Media Release: ICC offers hope of justice for women

Nobel peace laureates call for signatories to strengthen financial and political support to the International Criminal Court.

The world is facing a critical moment in international justice – especially for women–according to Nobel Laureates Wangari Maathai and Shirin Ebadi.  The two, along with Sudanese civil society and human rights activist, Suzanne Jambo, called for a global end to impunity at the first ever review of the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC) this week in Uganda.

“To bring about peace, justice and reconciliation the world must punish perpetrators and hold them accountable.  The ICC brings hope to victims of the most horrific crimes the world has seen–and should serve as a model for states to strengthen their own justice systems,” said Ebadi at a press conference in Kampala on Friday.  “This Review Conference is a critically important opportunity for states to reaffirm their commitment to global justice.”

The two Nobel Peace Laureates are calling for signatories to the Rome Statute to strengthen their financial support to the ICC, as well as their political support.

“This week many states have said that they support the Court.  Now will be the time for them to turn their words into action,” said Maathai.

The ICC has established groundbreaking standards in criminal prosecution and accountability particularly for women. Maathai lauds that crimes against women–such as rape, sexual slavery and forced sterilization–are recognized as crimes against humanity, war crimes and in some instances genocide.  All of the current cases the ICC is focusing on include investigations of the gross human rights violations against women.

“The women of Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Central African Republic – indeed women everywhere – need justice to be served against the perpetrators who destroyed their bodies, their families, their communities,” said Maathai.  “When national justice systems fail them, they need the ICC as a recourse to obtain justice and hold the criminals accountable for their actions.”

Jambo added that it is nearly impossible to build lasting peace without the full participation of women.  “You cannot build peace without justice. The women of Sudan and other conflict situations need strong sexual violence laws to protect their families and communities, and they need those laws to be enforced,” she said.  “In the absence of such laws, the ICC is their only recourse.”

So far, 111 countries have ratified the Rome Statute that created the ICC–including 30 in Africa.  Maathai noted that the ICC was born in the aftermath of some of the most horrific violent conflicts in the 1990s in Africa, including Rwanda and Liberia.

“African nations led the foundation of this court because Africans want accountability. Whether it is Kenya or Sudan, African leaders must once again show leadership by taking responsibility to prosecute the most serious crimes,” said Maathai.

Many see the court as the last resort for accountability in their countries.  The Peace Laureates today urged the international community not to forget the egregious human rights violations taking place in Burma.

Ebadi said, “We know that the military regime in Burma has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.  This is a case that absolutely should be referred to the ICC by the United Nations Security Council. The crimes against the women and people of Burma must not be ignored.”

Maathai and Ebadi called on states to work with the International Criminal Court and each other to advance international justice.

“The work cannot be done by the ICC alone.  States have a responsibility to co-operate with and assist the court to punish those who have committed crimes against humanity,” said Maathai.  “Those who are not guilty have nothing to fear.”

Find out more about the Nobel peace laureates’ delegation to the first Review Conference of the International Criminial Court here.