Remarks by Jonathan Fanton at the Midwest Regional Conference on International Justice
April 25, 2008 | Speech | Human Rights

I join Dean Wiesenberger in welcoming you to this conference on International Justice.  

It is one of four regional convocations the MacArthur Foundation is sponsoring to mark its 30th anniversary. Advancing human rights and justice has been central to our mission. Over the years, we have supported 600 institutions working on the frontlines in 90 countries to expose abuses and strengthen the rule of law. We have had 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.

Last month in New York we honored Kofi Annan with the first MacArthur Award for International Justice. His stirring acceptance speech sharpened our resolve to build a system that moves the world from an era of impunity to an age of accountability.

The Award is the centerpiece of a year-long discussion of international justice.

Later this year there will be a conference at American University on Regional Courts and Commissions, followed by an event at UC Berkeley that will explore how witnesses and victims participate in international courts and tribunals. And next spring the Yale Law School will host a symposium on building the political will to advance the system of international justice.

International criminal justice is an idea whose time has come. It is the result of a long journey that started after World War I. Since 1993 the Security Council has established two ad hoc tribunals in relation to the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. This was followed by mixed model tribunals in Sierra Leone, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, East Timor, and Lebanon. The international community has supported these initiatives as has the United States.

This historical evolution entered a new phase 10 years ago, when the Rome Conference was convened and the first steps were taken to establish the International Criminal Court. MacArthur has an abiding interest in the Court’s development. We helped bring NGO representatives from the Global South to Rome to participate in the drafting process of the ICC Treaty through a grant to the International Human Rights Law Institute. Later we supported the Coalition for the International Criminal Court – a group of hundreds of NGOs that provided critical support for the ratification of the treaty. Following on, we provided funds to plan the Court and gave grants to NGOs, like Human Rights Watch and Global Rights, to gather evidence helpful to the first cases. To build understanding of the Court in situation countries, we funded The Ugandan Coalition for the ICC and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. And to help witnesses and victims participate fully in the Court’s proceedings, MacArthur supported Redress, and the Women’s Initiative for Gender Justice.

This is very much the right place to begin our year of reflection about international justice. DePaul’s International Human Rights Law Institute has been central to our work and Cherif Bassiouni has been a guiding force in international justice for decades. From his work on the UN Commission of Experts in the former Yugoslavia, to his efforts ensuring that developing countries had a voice in establishing the ICC, to his outreach to the Arab world about joining the Court, to his seminars for ICC judges on the participation of victims in trials, the field of international justice is stronger because of Cherif’s work. The MacArthur Foundation has been proud to support him.

Only Cherif could have orchestrated this conference, bringing together the President of the ICC, the Prosecutor of the Court, the President’s Special Envoy to Sudan, the former U.S. Ambassador at Large for War Crimes, the Legal Adviser to the Secretary of State, and a leading member of Congress on justice issues, NGO leaders, and scholars of international law.

We have a lot to talk about.
• How is the Court doing and what are the appropriate expectations for its future?
• How can the international community be mobilized to enforce its arrest warrants?
• How can the U.S. be brought into closer collaboration with the Court and encouraged to participate in its formative years?
• Is there a tension between peace and justice in Uganda and elsewhere?
• How can the Court make its work better known to the public in situation countries?
• How can the ICC contribute to prevention and the responsibility to protect?
• Can we imagine the Court and the other elements of the international system of justice coordinating their future plans?
• How can the Court help strengthen national justice systems?

Our panelists are well chosen to address these and other questions. I look forward to what may be the most interesting conversations ever on the Court, its accomplishments, challenges, and future goals. I will give a brief introduction for each panelist – their complete biographies are in your program.

Each will speak for about 20 minutes and then we will take questions from the audience.

* * *

Our first speaker is well-known to many of you: the President of the ICC, Philippe Kirsch. Judge Kirsch has been one of the key architects of the Court. His steady leadership of the diplomatic conference in Rome where the ICC Treaty was completed, has been critical to its development. I first met Judge Kirsch in May 2000, when he was Canada's Ambassador to Sweden. We talked with Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy and leaders of the Coalition for the ICC to strategize about getting the 60 ratifications necessary to bring the Rome Statute into force. The mood was upbeat, but none of us foresaw how quickly the Court would come into being. Judge Kirsh has been at the center of the courts development every step of the way and is well positioned to comment on its accomplishments and challenges ahead.

* * *

For our next speaker, we are fortunate to have with us this morning John Bellinger, Legal Advisor to the Secretary of State. He is the principal advisor on domestic and international law for the State Department and the Foreign Service. He oversees all legal aspects of foreign affairs, including law enforcement, the use of force and the laws of armed conflict, and human rights. He has spent his twenty-year career in government working on legal matters related to national security and international law. He is a thoughtful commentator on America’s noble history in advancing international justice, well positioned to help us understand its current approach to the International Criminal Court. Please welcome John Bellinger.

* * *

Our final speaker this morning is one of Congress’s leading supporters of international justice and human rights: Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. Congresswoman Schakowsky has represented Illinois’s 9th Congressional District for the past 10 years. She is an active member of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus; she has spoken out against the long-term detention of Iraqi citizens – particularly juveniles – without formal charges, advocated for action to end human rights abuses in Latin America, and sponsored numerous bills supporting women’s rights around the world. Please welcome Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky…

* * *

Thank you, Congresswoman. This concludes our morning session. For those of you joining us for lunch, you may proceed to the Winter Garden, on the 9th floor. Professor Bassiouni will be our luncheon speaker and will address the ICC’s drafting process in New York and in Rome. Our afternoon session will begin at 1:45, with remarks from ICC Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo.

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