps that the international community is taking to reach a common goal of global justice and an opportunity for those who support justice around the world to make their voices heard.
In a message for the Day, Judge Sang-Hyun Song, the President of the ICC says, "Today, the ICC is a major international institution securing justice for victims when it cannot be delivered at the national level. Investigations in six country situations concern shocking allegations such as mass murder, rape, torture and the use of child soldiers. The total number of suspects that have appeared before the judges has doubled in the last six months. The first trial is concluding with the closing arguments set to be heard next month".
Today 114 countries have become members of the ICC. Grenada and Tunesia will do so in the next few months. However, some major countries like India have systematically opposed the ICC and refused to join it.
In 1998, India abstained in the vote which adopted the Rome Statute, saying it objected to:
- the broad definition adopted of 'crimes against humanity'
- the right given to the Security Council to refer cases, delay investigations and bind non-State Parties.
- the use of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction not being explicitly outlawed
Among the other concerns which India has, of the Court are:
v the application of the principle of complementarity to the Indian criminal justice system
v the power of the prosecutor to initiate prosecutions
However, many of these objections / concerns are not based on facts or are based on an incomplete understanding of laws relating to the ICC. In 2000, an Indian Campaign on the International Criminal Court called "ICC – India" was launched. This was mainly due to a concern of the existing climate of impunity in India. This Campaign has brought together several organisations, human rights activists, jurists, lawyers and others from all parts of the country, in a relentless effort to see that India became a member of the ICC.
The growing communal violence, the consistent attacks on the dalits, adivasis and other vulnerable groups, State repression and torture ('encounter deaths') in some parts of the country, make it imperative for India to review its stand and be part of a global movement for Justice, which ensures impunity for none.
In more ways than one, we, in India, still have to wait to truly celebrate July 17th as 'Day of International Criminal Justice'!
(*Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)
17th July, 2011
Address: PRASHANT, Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052