By Luis Moreno Ocampo, New York Times, 01 July 2009
THE HAGUE — In 1998, more than 100 states adopted the Rome Statute to end impunity for those crimes that we had thought, over and over, would never happen again, only to see them occur, again and again: genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The states accepted their shared duty to punish massive atrocities and created a new actor, a judicial actor, on the international scene: a permanent International Criminal Court, which would step in when national courts failed to act.
An independent, permanent court with a global reach was the object of strong debate in Rome and, for some states, a motive to oppose the court.
The drafters of the Rome Statute were not naïve idealists. They were the ultimate realists. In their lifetimes, they had watched the Khmer Rouge kill millions, they had let Srebrenica happen and they had let Rwanda happen. They had failed the “never again” promises of their fathers.
During their careers as political leaders, diplomats and negotiators, they had tried every solution: They shook hands with devils, sent them off to golden exiles, tried to appease them with promises of immunity, power and wealth. Each time they gambled on impunity and each time they lost.
They learned the need to adjust tactics to a lasting solution. By integrating in one justice system states and an independent international court, the drafters provided incentives for states to prosecute the worst crimes themselves. If the states didn’t do it, the I.C.C. would.
Less than four years after its adoption in Rome, more than 60 states ratified the statute and it entered into force. In 2003, 18 judges representing the five continents were appointed, and I was given responsibility to be the prosecutor. Together, we had to transform the idea of ending impunity into a reality.
During our first year, we found that the gravest crimes under our jurisdiction were committed in Uganda and Congo. The presidents of these countries decided to refer those situations to the court. One year later, in March 2005, Britain and France spearheaded the U.N. Security Council decision to refer Darfur to the court.
No one could have predicted the speed of this integration between the international system of peace and security and the new permanent system of international justice.