On July 17th, I had the privilege of coordinating and organizing an unprecedented forum that brought a diverse set of actors and stakeholders together to commemorate the 3rd annual International Justice Day at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. On this day, we were joined by a group of prominent organizations working on international criminal justice, human rights, and genocide and atrocities prevention, including the American NGOs Coalition for the ICC, the International Coalition for the ICC, Amnesty International USA, Physicians for Human Rights, and the International Justice Project. The event was cosponsored by the Permanent Missions of the Netherlands, Costa Rica, and Lichtenstein to the United Nations as a demonstration of their government’s commitment to the cause of justice.
A diverse array of speakers from the diplomatic missions, the UN Office on Genocide Prevention, the US Office of Global Criminal Justice from the Department of the State, international NGOs, and survivors of the genocide and mass atrocities in Darfur, the Congo and Rwanda were present to participate in panels and roundtable discussion. This forum provided an opportunity for advocates and policymakers to create connections that will inform their policy priorities from the perspective of those who are directly affected and need justice the most.
As a genocide survivor who has lived through many forms of injustice, International Justice Day was important to me personally. As an advocate, I believe it is important for the advancement of the principles for which I stand. Genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity are crimes of a global magnitude that require a global response. They destroy lives and communities while affecting our world’s peace and security at large. Unfortunately, these crimes often go unpunished as a result of institutional failure to hold the perpetrators accountable.
It has been ten years since the genocide in Darfur began and four years since the ICC issued the arrest warrant against President Bashir, yet he remains free to commit these crimes against innocent men, women and children. While Bashir is wanted by the ICC for the crimes committed in Darfur, many countries have played a complacent role in allowing Bashir the freedom to travel freely and commit these crimes with impunity.
Despite the many challenges to the pursuit of justice, this International Justice Day event highlighted the efforts and optimism of the many advocates and policymakers involved in the global movement to fight against impunity. I believe with this kind of collaboration we will sustain the movement and build the tools and networks through which justice and accountability for genocide and atrocities will be made a priority within the international, regional, and domestic institutional agendas. The gathering served as a reminder to evaluate and think collectively on how we can strengthen the ICC by renewing our call to the member states of the ICC and the Security Council to fulfill their commitment to justice.
The participants at the International Justice Day event recognized the challenges ahead, but equally recognized that accountability should never be compromised in the face of difficulty. We are rewarded by the commitment of all those who participated in the forum who have demonstrated their personal and institutional commitment to fighting impunity. It is imperative that every April, on the anniversary of historic genocides, members of the anti-genocide movement come together to commemorate previous genocides and hold remembrance events to honor the victims. As a genocide survivor, I believe the true honoring of the victims must go beyond commemorations. We honor the victims by standing together, denouncing impunity, and demanding justice by enabling institutions hold perpetrators accountable.
Will you join the movement?