After decades of genocides that met with impunity, in 1998 a courageous step was taken in the quest for truth and justice: the creation of the International Criminal Court. And I am proud to recall that the Statute of the Court was adopted here in Rome, 16 years ago on 17 July 1998. So if we are celebrating International Criminal Justice Day here in Italy, as in many other countries throughout the world, it is in homage to that historic event. But there is more. As we celebrate this anniversary, we are confirming and strengthening our support for international criminal jurisdiction.
Sadly, the world is still afflicted by conflicts, violence and persecutions that should attract an ever-stronger and more effective reaction from the community. First of all, by seeking to prevent them, using the instruments of diplomacy, dialogue and cooperation. And then to extinguish the many hotbeds of violence, stop wars, and seek to save every human life under threat. And lastly, to identify and punish – without ever turning a blind eye – all those responsible for atrocities that international law recognises and condemns as acts of genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity.
We have travelled a long and often arduous path. After the international military trials of Nuremberg and Tokyo in 1945-48, we had to wait decades before making new advances in asserting individual criminal liability in international crimes. Only after the dramatic events in the former Yugoslavia and in Ruanda in the early 1990s did the international community decide, with the United Nations Security Council’s initiative, to set up the two Tribunals to punish the crimes committed during those conflicts.
That period saw a strong drive from public opinion to set up a permanent international criminal court. A court that would already be in place to judge the most serious and odious crimes, no matter who the perpetrators, no matter where in the world they were committed.
In Rome, therefore, in the same city where in 1957 the European treaties were signed, the Statute of the International Criminal Court was born in 1998. This was conceived as an extraordinary instrument to promote peace, prevent conflict, protect victims and deter crimes that cannot and must not enjoy any impunity. But behind that formal act a cultural revolution was taking place, with the decision to assert the principle of international legality and criminal liability. And to ensure that it became embedded in people’s consciences and in relations between states.
Since 1 July 2002, when the Court was formally established, its authority and credibility have grown apace, as has the number of countries ratifying the Statute, which now stands at 122.
Italy has played a very important role since the start of the process of establishing the Court, in asserting the principle of international criminal law and rejecting impunity for international crimes. The Italian Parliament recently implemented the Statute of Rome, with changes in our domestic law that will enable our country to collaborate fully with the International Criminal Court. Only if international criminal justice is the fruit of a widely recognised and shared codification process, and only if it is administered by an independent and impartial judicial body, can we be assured that jurisdiction in international criminal matters will become evermore effective.
We want the Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union to be an opportunity in this area too, to urge all the countries of Europe to enter into a renewed and concrete commitment to promote human rights, international criminal justice and the principles inspiring it.
In this light, we recently set up a task force at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the participation of important organisations from civil society, to coordinate Italy’s campaign for a universal moratorium on the death penalty.
During the next session of the of the United Nations General Assembly, and more specifically in December 2014, Italy and the European Union will promote the adoption of a new resolution on the moratorium on capital punishment. In the intervening period we want to raise awareness and inform public opinion in countries where the death penalty is still in force. And we want to increase the consensus in the international community on this initiative, and on the 4 votes already held since 2007 at our country’s initiative.
International Criminal Justice Day is closely related to all this. In addition to celebrating the important results achieved to date, it gives us an opportunity to renew and revitalise the on-going commitment of Italy, its institutions and its many civil society organisations to assert the universal principles of respect for human dignity, protection of the fundamental rights, and the promotion of international criminal jurisdiction. A jurisdiction that serves to prevent crime, identify responsibility while rejecting impunity, and protect victims, throughout the world.
In this spirit, this year I have taken up the tradition of flying the flag of the International Criminal Court here at the Farnesina to mark this day, alongside those of Italy and of the European Union.