International Justice

Promoting international justice to fight impunity for the most serious crimes (genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture, enforced disappearance) contributes to restoring respect for human rights and the rule of law in our societies and to upholding victims’ rights.

FIDH documents these crimes, assists victims before the courts and advocates for the adoption and implementation of independent procedures and judicial mechanisms.

FIDH intervenes before the national courts, and in application of extra-territorial or universal jurisdiction, before hybrid tribunals such as the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) and international courts such as the International Criminal Court (ICC).

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  • International Criminal Court (ICC)

    The adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 17 July 1998, which came into force on 1 July 2002, represented a historic step in the fight against impunity for perpetrators of the most serious crimes. It has now been ratified by two-thirds of the world’s States.

    Based in The Hague in the Netherlands, the ICC is a permanent, international criminal court with a universal vocation and the competence to exercise jurisdiction over those who have committed crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, where the States concerned are incapable of pursuing these individuals themselves or are unwilling to do so. In addition, the Court has jurisdiction in cases where crimes have been committed on the territory or by nationals of States who have accepted its jurisdiction, or where cases are referred to it by the United Nations Security Council.

    For the first time in the history of international justice, victims are recognised as having the right to take part in proceedings and to obtain reparation. FIDH actively participated in setting up the ICC. It worked to secure ratification and implementation of its statute by the largest number of States. Through its permanent representation at the ICC in The Hague in particular, FIDH follows the ICC’s activities on a daily basis and contributes to the dialogue between civil society and the Court.

    FIDH also feeds into the preliminary analyses and investigations of the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC by submitting, along with its member leagues in the countries concerned, communications on crimes committed in order to provide grounds for prosecutions by the Court.

    Lastly, FIDH pays particular attention to whether victims are able to effectively exercise their rights in Court proceedings.

    The growing importance of the ICC’s role and the extent of its mandate have also highlighted the challenges it faces, such as the lack of cooperation from States, the limited resources for the year-on-year rise in the number of situations under investigation, the yet-to-be-specified modalities for victim participation, representation and reparation and the difficulties with regard to raising the awareness and managing the expectations of the populations concerned.

  • Ad hoc and hybrid tribunals

    For twenty years, ad-hoc courts (for example the ICTY for ex-Yugoslavia and ICTR for Rwanda), ‘institutionalised’ courts such as the Special Court for Sierra Leone or Lebanon, as well as special tribunals or chambers in various countries such as East Timor, Kosovo and Cambodia, have been created to enable investigations and prosecutions in places where the national judicial systems do not permit them. These international or internationalised courts have, however, very precise, time-specific mandates; they are created as a mechanism for transitional justice following a conflict or particular event.

    FIDH has worked to see these courts set up and function effectively, and continues to work in this direction, for example in the creation of the Special Criminal Court in the Central African Republic.

    FIDH has also represented 10 civil parties, who were victims of crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge regime, in hearings before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).

  • Universal Jurisdiction

    Combating impunity for the most serious crimes also takes the form of recourse to national courts in other countries through universal or extraterritorial jurisdiction.

    This represents the last resort for victims when the courts in the countries where the crimes have been committed are ineffective and international courts do not have jurisdiction.

    When applying universal jurisdiction, a State puts on trial perpetrators of the most serious crimes committed in another country, in particular when these individuals are located in the territory of the State in question.

    FIDH works to ensure that States adopt laws to enable them to effectively prosecute crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and forced disappearance, whatever the territory in which the crimes were committed, and to effectively exercise this jurisdiction.

    Equally, FIDH encourages the development of joint national policies and strategies and the creation and consolidation of centres of expertise within States. It also takes part in meetings of the European Network of Contact Points concerning individuals responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

    FIDH represents numerous victims in extraterritorial jurisdiction proceedings regarding crimes committed in, for example, Syria, Libya, Algeria and the Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville), and has secured the conviction of those guilty of torture in Mauritania and Tunisia.

  • National courts

    Primary competence lies with the courts in the countries where the most serious crimes have been committed.

    FIDH seeks to consolidate the smooth administration of justice and the independent and impartial functioning of courts within the context of re-establishing the rule of law.

    Thus FIDH works to ensure that the most serious crimes are criminalised in national law and are effectively prosecuted at national level.

    FIDH directly supports victims of international crimes in their quest for justice and reparation and, on occasion, as an organisation assumes the status of civil party in national proceedings against perpetrators of the most serious crimes, notably in Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali and Central African Republic.