11 December 2012

Gambia: ICC Statement On Human Rights Day

Below is the statement of Judge Sang-Hyun Song, President of the International Criminal Court (ICC), on the Occasion of Human Rights Day, 10 December 2012

Sixty-four years ago today, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with the goal of ensuring that all people can live in freedom and with dignity. The rights enshrined in this charter belong to everyone regardless of race, religion, gender or socio-economic status. This groundbreaking list of protections has been a key milestone on the road to securing a world of genuine humanity, respect and equality.

The founding treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Rome Statute, which entered into force ten years ago, serves to defend some of the essential rights enumerated by the Declaration. Violations of the right to life and liberty, and violations of the prohibition of torture and slavery, for instance, form part of the crimes in the ICC's jurisdiction, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. By creating an international criminal court of last resort to deliver justice when national systems are unable or unwilling to, the Rome Statute aims at ending impunity for the most serious international crimes.

Today, as the ICC celebrates its 10th anniversary, the Court has 14 cases in 7 country situations, hundreds of witnesses under its protection programme and it has received more than 12,000 applications from victims seeking participation in the judicial proceedings. The Trust Fund for Victims is working with more than 80,000 victims in various countries in Africa. Almost two-thirds of the world's sovereign nations, 121 in total, have become States Parties. As such, the ICC's activities are having an enormous impact not just on individuals prosecuted before the Court, but also on the tens of thousands of direct victims, millions of people in the affected communities and societies, and indeed several billion people under the legal protection of the Rome Statute system.

This year, the ICC issued a landmark judgment in the case against Thomas Lubanga, concerning the conscription and enlistment of children under the age of 15 into armed forces and using them to participate actively in hostilities. This and other cases before the ICC are having an important impact by bringing the world's attention to the rights of the most vulnerable members of our society. With the understanding that the use of child soldiers is a crime that will be prosecuted, several nations have taken significant steps towards ending this deplorable practice.

Human Rights Day provides an excellent opportunity to reflect on the immense progress that we have achieved since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The ICC may be one of the most recent additions to the body of mechanisms that seek to protect and uphold human rights and dignity, but it is already delivering concrete results and a very credible promise of greater respect for and adherence to the rights of children, women and men everywhere.

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