The Rome Treaty Review Conference: prospects for transitional justice with and beyond the International Criminal Court

15 June 2010

David Tolbert, President of International Center for Transitional Justice, explained that a new definition for a crime of aggression had been agreed upon at the Rome Treaty Review Conference, which is important in carrying forward the work of the Court, but there is still a long legal and diplomatic process before it can be put into effect.

Mr Tolbert described the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s four key areas: victims, peace and justice, complementarity, and cooperation. Victims are at the “heart of the Court’s work”, so states need to be more aware of the need: to protect victims, to take part in proceedings and to educate victims about the Court’s capacity and limitations, and the victim’s support fund needs to be increased.

“Peace and justice clearly go together” in the medium- and long-term, while in the short-term tension can exist between the ICC and peace mediators and negotiators. However, dealing with the past in post-conflict and post-authoritarian societies is essential, as victims need to have their suffering recognised and changes need to be made in the sectors which enabled the crimes; otherwise there will be no hope for a peaceful future.

The complementarity principle is “central to the future of the ICC” as it is intended to complement domestic courts, because the ICC alone can only prosecute a minimal amount of those who need to be brought to justice.

“The ICC has no means of coercion,” making cooperation between the ICC and the UN, national sector agencies as well as peacekeeping operations crucial. The ICC depends on cooperation to obtain witnesses and documents, some of which may be confidential and can complicate the ICC’s relationship with other actors. Thus care should be taken to strengthen such relationships.

The EU should be commended for its important role in international justice, but should also promote truth-telling initiatives and recognise victims’ needs.