International Justice Day: the future lies in the past

17 Jul 2015

Brussels, 17th July – The Day of International Criminal Justice is known as the date of the establishment in 1998 of a permanent International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute and try those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. But this day is first and foremost dedicated to those who chose not to ignore the past. Many across the world have decided to stand up and allow for the truth to be told openly and widely. ASF (Avocats Sans Frontières) and its partner organizations ASF-Canada and INSEC are supporting this endevour in six countries over three continents.

International media rarely report good news on international crimes: new conflicts erupt, new crimes are being committed. However, over years, remarkable progresses have been made in fighting against the impunity of those responsible for such crimes.

Recently, various post-conflicts States have decided to adopt legislations and create competent bodies to address major crimes committed in their countries. This is the case in the Central African Republic (with its Special Criminal Court), in Tunisia (with its Truth and Dignity Body), in Democratic Republic of Congo (with a newly adopted implementing legislation on the ICC), and in Burundi (with its Truth and Reconciliation Commission).

These mechanisms are the result of faith into – and, in some cases, the fight for – justice and truth. Clearly, these bodies are still at the beginning of defining their mandate. Others are looked with concerns in view of the major challenges they will be facing. But the mere existence of such mechanisms is already a positive sign that needs to be supported.

This support is even more crucial as conflict situations are dramatically increasing in different parts of the world: Libya, Ukraine, and Syria, just to name a few, but also Chad and, maybe soon, Burundi.

It is once again time to further encourage States to meet their obligations. Through the ICC but also various international conventions, they committed themselves to fight impunity and deliver justice to the victims and the accused, in their own country. They also share the responsibility to prosecute and try crimes committed elsewhere where no prosecution and trial can genuinely be guaranteed.

Once again it is time for all of us to remain vigilant and to support the voices of those who have chosen to stand up for reconciliation in their country and to face the truth. It might be the voices of victims, of the accused, or the commitment of judges and juries to the task.

According to a Burundian saying, the uncovered stone will cause no future harm to the hoe (« ibuye ryaserutse ntiriba ricishe isuka »). Ignoring the past is endangering the present and threatening the country’s future. For justice to play its crucial role in bringing a country to reconciliation and lasting peace, individuals need to be provided with the appropriate forum to share their experiences, accountability needs to be strengthened and truth needs to be uncovered.

Discover the stories of those involved in international justice in Burundi, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guatemala, Nepal and Uganda. Read and watch their testimonies on

The Crossroads project is implemented by ASF in partnership with ASF Canada and INSEC. It is funded by the European Union.

Cover picture:  ©Local Voices

Published in DR Congo | International justice | Transitional justice | Tunisia | Victim's rights | Burundi | Central African Republic | News

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