Rome Statute Review Conference to Challenge Negative Perceptions

By Celeste Little
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

KAMPALA, Uganda- Monday, May 31 begins a two week conference in Kampala, Uganda to review the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court hosted by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. The conference will be attended by representatives of state parties to the International Criminal Court (ICC), based in the Hague, the Netherlands. Fifteen hundred to two thousand delegates are expected to attend.

The Rome Statute is a treaty that established the International Criminal Court, its functions, jurisdiction, and structure in Rome, Italy on July 17, 1998 and was implemented on July 1, 2002. There are 110 states which are party to the statute and  there are 38 states which have signed and not ratified the treaty. The seven countries that voted against the treaty are Iraq, Israel, Libya, China, Qatar, the United States, and Yemen.

The ICC is defined by the Rome Statute, as a permanent tribunal to prosecute the most serious international crimes. The statute requires its own review, and in turn a review of the ICC, every seven years and the upcoming conference in Uganda is the first time since 2002 that the statute has been reviewed.

One of the two primary focuses of this year’s conference is to make changes to Article 125 of the statute, which deals with the crime of aggression, it’s definition, and the use of certain weapons to constitute war crimes. The second major focus is stocktaking, where non-governmental organizations and other key parties will discuss the impact of the Rome statute on four pertinent areas–the impact of the Rome Statute system on victims and their communities, cooperation, complementarity and peace and justice.

Currently, the ICC is prosecuting suspected war criminals in several situations. In the situation in Uganda, the top five members of the Lords Resistance are being prosecuted for war crimes. And in it’s prosecution of war criminals related to the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the individuals being prosecuted is the alleged founder of the Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPC), Thomas Lubanga Dylo, who is being prosecuted for war crimes including “conscripting and enlisting children under the age of fifteen years and using them to participate actively in hostilities” according to the ICC arrest warrant.

The Sudanese president, Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir is being prosecuted for war crimes which amount genocide.  In the Central African Republic, the alleged president and commander-in-chief of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, is being prosecuted for war crimes which include murder, rape, torture, pillaging, and outrages upon personal dignity and crimes against humanity,  including murder, rape, and torture. Furthermore, the situation in Kenya was recently opened for investigation.

Critics have said that the ICC has only prosecuted crimes committed in Africa, which evidences that it is a primarily European court, targeting Africans. The ICC has considered this negative perception in choosing to hold the review conference in Uganda as well as the revue the conference would bring to the country.

The ICC is launching a YouTube series of videos which will cover the review conference, for those who are interested in further education regarding the discussions that will occur during these next two weeks.

For more information, please see:

Voice of America– Uganda Hosts Review of Rome Statute Conference— 30 May 2010

AFP-ICC Seeks More Teeth at Kampala Meet-29 May 2010

Daily Nation-Nation Meets in Kampala to Chart Future of Hague Court-29 May 2010

Author: Impunity Watch Archive