Day of International Criminal Justice: Dakar Conference
To commemorate the Day of International Criminal Justice, H.E. Mr. Sidiki Kaba, the President of the Assembly of States Parties, ("the President") convened, on 16 July 2016, a high- level conference in Dakar, Senegal, on "International Criminal Justice against Sexual and Gender- Based Crimes". The event was organized with the financial sponsorship of the governments of Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland.
Panellists included Ministers of Justice of the Central African Republic, Guinea and Italy, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court ("ICC" or "the Court"), the Prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the President and Chief Prosecutor of the Extraordinary African Chambers, a member of the ICC Board of Directors of the Trust Fund for Victims. Lawyers, judges, religious leaders, and representatives of regional organizations, academia, civil society and the private sector across the African continent and beyond attended the conference.
At the opening ceremony, the Prime Minister of Senegal, H.E. Mr. Mahammed Boun Abdallah Dionne, underlined the importance of addressing impunity for sexual and gender-based crimes, adding that the stigmatization of the victims of these crimes contributed to widespread impunity.
The Minister of Justice of Italy, H.E. Mr. Andrea Orlando, highlighted the importance of creating a culture in which societies have the capacity to identify, bring to light, repress and punish, with the national and international instruments available, the most heinous crimes that call into question the very essence of our humanity. H.E. Mr. Cheick Sako, Minister of Justice of Guinea, informed participants about progress in his country's prosecution of the perpetrators of the 28 September 2009 crimes, including sexual and gender-based crimes, and thanked the Prosecutor of the ICC for her Office's vital support and cooperation in this regard.
The Minister of Justice of the Central African Republic, H.E. Mr. Flavien Mbata, spoke about working closely with the Court, recalling his country's self-referrals in 2004 and 2014 and presented recent developments regarding the establishment of a Special Criminal Court with national and international judges, to investigate and prosecute atrocity crimes, including sexual and gender-based violence. The Prosecutor of the ICC, Mrs. Fatou Bensouda, underscored the particular strategic focus her Office is placing on the investigation and prosecution of sexual and gender-based crimes given their severity and frequency in conflict, highlighting the comprehensive Policy paper her Office issued in 2014 in this regard, and the significance of the recent Court decision convicting and sentencing Mr. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo for, amongst others, sexual and gender-based crimes committed by troops under his command and control.
Participants also discussed the contribution of civil society organizations working with and for the victims of wartime sexual violence and the historic role that international criminal justice institutions have played in the investigation and prosecution of such crimes. Reference was made to regional initiatives, such as the Extraordinary African Chambers established by the African Union and Senegal which had resulted in an exemplary and expeditious trial of the former President of Chad, Mr. Hissène Habré. The major role that national criminal justice systems play to confront the scourge of sexual and gender-based crimes, in accordance with the principle of complementarity, was also highlighted. In this context, the challenges of investigating and prosecuting sexual and gender-based violence and national lessons learned in this regard were discussed.
In closing the conference, President Kaba noted the discussions held in Dakar further strengthened dialogue and exchange of expertise between the ICC and Africa, thereby advancing the fight against impunity for sexual and gender-based crimes. He further highlighted the link between peace, democracy, stability, human dignity and justice. "Justice, whether at the national or the international level, while an individual desire, is a collective imperative for social cohesion and happiness. Every time peace is chosen over justice a further injustice has been created," he concluded.