Remarks by Jonathan Fanton Announcing the MacArthur Award for International Justice
October 20, 2008 | Speech | Human Rights

“Advocacy before the Inter-American and African Human Rights Bodies: A Cross-Regional Agenda,” at American University Washington College of Law Colloquium

Good morning. I am Jonathan Fanton, President of the MacArthur Foundation. It is a great pleasure to join Dean Grossman in welcoming you to this colloquium on the importance of regional courts and commissions.

This is one of four convocations the MacArthur Foundation is sponsoring to mark its 30th anniversary. We began in April with a conference at DePaul University to assess the progress and prospects of the International Criminal Court. Early next year, there will be a symposium at the Yale Law School on building political will to advance the system of international justice, followed by an event at Berkeley that will explore how witnesses and victims participate in international courts and tribunals.

Washington College of Law, distinguished by its long commitment to human rights and international law, is an appropriate venue for the second convocation in our series. MacArthur is deeply impressed by the work of your Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, International Human Rights Law Clinic, and War Crimes Research Office, among many.

Monitoring and reporting on the Inter-American Court, analyzing defense procedures for those indicted by the ICC, training both scholars and activists in human rights law, and more, the College has established American University as a leading venue for research, debate, and action in our quest for an effective system of international justice.

The international contributions of your faculty members are far-reaching: Claudio Grossman as past-president of the Inter-American Commission and now chair of the UN Committee Against Torture; Herman Schwartz advising new governments in Eastern and Central Europe on constitutional reform; Robert Goldman, another former Inter-American Commission president, now serving on the International Commission of Eminent Jurists Panel on Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism, and Human Rights; and Diane Orentlicher working with the UN as Independent Expert on Combating Impunity.

Your work resonates profoundly with our aspiration to advance the rights of all to seek redress when national courts fail to produce justice.

Over the years, MacArthur has supported 600 institutions working on the frontlines in 90 countries to expose abuses and strengthen the rule of law. We have a deep interest in helping fashion an integrated system of international justice that includes the International Criminal Court, regional human rights courts and commissions, and special tribunals impaneled by the United Nations.

MacArthur supported the Coalition for the ICC that helped bring the Court into existence more quickly than expected; Global Rights, among others, to gather evidence useful in the Court’s first cases; The Institute of War and Peace Reporting to train local journalists to cover ICC trials; Redress to help engage victims and witnesses; and the International Bar Association to conduct independent analysis of the Court’s proceedings.

We hope that stronger accountability will deter those who would commit mass atrocities. But we know there will be situations that require prompt action to prevent future Rwandas. MacArthur was privileged to support the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty which articulated the doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect, adopted by the U.N. in 2005. It affirms that when states fail to protect or, worse, commit abuses against their own citizens, the international community must step in to protect civilians.

The world has a stronger arsenal for justice than ever before. While each element had quite separate origins, we are on the cusp of forging an integrated system of international justice out of the disparate parts. The age of impunity is about to give way to the age of accountability. The high profile cases of Milosovic, Karadzic, Taylor, Pinochet, Fujimori, and al-Bashir, show that leaders can no longer commit genocide and crimes against humanity without consequences.

And the tribunals for the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia are trying hundreds of top-level perpetrators.

But the story of the regional commissions and courts is just as impressive and needs to be told. Their activity and influence are on the rise.

In 1989 the European Court registered only about 400 cases. Last year some 40,000cases were registered. The Inter-American Court, 20 years younger has some 150 active cases. But the level of applications is rising: 1,500 petitions were received in 2007. The African Court is only four years old and preparing to try its first cases. There is, as yet, no human rights court in Asia. But the recently adopted ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) Charter includes a provision for a human rights body, and talks are underway on its design.

Regional courts and commissions provide ordinary people the opportunity to appeal cases of police abuse, discrimination, or abridgement of free expression and assembly when they have exhausted remedies within national justice systems. Regional courts can raise the quality of justice in national courts. And a stronger culture for the rule of law may well prevent everyday abuses from aggregating into the worst crimes imaginable.

MacArthur has a deep interest in strengthening regional bodies. We have funded NGOs such as Access to Justice in Nigeria, the Blacksoil Center for the Protection of Media Rights in Russia, and Tlachinollan in Mexico to bring precedent-setting cases to courts and commissions.

We are also interested in helping the regional courts and commissions directly, and will soon announce an initiative aimed at strengthen the new African Human Rights Court.

For all the encouraging news, we know there are challenges to realizing the full potential of regional and sub-regional mechanisms. And that is the topic of our conference. How to make the recommendations of the regional human rights bodies more effective? How to choose cases that will set influential precedents? How to strengthen a network of NGOs to bring strong cases forward, especially in Africa? How to share expertise and experience most effectively, and strengthen cooperation across regions and countries?

I look forward to the discussion among our eminent panelists. Their dedication has moved the international justice system to where it is today.

To recognize such contributions, last year, the MacArthur Foundation created our Award for International Justice. The Award honors an individual or organization that advances the cause of international justice – it could be a world leader, a courageous judge, or an ordinary citizen working through a human rights group. The first recipient was former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, in recognition of his contribution to building the ICC and encouraging the development of the Responsibility to Protect.

For the second year, we have chosen someone present at the creation of the modern era of international justice, a distinguished jurist and legal scholar, a person whose clarity of purpose, fairness, and credibility is a force that inspires all who labor in special tribunals, regional human rights courts and the ICC itself. I am pleased to announce that the second recipient of the MacArthur Award for International Justice will be Richard J. Goldstone.

Justice Goldstone, already a prominent judge, came to international attention as chair of the Commission of Inquiry Regarding Public Violence and Intimidation in the aftermath of apartheid in his native South Africa. His wise and even-handed direction of the Commission proved invaluable to the democratic transition in that country, where he served also as an inaugural member of the Constitutional Court.

In 1994, Justice Goldstone was appointed Chief Prosecutor of the UN International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda – the first of their kind since Nuremberg. His mature, meticulous, and measured exercise of that mandate reanimated the enterprise of international justice, bringing both a degree of resolution to victims and a new model for the prosecution of crimes against humanity.

Insisting on the independence of the counsel and judges, a transparent establishment of the facts in each case, due-process protections for the accused, and the centrality of first-hand testimony from witnesses and surviving victims, Justice Goldstone gave the Tribunals moral authority and legal credibility. It is a testament to the quality of his work that the international community accepted the Rome Statute and established the ICC with confidence. Justice Goldstone stood guarantor for the responsibility, probity, and value of international justice; his unquestioned competence and integrity won the faith of the world.

At the close of his recent memoir, For Humanity, Justice Goldstone states:

No longer will dictators or oppressive governments be able to violate the fundamental rights of citizens with impunity. We are moving into a new and different world…. I have no doubt that the twenty-first century will witness the growth of an international criminal justice system and that victims of war crimes will no longer be ignored.

Sharing that goal, and in tribute to all Richard Goldstone has accomplished, the MacArthur Foundation is privileged to name him the second recipient of our Award for International Justice, to be conferred in The Hague next May.

I thank you for your kind attention, applaud your efforts to ensure that all members of the human family are treated with fairness and respect, and look forward to making common cause with you in pursuit of a more just and peaceful world.

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