The Damocles Network, the legal arm of Reporters Without Borders, today launched a guide for victims of abuses who wish to seek redress before the International Criminal Court (ICC). It was introduced at a press conference in Madrid attended by well-known Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón.
The guide explains how the Court works, what its jurisdiction is and how to bring a case before it, as well as describing the challenges and obstacles it faces. It can be downloaded as a pdf file in English, French and Spanish :
COUR PÉNALE INTERNATIONALE
Guide pratique à l’usage des victimes
Victim’s guide to the International Criminal Court
Corte Penal Internacional
Guía praáctica para uso de las víctimas
The guide’s author, Pierre Hazan, has written a book about the history of prosecution of war crimes ("La Justice face à la guerre, de Nuremberg à La Haye", published by Stock, Paris, 2000). He has also made a film about problems of universal jurisdiction in hunting down Chad’s former dictator-president, Hissène Habré (for Arte/Télévision Suisse Romande - TSR) and is completing a documentary for Arte, TSR and the electronic media agency, Article Z, about the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
Garzón called the guide "a useful tool so victims do not have to beg for justice but can demand it from those who have the duty to provide it. He said it would also help to "ensure victims do not get lost in the maze of international justice."
"It is for all the victims of those who prey on human rights," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard, who is also president of the Damocles Network. "I urge everyone, including the ICC, to see that this guide is distributed as widely as possible. The killers and torturers must no longer be allowed any respite. The fight against impunity must be worldwide."
Judge Garzón, who is honorary president of Damocles, became a symbol of international justice when he issued a warrant to arrest former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet in the name of international jurisdiction. By presenting the guide, he highlighted the crucial role of national jurisdictions in punishing the most terrible crimes by initiating legal action against those responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The jurisdiction of the ICC is additional and it only steps in if the country in question cannot or will not act.
With Garzón and Ménard at the press conference were the guide’s author, journalist Pierre Hazan, Fernando Castelló, president of Reporters Without Borders, and Carlos Castresana, prosecutor with the special Madrid court for economic crimes and corruption.
The CPI has been in operation since 1 July last year and has power to try war crimes, crimes against humanity and cases of genocide. So far 90 countries have ratified its statute. Argentina’s Luis Moreno Ocampo, the Court’s first chief prosecutor, was sworn in last week, on 16 June. His job is to launch investigations at the request of the three judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber.
The 50-year-old Moreno Ocampo, a leading prosecutor in Argentina for eight years, became known in 1985 as a deputy prosecutor in the human rights trials of his country’s former military rulers. He was one of the founders (and now president) of the civil rights organisation Poder Ciudadano (Citizens’ Power) and also heads the Argentine branch of the anti-corruption NGO Transparency International. In recent years he has also lectured on investigation techniques at the US universities of Stanford and Harvard.
The ICC already has about 400 cases to consider but the United States is more fiercely opposed than ever to this first permanent international criminal jurisdiction, claiming it could be used to defy US political interests and try US soldiers operating abroad. The European Union says it will defend and promote the ICC. Meanwhile the US is stepping up diplomatic pressure and has signed bilateral agreements with more than 40 countries to prevent extradition of its nationals for trial by the ICC at its headquarters in The Hague (Netherlands).