Podcast: Coalition for the International Criminal Court marks the 20th anniversary of the entry into force of the Rome Statute with special focus on advocating for a universal court

Coalition for the ICC

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the entry into force of the Rome Statute of the ICC, the Coalition has collaborated with Asymmetrical Haircuts and Justice Info on a special podcast episode. 

The podcast features Coalition members Oleksandra Matviychuk, Center for Civil Liberties in Ukraine, Aurora Parong, Philippines National Coalition for the ICC, and Melissa Verpile, Parliamentarians for Global Action in conversation, reflecting on past and present efforts by civil society advancing the goal of achieving a universal court, including ratification of the Rome Statute and implementation of the treaty into national law. The podcast also features an interview with Brigitte Suhr, Counsel/Advocate, Human Rights Watch (1999-2003) and Director of Regional Programs, Coalition for the ICC (2003-2014).





Janet [00:00:00] Hi. This is Asymmetrical Haircuts. I'm Janet Anderson.

Stephanie [00:00:03] And I'm Stephanie van den Berg. Today's episode is done with the support of justiceinfo.net.

Janet [00:00:08] Now as we've mentioned previously, the 20th anniversary of the International Criminal Court is rapidly approaching.

Stephanie [00:00:15] Yes, the Rome Statute, the bit of the paper that 60 states signed up to between 1998 and 2002 came into force on July 1st, 20 years ago.

Janet [00:00:26] And Brigitte Suhr started working for the Coalition for the International Criminal Court on getting states to sign up and ratify the treaty, soon after the Rome Statute was born, I tracked her down on a tropical island. You can hear the birds in the background. And I asked her whether there was a sense at the time of, oh, my goodness, no, what do we do now - after the States had indicated their willingness to support the ICC or more of a yay, here we go.

Brigitte [00:00:52] I think the feel at the time was, yay, here we go, but what's going to really happen? And it might take forever and what can we do? And so the Coalition, with its various members, both international and national, each kind of came up with their approach coordinated to a certain extent through the Coalition. But how are we going to capitalise on this moment to push things through? And that's what we did. We worked together with the national partners and the national allies, government officials that were either interested or could be interested. And we identified a range of countries that we thought we could get on board. And it trickled at first and then it really took off.

Janet [00:01:33] So why was it that this magic number of 60, which was needed for the ICC to come into being, why did that happen so fast?

Brigitte [00:01:42] You know, I think there probably lots of reasons, but I do think the momentum around Rome helped. You know, there's so many countries in the world, especially if you look at the list of states parties and early states parties and early supporters, there were many, many countries that had had serious crimes occur on their territory and had been struggling for 5 years or 20 years to try to find some momentum around national level justice. So this idea that this could be a counterpart to the national level justice at the international level really helped. And in some cases - I covered Latin America at the time - and some of the folks in power at the time were on the other side back in the in the moment when there were the crimes at the national level. So I think just from a philosophy and a personal conviction, there was a lot of commitment there.

Janet [00:02:34] So with such a rush of states signing up, I wondered whether it was a bit scary trying to keep up with all the demands.

Brigitte [00:02:41] I think it was exhilarating. I don't think it was scary at all. I mean, not for me, because that was it was my job to make it happen and get countries to agree and solve legal or constitutional or political issues, build coalitions nationally, internationally to kind of build that momentum. So for me, it was exhilarating. It was daunting because for every country I mentioned that exhibited the commitment, there's also many others that didn't. And so it was, you know, it's always that question: do you go for low hanging fruit to kind of build things up? That's great. But then you also have to go for not so low hanging fruit where something's either morally very significant or politically very powerful. You've kind of got to hit all the right notes with who eventually joins on.

Janet [00:03:28] And that flood gradually became more of a trickle after the court started working. So why did it become more difficult?

Brigitte [00:03:35] At some point the harder countries are left. You know, the United States was really campaigning against ratification, not just for itself, of course, but also trying to lean on others to not ratify. So that became a real problem. And it was just harder, you know, when you're looking at the likes of the US, Russia and China not in the court some countries will use an excuse not to ratify. Other countries will just or other realities are ,those are important countries at some point and in particular when they're fighting against the court, not just in silence. And so that was part of it. But really, I mean, I stopped working on ratification in 2014 when there was about 104, 114. I don't remember exactly the number, but that's a lot of countries out of the world. So there weren't that many left who had an interest or had the ability.

