UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [official website] on Monday hailed [statement] the dawning of an "age of accountability" during the opening day of the review session of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. Ban described the first Review Conference of the Rome Statute [official website], where delegates from ICC member states will consider amendments to the founding statute [texts], as a "landmark in the history of international criminal justice" and continued:
The old era of impunity is over. In its place, slowly but surely, we are witnessing the birth of a new Age of Accountability. There is no going back. In this new age of accountability, those who commit the worst of human crimes will be held responsible. Whether they are rank-and-file foot soldiers or military commanders, whether they are lowly civil servants following orders, or top political leaders, they will be held accountable. ... [I]f the ICC is to have the reach it should possess, if it is to become an effective deterrent as well as an avenue of justice, it must have universal support. Only then will perpetrators have no place to hide. No government or justice system that is complicit in international crimes can any longer shield the perpetrators from justice.Ban went on to defend the ICC against charges of selectivity in its investigations, which has been an accusation frequently leveled at the court due to the fact that most of its caseload is from Africa, causing tense relations with the governments in the region. Ban stated that "African society is cheering" because the court is on the side of the victims. Ban pointed to the support for the court among African non-governmental organizations as an indication of support for the ICC from African civil society. ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] described the change [BBC report] in the international legal system since the establishment of the court as a legal revolution, and said the the attitude in Africa was changing in favor of the court.
Last week, a collection of African civil society organizations urged greater cooperation [JURIST report] between the ICC and African nations during the review conference. The group of 124 organizations called on African governments to enhance their cooperation with the court and to make greater efforts in the execution of outstanding warrants. The declaration also urged member states to improve their national judicial systems in order to maintain the court's status as one of last resort, and called on states that had not ratified the Rome Statute to do so. In May, the ICC sent a delegation [JURIST report] from the Office of the Prosecutor to Guinea to further investigate the killing of more than 150 pro-democracy protesters [BBC backgrounder] in Conakry in September 2009. In March, Moreno-Ocampo submitted [JURIST report] to ICC judges the names of 20 senior political and business leaders who "bear the gravest responsibility" for the deadly violence perpetrated after Kenya's 2007 presidential election [JURIST news archive]. In March 2009, the ICC issued an arrest warrant [JURIST report] for Sudanese head of state Omar al-Bashir [ICC materials, PDF; JURIST news archive], charging him with seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, but declining to charge him with genocide. The warrant was rejected [BBC report] by Bashir, and strongly denounced [Reuters report] by the chairman of the African Union (AU) [official website], Muammar al-Gaddafi [BBC profile]. Gaddafi described the warrant as a form of terrorism and raised the possibility of the withdrawal of African member states in protest.