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
As Debate Closes, Global Action to Reinvigorate the Fight against Impunity Begins
David Tolbert
ICTJ President

I write to close this online debate but only in the most technical sense of the word, as the discussion on how we reinvigorate the fight against impunity is at the very heart of the human rights movement at this moment in time. Fighting impunity is a pressing moral imperative for us all. It is also an issue of the utmost urgency, as the lives and wellbeing of millions of people across the planet hang in the balance.

I would like to thank all of our participants who contributed to the debate. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid and Professor Michael Ignatieff proved to be worthy debaters and did an excellent job of framing the issues for us. The interventions by Justice Fatou Bensouda, Aryeh Neier, Betty Murungi and Professor James Stewart were innovative and thought provoking. Our distinguished commentators put important ideas on the table that will be critical in re-energizing the fight against impunity. More generally, I was impressed by the many comments that were made in response to the debate. Indeed, some sharp points were raised or refined by interventions “from the floor.”

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