ResourcesPress Release

PHR Commemorates International Justice Day

Human Rights Organizations Emphasize Need to Arrest Perpetrators

For Immediate Release

PHR today marked International Justice Day by joining other human rights organizations in calling for an end to impunity for perpetrators of the world’s most serious crimes.

International Justice Day commemorates July 17, 1998, the day the international community adopted the Rome Statute, which led to the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Court is the first permanent international criminal court created to hold accountable the perpetrators of the world’s most serious crimes, including genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. To date, 122 states are party to the treaty.

"On International Justice Day, we join other human rights groups in calling for meaningful justice for countless people who have suffered at the hands of those charged with mass crimes by the ICC, such as President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, who is accused of genocide in Darfur," said Susannah Sirkin, PHR’s director of international policy and partnerships, and senior advisor. "When governments that are party to the Rome Statute flout their obligations to hand over suspects and enable perpetrators of the world’s most heinous crimes to live freely in positions of power, they insult the victims.

"Failing to arrest perpetrators reinforces the trauma suffered by countless survivors, and can perpetuate future violations," Sirkin added. "The capital, credibility and commitment of the international community is now at stake.  Governments must take concerted steps to ensure comprehensive justice, including reparations for the families of victims who have perished as well as for the survivors, many of whom continue to be displaced and traumatized years later."

Sirkin is among those speaking at an event today at the United Nations in honor of International Justice Day. The event is organized by the American NGO Coalition for the ICC (AMICC), the International NGO Coalition for the ICC (CICC), United to End Genocide, PHR, Amnesty International, and the International Justice Project.

Countless individuals around the world have been victims of mass atrocities, and most of the perpetrators have never been held accountable. The trend of reversing impunity has improved since the establishment of the ICC in 2002, and the Court’s important work continues today. The Court’s prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, is currently investigating or prosecuting crimes in the Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Sudan, and Uganda, and conducting preliminary analysis in eight additional countries.

PHR is a member of the CICC, and has conducted a number of human rights investigations, including forensic documentation of mass atrocities in Afghanistan, Burma, Libya, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Sudan. It also conducts training in the documentation of sexual violence and other abuses for Congolese, Kenyan, and Syrian colleagues, among others. PHR also coordinates the advocacy of the Washington Working Group on the ICC, a coalition dedicated to strengthening the U.S. relationship with the Court. Most recently, PHR has advocated for referral of the Syrian crisis to the ICC, and has welcomed the transfer of the Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda to the Court in The Hague.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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