International Justice Day, or International Criminal Justice Day, has been observed every year on July 17 since 1998, marking the day on which the international community adopted the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Odhikar and FIDH have been commemorating International Justice Day for several years, both on their own and as members of the International Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC). On this day, the Rome Statute of the ICC was adopted by the international community, with an aim to end impunity for international crimes, namely genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression.
Bangladesh signed the Rome Statute in September 1999, and ratified it in March 2010 after a prolonged campaign carried out by Odhikar with the collaboration of the CICC and FIDH. Odhikar was very active in campaigning and lobbying with the government for the ratification of the Rome Statute of the ICC since 2002. As part of this campaign, Odhikar facilitated the visit of the then ICC President, Judge Sang-Hyun Song, to Bangladesh in December 2009, which had a positive impact in the ICC ratification process.
On this day, Odhikar and FIDH reflect on the suffering of millions of children, women and men who were victims of international crimes committed in Bangladesh during 1971, irrespective of their ethnic, cultural, religious or political ideology. After 45 years, international crimes continue to take place in Bangladesh, due to unwillingness of the government to prosecute those responsible and a resulting culture of impunity. Allegations of systematic enforced disappearances by the state security forces, which is considered a ‘crime against humanity’ under article 7 of the Rome Statute of the ICC, have frequently emerged over the years and seem to be increasing. According to documentation gathered by Odhikar, from January 2009 to June 2015, a total of 208 persons were reported as forcibly disappeared : 71 of these individuals later reappeared alive, the bodies of 28 others were found, and the whereabouts of the remaining 109 persons still remain unknown. Odhikar and FIDH express grave concern over the incidents of enforced disappearance across the country, which appear to be systematic, and recall that such actions are crimes subject to prosecution under the Rome Statute and that those responsible must be brought to justice.
July 17th serves as an important reminder for all States committed to justice to ensure continued support for the International Criminal Court and for accountability for the most serious crimes. Odhikar and FIDH call upon all State Parties to support the ICC in its pursuit for justice and rule of law, and urge those countries who have not ratified or acceded to the Rome Statute to do so and to turn the ICC into a truly universal criminal justice instrument.