Janet [00:04:31] So that was Brigitte Suhr speaking from a holiday on a tropical island surrounded by wonderful noises. So let's pick up that last point Stef. It is rather rare now, isn't it, that we notice a new state signing up? In fact, there are many political debates in the different countries about what it would mean to sign up to the Rome Statute. And we've even seen some of the first withdrawals. Could you “Stephopedia” us a bit on that?

Stephanie [00:04:56] Yeah, I can. For instance, remember the last time a new state signed up. But I do remember the withdrawal threats in 2016. There was a threat of a kind of mass walkout of African countries. In the end, only Burundi actually withdrew. But South Africa and some other African states also threatened to do that. And then two years later, in 2018, we saw that the Philippines withdrew when the prosecutor started investigating the drug war, and the Philippine government wasn't very happy with that.

Janet [00:05:24] So now around this 20th anniversary, we've brought together with the help of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, where Brigitte used to work, a group of people who are all campaigning for states to join and also to make sure that their domestic laws allow for the effective prosecution of ICC crimes and for cooperation with the court.

Stephanie [00:05:46] And that part, the NGOs say, is absolutely essential to creating the Rome Statute system, that there is a universal system for accountability, meaning stopping impunity everywhere, or, as the NGOs like to call it, plugging the impunity gap. So we wanted to ask them, why do states sign up? What's in it for them and their citizens when they do? And what is the hesitation from some states? So we wanted to welcome Melissa Verpile from Parliamentarians for Global Action. Hi, Melissa.

Melissa [00:06:16] Hi.

Stephanie [00:06:17] We also have Oleksandra Matviychuk from the Centre for Civil Liberties in Ukraine and Aurora Parong from the Philippines National Coalition for the ICC. Hi, Oleksandra and Aurora.

Oleksandra [00:06:29] Nice to meet you.

Aurora [00:06:30] Hello.

Stephanie [00:06:32] And starting with you, Melissa, when you are selling the court, so to speak, what do you say – universal - what does that mean? Is it a kind of ideal you're describing?

Melissa [00:06:47] Well, considering that an ideal is somewhat inherently unattainable, I prefer to think about universality of the Rome Statute as a challenging goal that colleagues at PGA and other organisations strive to achieve. So what does it actually mean? It means that states or an overwhelming majority of states would ratify the amended Rome Statute and in so doing, accept the legality and the legally binding nature of the treaty. So it really means encouraging states that are not yet states parties to ratify the Rome Statute and expand the court's jurisdiction. Universality would make the system more effective. It would really enhance the legitimacy of the institution and consolidate the international and domestic rule of law. So because today we continue to witness mass atrocities around the world and perpetrators remain unpunished. And bringing justice to victims, strengthening a system of international justice, and accountability for international crimes. And also preventing a repetition of these crimes are the main purposes of the Rome Statute system. Justice is a fundamental tool to build peaceful and inclusive societies in which human rights are not a myth but really a reality. Currently, the court has 123 states parties. But a lot of countries remain outside of the accountability system. And so we're working with our members, in non-state parties such as Jamaica, Guinea-Bissau and even Ukraine, to encourage them to ratify the Rome Statute.

Janet [00:08:38] I've heard your pitch, Melissa. Okay. I get what you're saying, that it's really important on this big global level. But could you just kind of focus in a little bit for us on what happens to a state when it does sign up? Stephanie has already described this kind of Rome Statute system. But you work on this national level. What happens with the national legislation?

Melissa [00:09:09] Well, the national legislation, it really depends on the country. So you have to foster political will. First off, and parliamentarians are a key part of that. And so basically they have to agree in parliament with their colleagues that they want to ratify the Rome Statute. And once they have done so, they become states parties and they have to implement the provisions of the of the Rome Statute in their domestic legislation to make it, to kind of bring it down to the national level. And so because based on the principle of complementarity, the states have the primary jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute international crimes. And the jurisdiction of the court is only complementary to that of the states. And so the states are really the primary actors, and their legislation has to be in that equation with the provisions of the Rome Statute so that they themselves before anything else, unless they are unwilling or unable, then the court steps in. But primarily they would be the ones that the states would be responsible for the prosecution of international crimes.

Stephanie [00:10:10] And Oleksandra, you come from a country with a very complex history when it comes to signing up to the ICC. Ukraine has signed, but the is not yet ratified the treaty. But it did give the court the power to investigate, which is why we now have this very well publicised investigation into Ukraine by the ICC. Why is there this back and forth about a signing ratifying? How did that happen?

