Press Release: 23 January 2020

International Criminal Court Marks Opening of the Judicial Year 2020

The Judges of the International Criminal Court and eminent guests at the opening of the ICC judicial year 2020 on 23 January 2020 at the seat of the Court in The Hague ©ICC-CPI

On 23 January 2020, the International Criminal Court ("ICC" or "Court") marked the opening of its judicial year with a Special Session at the seat of the Court in The Hague, Netherlands, featuring keynote speaker Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Hon. Patricia Scotland QC. The event gathered senior judges representing national jurisdictions as well as regional or international courts, and members of the diplomatic corps, civil society and international organisations. 

In her keynote address, the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Hon. Patricia Scotland QC stated: "The Rome Statute and ICC decisions have contributed to phenomenal progress in the recognition of rape and sexual violence as war crimes and crimes against humanity. Although there is still much work to be done […] the fact that they are now recognised as international crimes and punishable acknowledges the sufferings of victims who had been ignored for too long." The Secretary-General also highlighted that the Commonwealth Secretariat has developed a Model Law for the implementation of the Rome Statute to assist member countries in incorporating international crimes and ICC cooperation obligations in domestic law.

In his opening remarks, the President of the Court, Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji emphasised the achievement the ICC represents: "With 123 member states from all corners of the globe, the ICC edifies the organized world's stance against impunity for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression", he said. "The Court has sent a clear message that those who abuse power while bringing innocent victims to extreme agony will be haunted by questions of accountability, eventually to be answered before an international court of law, when national courts prove unable or unwilling to ask them genuinely".

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda stated: "We must stand firmly by the ICC and its crucial mandate. We owe it to the victims of unimaginable atrocities who continue to look at the Court as a beacon of hope and justice. We owe it to the betterment of humanity and to future generations so that they may live in a more secure, peaceful and just world, as the founders of the Rome Statute so rightly envisaged. I, along with my dedicated and tireless team in this courtroom and across my Office, look forward to continuing to discharge our independent, and ever necessary, mandate."

Moreover, ICC Registrar Peter Lewis said: "I am proud of and grateful to all the people in the Registry who work tirelessly, with diligence, respect, and a strong commitment to the mission of the Court."

In addition, the President of the International Criminal Court Bar Association (ICCBA) Peter Haynes emphasised that the "recognition of the ICCBA by the Assembly of States Parties at its 18th session was a significant step forward, not just for the association but for the Court too. There will be closer collaboration between those who practice at the bar and all ICC organs which will benefit all aspects of judicial and administrative operation.[…] The ICCBA is entirely supportive of the ICC's strategic aims and it stands ready to prove itself a valid and valuable partner in delivering them".

The Special Session was followed by the Third Annual Judicial Seminar of the ICC to allow critical reflection and exchange of views on topical issues. In addition to judges of the ICC, the seminar was attended by ca. 30 judges from international, regional and national courts, including several chief justices of ICC States Parties.

The opening of the Judicial Year 2020 ceremony and Judicial Seminar were organised with the support of the Governments of Cyprus, Nigeria and Sweden as well as the Municipality of The Hague.

Audio-Visual materials:

YouTube (for viewing)

Audio (for download)

Video (for download)

Remarks by ICC President Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji at the Special Session for the Opening of ICC 2020 Judicial Year

Address by The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth at the Opening of the ICC 2020 Judicial Year 

Summary of the Third Annual Judicial Seminar of the ICC

For further information, please contact Fadi El Abdallah, Spokesperson and Head of Public Affairs Unit, International Criminal Court, by telephone at: +31 (0)70 515-9152 or +31 (0)6 46448938 or by e-mail at: [email protected]

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