- As a global conference focused on holding torturers and war criminals responsible for their crimes begins today in Uganda, the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ) emphasized the importance of a strong demonstration of Canadian leadership.
“This first formal review of the treaty that established the permanent International Criminal Court is a very important opportunity for a demonstration of commitment to bringing war criminals to justice,” said Jayne Stoyles, Executive Director of the CCIJ. “We expect to see a strong reaffirmation of support for the Court by the Government of Canada, but equally important will be Canada’s efforts to seek greater commitment and cooperation from other states.”
The ICC can hold individuals responsible for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity and enjoyed support in particular from African, Latin American and Western countries during the original treaty negotiations in 1998 and afterwards. The issuing of an arrest warrant for Sudan’s President Al-Bashir in March 2009 on charges related to the genocide in Darfur – the first ICC warrant against a sitting head of state – led some African countries to threaten withdrawal.
With an estimated 2000 delegates expected to attend, the 10-day Review Conference in Kampala will allow for the airing of these and other issues facing the Court. The first portion of the meeting will focus on four key areas, including state cooperation with the ICC and the connection between peace and justice.
In addition, delegates will discuss possible amendments to the treaty. The most challenging of these will be the definition and trigger mechanisms for the crime of aggression – using force against another state – for which no agreement could be reached during the original treaty conference.
CCIJ is also calling on Canada to demonstrate more support for the Court by committing to undertaking more war crimes trials in Canada. “The ICC has limits on its jurisdiction and funding, and its success will also depend on whether member states fulfill their commitments to undertake war crimes cases in their national courts,” added Stoyles. “This is the only way to ensure that there is a global web of accountability so that there is nowhere for war criminals to hide.”
Canada was the first member of the ICC to pass such legislation upon ratifying the treaty in 2000. Last year saw the successful conviction and sentencing of a Rwandan man under this new war crimes law, for his role in the Rwandan genocide. A second arrest warrant has now been issued for a Rwandan living in Canada.
CCIJ indicates that this successful trial reflected well on Canada, and Stoyles says she is anxious to see other cases go forward. “There are an estimated 2000 war criminals currently living in Canada, yet the current budget for the federal War Crimes Program is only sufficient for one trial at a time. That absolutely has to change if Canada is serious about helping to prevent genocide through justice.”
CCIJ is the only organization in Canada that works with survivors of genocide, torture and other atrocities to seek redress and bring perpetrators to justice.