Oleksandra [00:10:36] The question of ratification of Rome Statute of International Criminal Court is not theoretical but a practical question for the current moment, because now we are faced with large scale Russian invasion in Ukraine and we speak about an enormous number of international crimes committed by Russian troops. Russia is simply using the war crimes as the methods of warfare. And such action are not justified by any military necessity. We document deliberate attacks on civilian objects and critical civilian infrastructure, using of human shields, rape, and other gender-based violence, deliberate killings, torture and ill treatment, enforced disappearances, etc. But this war started not in February this year, but in 2014. And then the duty to fight with impunity in the armed conflict fell to the unprepared law enforcement and judicial system of Ukraine. And since that time, we as human rights defenders have been promoting the ratification of Rome Statute of International Criminal Court. It's an international obligation of Ukraine under Article eight of the Association Agreement with the EU. But this is needed not for EU, but for Ukrainian population itself. Earlier ratification was hampered by a three-year postponement on the entry into force of amendment to the constitution of Ukraine. But this term expired on June 2019 and still Ukrainian parliament has not submitted a bill on ratification. We still continue pushing Ukrainian authorities to make this step.

Janet [00:12:18] But I can hear you say that you're disappointed. I imagine that they still haven't done this. And we've understood from Melissa how important parliamentarians are in all of this process. Why is it that the parliament did not take the last six months to do this? In your view, what's the blockage still?

Oleksandra [00:12:43] It's a very good question because for current moment we've found ourselves in a very strange and even I can say weird situation because for current moment, Ukraine still is not a state party to the Rome Statute. However, on 2nd of March 2022 the prosecutor announced he had proceeded to open an investigation into the situation in Ukraine on the basis of the two declarations received from the government of Ukraine in 2014 and 2015 years. So now we in Ukraine found ourselves in a situation in which we warned Ukrainian authorities for all this years because for one hand, Ukraine has an obligation to cooperate with International Criminal Court on the basis of two declarations. But for the other hand, Ukraine has no right which regular state parties to the Rome Statute have. And when we speak about this with Ukrainian parliamentarians, we don't get a clear response why we're still in this situation and why we're still not to ratify a Rome Statute.

Janet [00:13:55] Maybe I can quickly just ask Melissa two comments. The two to come back in because you mentioned that you're working with parliamentarians, Ukraine. I don't want to make the whole podcast about Ukraine, but it's really interesting. What are you hearing from Ukraine? Why are parliamentarians a little bit not working on this? Are they just diverted by the enormity of everything else that's going on, Melissa?

Melissa [00:14:12] Well, we have similar information then, Oleksandra. We work a lot with the Centre for Civil Liberties and with our members a lot. There is a lot of incomprehension because apparently there is a blockage and the president of Ukraine is receiving from, let's say the military, is receiving conflicting information about the Rome Statute. And we do believe and most of our members are pushing this, that it would be very beneficial for Ukraine to ratify the Rome Statute and it would not conflict with the current jurisdiction that the court has with the investigation that was opened.

Oleksandra [00:14:56] Maybe I will add to this point, because for all these eight years, when we promoted the ratification of Rome Statute, we have heard one argument which is important for Ukrainian parliament. Ukrainian parliamentarians are afraid that Russia will be using International Criminal Court as a tool against Ukraine. What they said? They said that Russia will falsify their criminal cases and sent this false information to the ICC and they have not to defend the Ukrainian citizens, but to try to overcome the Russian propaganda in International Criminal Court. And we always reply that the International Criminal Court is not piecemeal. They do their own investigation and there is no ground for such kind of doubt. But because of poor understanding of what the International Criminal Court is still for all these years, we have these needs in the mind of some Ukrainian parliamentarians.

Stephanie [00:16:04] This end from the situation in Ukraine with the hesitant government, we now go to the Philippines and Aurora, who has an entirely different situation with a wholly oppositional government to the court. They, the Philippines, had withdrawn, as we had earlier remarked, but the investigation into crimes there continues, even though it's now on hold because the government has asked for a deferral while they say they investigate their own case. For a while the Philippines also had its own judge elected to the court. So from Manilla, we kind of see two waves. We see this objection, but also this cooperation with the court. So how now is the court seen in Manila, Aurora? And how does the Parliament react to it?

