Today we mark the Day of International Criminal Justice, which provides an opportunity to update Parliament on the UK’s support for the principles and institutions of international justice in the previous calendar year.
Support for international criminal justice and international humanitarian law is a fundamental element of the UK’s foreign policy. The UK believes that justice and accountability for the most serious international crimes is crucial to building lasting peace and security.
The UK government believes that the International Criminal Court has an important role in pursuing accountability, but only when national authorities are either unable or unwilling to do so. The UK has long provided political, financial, and practical support to the ICC. We are one of the largest financial contributors to the Court, contributing £9.7m in 2018. An example of the UK’s practical support was the sentence enforcement by the Scottish Prison Service of Mr Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, who was convicted of destroying cultural heritage sites in Timbuktu.
In 2018, the ICC considered situations from across Africa, the Middle East, Europe, South East Asia and South America, with eleven situations subject to formal investigations, and proceedings continuing in three trials: the Ongwen Case (Uganda), the Ntaganda case (Democratic Republic of Congo), and the Gbagbo and Blé Goude case (Ivory Coast). Al Hassan (Mali), and Yekatom (Central African Republic) were surrendered to the ICC.
The ICC’s Trust Fund for Victims plans to launch an assistance programme in the Central African Republic, to provide physical and physiological rehabilitation, alongside material support for victims and their families. The UK contributed funds to the TFV for reparations to victims in Mali.
While the UK continues to support the role of the ICC, reform is required for the ICC to fulfil its mandate as intended under the Rome Statute. The UK will work with other States Parties, the Court, and Civil Society, to achieve this goal.
The International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) continued its mandate to fulfil the residual functions of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The IRMCT delivered an appeals judgment in the case of Radovan Karadžić, the former Bosnian Serb politician convicted in 2016 of genocide in Srebrenica. Karadžić's sentence, increased from 40 years to life, sends a clear message that those who commit atrocities will be held to account. The IRMCT continued to hear the retrial in the case of Stanišić and Simatović and issued a decision in the Šeselj contempt case.
The UK supported the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia and the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone through a total contribution of over £500,000. The UK has also been at the forefront of international efforts to gather and analyse evidence of atrocities committed in the Middle East. Since 2016, we have committed £950,000 to the UN International Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) to support the preparation of legal cases for serious crimes committed in the Syrian conflict. The UK also led efforts to adopt a UN Security Council resolution establishing an Investigative Team to collect, preserve and store evidence of Daesh atrocities in Iraq, and contributed £1m towards its operation. The first mass grave exhumation was in March 2019 in the Yezidi village of Sinjar.
In reaction to the Rohingya crisis in Burma, the UK worked closely with the EU and the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation to secure a UN Human Rights Council Resolution to establish a mechanism to collect and preserve evidence of human rights violations to support future prosecutions.
We will continue to update parliament on our support to international criminal justice through our Annual Human Rights Report.