New ICC home opens: Against all odds, international justice is here to stay

icc home opens

Described as the “peace palace of the 21st century”, the permanent premises of the world’s first and only International Criminal Court opened in the Hague on 19 April 2016. © ICC-CPI / Aleksandra Milic

The opening of the permanent premises of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague sends a clear message to the world that international criminal justice is here to stay despite past and continuing challenges to its authority.

His Majesty King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands officially opens the ICC permanent premises in The Hague on 19 April 2016. Coalition for the ICC Convenor William R. Pace joins the Netherlands foreign affairs minister and the mayor of The Hague as a speaker at the ceremony. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Assembly of States Parties President Sidiki Kaba, and ICC President Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi were among the 350 representatives from states, international organizations, NGOs, academia, and media in attendance.

SecretaryGeneral Ban Ki-moon (centre) with King Willem-Alexander (centre right) of the Netherlands and other attendees. UN Photo_Rick Bajornas

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (centre) with King Willem-Alexander (centre right) of the Netherlands, William R. Pace Convenor of the CICC (left) and other attendees © UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

William R. Pace, Convenor of the Coalition for the ICC

“The strengthening of international criminal justice in the last 20 years, and especially the adoption of the Rome Statute and the establishment of the new system of international criminal justice and this great Court, will be viewed as revolutionary advancements of peace and the rule of law. That many of the greatest instruments of peace, international humanitarian and human rights law would not be adopted today should only reinforce our commitment, and enhance our celebration of this great institution.

History will owe a tremendous debt to the partnership of the Coalition and the 70 likeminded governments – mostly the mid-size and small democracies – that stood up to the biggest powers and dictatorships who were trying to prevent the ICC being established, and who must stand up again to reject the ongoing serious threats and challenges to the ICC and the Rome Statute. The opening of this peace palace of the 21st century sends a message across the world that international criminal justice is here to stay.”

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Mr William R. Pace, Convenor of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court during his statement at the opening of the permanent premises of the Court © ICC-CPI/Michelle Johnson

David Donat Cattin, Secretary-General of Parliamentarians for Global Action

“The inauguration of the permanent premises of the ICC is yet another manifestation that the fight against impunity is not a temporary or transitional priority for the international community as a whole, but it is an imperative without an end-date.

The ICC is called to apply a body of norms that forms part of customary International Law since the Nuremberg Trials of 1945 and the Moscow Declaration of the Allied Powers of 1943: No immunity or any other bar to the effective exercise of jurisdiction before a competent international jurisdiction may be opposed by States, whether they are parties or not to the Rome Statute. As the Statute’s preamble reaffirms, ‘it is the duty of every State to exercise its criminal jurisdiction over those responsible for international crimes’. The permanence of the ICC is a reminder for all that such a policy goal must be met by States without compromises, to serve the inalienable rights of the victims of genocides, crimes against humanity, war crimes and wars of aggression.”

A view of the International Criminal Court (ICC) premises. UN Photo_Rick Bajornas

A view of the International Criminal Court (ICC) premises © UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

The Court shifted operations to its new home on 14 December 2015. Since the move, the permanent premises has already seen judges authorize the first ICC investigation outside of Africa, convict a rebel commander, open a former head-of-state’s trial, and confirm for trial two additional cases, with one containing the most charges to date at the ICC and the other the first charge of destruction of cultural heritage as a war crime. The new building’s design—by Danish architectural firm schmidt hammer lassen—was selected in 2010 following an international competition, and construction work began on 16 April 2013.

Read more: Five facts about the ICC’s new home

Background

The ICC is the world’s first permanent international court to have jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Central to the Court’s mandate is the principle of complementarity, which holds that the Court will only intervene if national legal systems are unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

There are currently ten active investigations before the ICC: the Central African Republic I & II; Democratic Republic of Congo; Darfur, Sudan; Kenya; Libya; Uganda; Côte d’Ivoire; Mali and Georgia.

The ICC has publicly issued 33 arrest warrants and nine summonses to appear. Four trials are ongoing. There have been two convictions and one acquittal. Seven preliminary examinations currently ongoing, including into situations in Afghanistan, Colombia, Guinea, Palestine, Iraq/UK, Nigeria and Ukraine. The OTP has concluded preliminary examinations relating to Honduras, Venezuela, Palestine, the Republic of Korea and the Comoros referral, declining in each case to open an investigation.

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Public gallery at the ICC Permanent Premises © ICC-CPI/ Aleksandra Milic

About us

The Coalition for the International Criminal Court is a global network of civil society organizations in 150 countries fighting for justice to victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide through national courts and the international Criminal Court. www.coalitionfortheicc.org

Further reading

ICC Permanent Premises officially opened by His Majesty King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands – ICC/CPI

Statement of CICC Convenor William R. Pace on the Official Opening of ICC’s permanent premises – CICC

Statement of the Informal Ministerial Network on the occasion of the Opening of the Permanent Premises of the ICC – IMN

UN chief opens new building for under-fire ICC – Justice Info

Ban heralds opening of permanent home for ICC as ‘milestone’ in global effort to uphold rule of law – UN News Center

Official Opening of the ICC Permanent Premises –  Parliamentarians for Global Action

Global community looks at The Hague as ICC opens new building – Justice Hub

International Criminal Court opens its ‘peace palace’ – The Irish Times

Ministers vow to protect ICC from unfair criticism – Journalists for Justice

International criminal court of last resort – Nigeria Today

Read more: Five facts about the ICC’s new home

Check out the ICC flickr photos of the ceremony

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