Archived February 09, 2015 - March 12, 2015

Is the International Community Abandoning the Fight Against Impunity?

In recent years the world has seen no respite in conflict where civilians are being particularly targeted with increased brutality. Reports of the devastation wrought by conflict and terror seem to overtake one another with civilian casualties soaring in Syria, Central African Republic, Gaza, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Sudan, Ukraine, and more.

Especially worrying is that, increasingly, impunity reigns for the perpetrators of these atrocities, and political will and cooperation in upholding the interests of justice seem to have faltered: African governments have vowed to shield sitting heads of state from judicial oversight, and in Guatemala, despite huge efforts by victims and civil society, political forces continue to derail the trial of a former dictator accused of genocide. Meanwhile, the UN Security Council failed to refer the violence in Syria to the ICC, and the ICC Chief Prosecutor, citing a UN Security Council stalemate that can “only embolden perpetrators”, announced the suspension of the Court’s investigation of the genocide in Darfur, Sudan.

These developments have recently prompted ICTJ President David Tolbert to sound a warning that the international community is backsliding on its obligations to protect human rights. To continue this conversation, in this ICTJ Online Debate we ask: Is the international community abandoning the fight against impunity?

Need to catch up? View Opening Remarks
The Impunity Debate Continues
David Tolbert
President, International Center for Transitional Justice

In the rebuttals stage of the ICTJ Impunity Debate, we're pleased to welcome responses from our two participants, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, and Professor Michael Ignatieff. I invite you to read and comment on their provocative arguments.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

The ICC is just one of the many mechanisms in the multi-layered fight against impunity. The primary responsibility to foster accountability lies with States themselves.

Michael Ignatieff
Professor and Human Rights Scholar

The crisis of faith over impunity, I am trying to argue, is really a crisis of faith about whether history is still on the side of human rights, transitional and international justice.

James G. Stewart
Assistant Professor, University of British Columbia Faculty of Law

Impunity isn’t a single phenomenon; it means different things from one context to the next. Corporate impunity—by far the most entrenched kind—follows its own separate logic.

Fatou Bensouda
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court

We must remain unwavering in our resolve to create a world that seeks justice for atrocity crimes, universally and blindly applied. Our actions –braced by our collective determination– must carry this conviction forward.

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