Global Criminal Justice from a Regional Perspective

On Thursday, July 7, on the occasion of the Day of International Criminal Justice, the facilitator of The Hague Working Group on Strategic Planning, Ambassador Eduardo Rodríguez Veltzé (Bolivia), and The Hague Institute for Global Justice hosted a seminar on “Global Justice from a Regional Perspective”.

In his welcoming remarks, Dr. Abi Williams, President of The Hague Institute for Global Justice, prefaced the debate by stressing that regional approaches to international criminal justice definitely have a strong potential to maximize benefits and minimize costs. He emphasized the need to end impunity for international crimes, as a clear goal in order to prevent gross human rights violations to occur. Dr. Williams concluded by reflecting over the requirements necessary to achieve such a goal, including the need for a creative and constructive engagement among all criminal justice mechanisms at hand.

Following, the seminar featured a keynote address by Judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi, President of the International Criminal Court, who emphasized the need to establish a pattern of accountability capable of preventing future international crimes. She noted the role played by the Rome Statute in trying perpetrators of such crimes, reflecting that international, regional and national institutions have the power to strengthen each other. In closing, Judge Fernández de Gurmendi noted that the quest to end impunity does not focus on a particular region and that the International Criminal Court is only a part of the global system in which regional and national mechanisms all have a role to play in.

His  Excellency, Eduardo Rodríguez Veltzé, Ambassador of Bolivia, then moderated a public panel discussion consisting of four distinguished speakers:

  • Ambassador David Scheffer – U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Expert on United nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials.
  • Michelle Jarvis – OTP Deputy to the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
  • Matthew Carlson – Senior Legal Officer at the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT).
  • Ana Cristina Rodríguez Pineda – Chef de Cabinet of the President at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Among the main points of discussion addressed by the panelists were the issue of regionalization of international criminal law and justice, its desirability, and feasibility. The speakers also explored whether regional courts undermine the ICC and that of national judicial systems by fragmenting and weakening international criminal law.

The international community has increasingly addressed the challenge of impunity in diverse ways. From ad hoc Tribunals, such as the ICTR and the ICTY, to hybrid and specialized national courts, such as the East Timor Tribunals and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. The latest development is the International Criminal Court, governed by the Rome Statute, the first permanent, international criminal court established to end impunity for perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.

The founders of the Rome Statute did not anticipate a role for regional courts to exercise criminal jurisdiction over crimes that would otherwise be tried by the ICC or domestically. However, geographical proximity, as well as shared values and cultural heritage could promote greater cooperation at the regional level in the fight against impunity. Regional institutions have often become the implementation mechanisms of choice when dealing with human rights violations. Examples of such institutions include the European Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights or the African Court on Human and People’s Rights.

A Q&A session with the audience followed the panel discussion. Questions focused on the issue of accountability for international crimes; the issue of funding judicial institutions, such as hybrid criminal courts and the International Criminal Court; the conflict in Syria; or the prospect of more Asian countries becoming a State Party to the Rome Statute.

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