This year, we celebrate the 225th anniversary of the US Constitution. Philadelphians should be proudly participating, as this truly revolutionary document was crafted and signed right here in our city. We should be proud not only of the way the Constitution laid the basis for our democracy, but especially for how it has allowed us to build democracy through the rule of law. Beyond the Bill of Rights, the legacy of the Constitution is the independence of the judiciary, the accountability of all before the law and the system of enforcement of that accountability.

That legacy is going viral worldwide as witnessed by the fact that 2012 is the third year that we celebrate July 17 as the “World Day for International Justice.” On that day in 1998, the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC) was signed in Rome and the process of fighting impunity for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and large scale aggression became institutionalized. On July 1, 2002, the treaty took effect, and the ICC started its work.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the ICC, wrongly labeled often as the “war crimes court”. The ICC has been in the news lately and the acronym is becoming known among policy makers and politicians. This year the court delivered its first verdict and punishment; the term of prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo expired, and Fatou Bensouda, from The Gambia, was elected to succeed him; and in June the ICC had its first diplomatic spat when the new rulers of Libya arrested four of its staffers.

The history of the ICC really began with the World War II Nuremberg Trials as a legal venue to address Nazi war crimes. Those trials were rooted in the concept of the rule of law, as incorporated in U.S. politics. Hence, the ICC was created to end “impunity” for those political leaders and individuals who were committing crimes against humanity, wartime atrocities, genocide, and aggression. It did so, using the culture of the rule of law. The USA is fully engaged in the work of the ICC, using vigorously our observer status in the Assembly of States Parties, which currently consists of 121 countries that have ratified the Rome statute.

The ICC is the first permanent, international, independent criminal court, based on conducting fair and just trials with due process for both the accused and their victims. For the first time ever there are now globally-applied provisions for the rights of victims to be represented at trial, and legal protections for the accused. The Court has limited jurisdiction in that nations have primacy to try an accused from their country if they have a functioning judiciary that can hold a fair and just trial.

The cases before the Court include crimes against women, rape, sexual slavery, human trafficking, enlistment of child soldiers and more. These are considered, for the first time, crimes against humanity. These charges have changed the focus in the U.S., including the media, and have put these issues front and center in our debates about the ICC and about human tragedy in general. They have encouraged victims to come forward and provided NGO’slike Human Rights Watch with new venues.

The ICC needs major political support, especially from democracies and engaged global citizens. A major partner in the formation and support of the ICC is the non-governmental Coalition for the International Criminal Court CICC). The CICC embodies 2500 groups worldwide, including the American NGO Coalition for the ICC (AMICC).

We need to work hard to underscore that political support with knowledge. The American Bar Association (ABA) calls for rapid education and constructive national dialogue about the ICC. Hence, to educate and to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the ICC, and the 225th Anniversary of the U.S. Constitution, a group of interested Philadelphians has planned professional seminars and educational activities in 2012-2013, starting with a “kick-off” conference (open to the public) on September 10 at the Free Library. The conference will include greetings by ICC President Judge Sang-Hyun Song, discussions on the ICC and U.S. Constitution with ambassadors, the president-elect of the ABA, and NGO leaders. These events are being coordinated by the United Nations Association of Greater Philadelphia, the Temple University Beasley School of Law, and the International Law Committee of the Philadelphia Bar Association.

Enid H. Adler, Esquire
Board Member UNA-GP,
Representative (1998-Present)
Coalition for the International Criminal Court