The long road to ending impunity: we can’t get there without the ICC

Twenty years ago in Rome, world leaders took a bold step by establishing the ICC. A lot has been achieved in two decades, but all victims of international atrocities deserve justice. We must continue to build on what we have on this long road to justice.

Today we celebrate that the fact that 20 years ago, the international community set forth on an ambitious new path, inspired by a desire to end impunity for the most serious international crimes. Around the world, leaders agreed on the need for a permanent court to hold perpetrators of such crimes to account. To this end, they adopted the Rome Statute, opening the door to the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and a new age of accountability.

Now, 20 years on, a lot has been achieved. International justice and accountability have become watchwords throughout the world. One hundred twenty-three countries are party to the Rome Statute, and more than 2,500 civil society organisations in 150 countries, large and small, fight for global justice for victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and, as of today, the crime of aggression.

The path we set out on in Rome, has not just been an unwavering line towards success. Nor did we expect it to be. The road to justice is long and takes patience and perseverance, as justice is hardly ever quick. There have been serious setbacks: some states have withdrawn from the Statute, while others refused to arrest key suspects. And although 123 states represent the majority of the international community, there are still many states – including some major powers – that have not yet signed on to the Statute.

Twenty years later, not all ambitions expressed in the Statute have been achieved. But this is no reason to lose confidence. Nor is it a time for complacency. Twenty years is a short span of time when you consider the scope of the ambitions. Think of the many decades of hard work involved in prosecuting Nazi officials after the war. Think of the example of other specialized courts, like ICTY. They show us: Justice takes time and prolonged effort.

Therefore, on this historic day we should look to the future. If we want the ICC to fulfil its primary mandate – ending impunity for the most serious crimes – we must join forces to make this happen. This means coming together to provide the necessary political, financial and logistical support. Only then can the ICC bring justice to the victims of the most serious crimes. We call upon states to ratify the Rome Statute. We call upon those who have already done so to continue their support.

The Netherlands remains firmly committed to fighting impunity and will remain a loyal ally to the ICC. Justice is rarely swift, but it can be done. Let’s all persist in our support of the ICC.