Oleksandra [00:16:50] In the Philippines, we have varied perspectives on due process, justice and accountability. So that explains it. The values, also, how does one respect human rights or international humanitarian law? So we had to campaign for the ratification of the Rome Statute for more than ten years. We had to explain issues about complementarity, our universal jurisdiction vis-a-vis sovereignty, because they feared that the sovereignty and independence of the country might be put to, you know, it's a problem for them. But, of course, when we had political leaders and people of the Senate, our legislative body, who are involved in the ratification process. They believe that indeed it is important to have remedies. It is important to have accountability and recognise that sometimes accountability or justice is not possible in the country. And therefore, that's why it's important to have another court of last resort, which is the ICC. And so we ratified it and we had legislation and then we had the judge. But when we have leaders who are apparently in place and will be coming in as the new government with this sort of human rights and fear being subjected to investigation and prosecution by the ICC, would of course do not want the ICC jurisdiction. It has withdrawn. But the fact that the examination by prosecutor Fatou [Bensouda] started before it was withdrawn, then there are cases which are within the jurisdiction of the court while we were still a party to the court.

Janet [00:18:43] I can see that you're looking at it through this domestic lens, Aurora, because you have the elections and the objections of your domestic politicians. Just from my perspective, the Philippines withdrawal came at nearly the same time that the court came under immense pressure from the United States, when we had the sanctions by the Trump administration and also we had all this criticism of the court that it was over focused on the African continent, even though we know that African states were actually amongst the first to support the court. Senegal was one of the first countries to ratify the Rome Statute. So I was wondering, was that Philippines move – were they reflecting this kind of international down point for the ICC or was it more a domestic political move to withdraw? Did they see themselves as part of kind of a mass withdrawal, which never materialised in the end, or did? Or was it all just about domestic politics?

Aurora [00:19:54] It's basically about domestic politics because after we were ratified, there was never talk about the ICC as a problem. But then came the President Duterte in 2016 who started the war on drugs  which resulted to tens of thousands being killed and with no accountability. There's only one case where there was a conviction of policemen, and there were also reports that there is a problem in violation of protocols of investigation, and there can be possible cases, but there's no progress. Aside from that one, there's nothing more. So the civil society primarily assisted the families of victims to file communications with the ICC, and that's basically how it went.

Stephanie [00:20:51] And while we're talking about U.S. pressure to withdraw or not to sign up, Oleksandra, though, we had some diplomats, some diplomats tell us that U.S. also was really leaning on Ukraine during the Trump administration not to join up. Is that also one of the reasons why it got slowed down, the ratification, or do you think it's more internal politics or fear of the Ukrainian army about what an ICC membership could mean?

Oleksandra [00:21:20] I think that misunderstanding of the nature of International Criminal Court, is the main roots of this delay of ratification of Rome Statute. But still, we have to do it as quickly as possible, because now, as I told you, we have only duty between the International Criminal Court and no rights as a party to Rome Statute have. And also because there is a huge expectation of Ukrainian population of the International Criminal Court. Now, we found ourselves in a terrible situation when the whole U.N. system couldn't help to release any single person from captivity.

Stephanie [00:22:08] We hear from you, Aurora and Oleksandra, that the ICC is very much assessed also through a domestic lens. But I was wondering more on a very practical level, how tough is it to get a ratification? Like how much process do you have to go through at a national level? How many years does it generally take? I think we'll ask Melissa first and then go through Aurora, who has gone through the process and backwards, and then Oleksandra, who's in the middle of the process of ratifying.

Melissa [00:22:36] That's a very interesting question because it takes it may take a long time and it may take years. And for instance, in Latin America, we have almost achieved universality, but it didn't come easily. It took years. These processes take years because you have to foster political will there has to be enough knowledge about the court in parliament with the executive, even with the judiciary, because at the end of the day, they will be the ones applying the Rome Statute domestically. And so this is a long process, but it's we have it's in incremental steps. And sometimes when you have elections, for instance, let's say you work with a parliament for a number of years, you have champions, you have legislators who are proposing the bills, proposing modifications to the Criminal Code, the Criminal Procedure, the code of Criminal Procedure. And then there are elections. And let's say this these group of legislators who are really carrying the project lose their seat or they're not eligible to go back to Parliament, then the process may have to start again. And so it's really about sensitising the greater number of people and making sure that there is proper understanding of the Rome Statute system and how it would apply domestically.

Stephanie [00:23:53] And Aurora, what would you say about how long it takes or how much you have to organise?

Aurora [00:24:00] We had to ask the president to sign first and then it should be sent to the Senate for ratification, and that should be it. But what happened was one president signed it. But there was a change of government. And then the new president did not send it to the Senate. So it was just at the backburner. We had to even go to the Supreme Court to ask them to get since it’s just mysterious for us for the president to give it to the Senate for ratification. But we lost. So anyway, finally, we had this new president who really thought that it is very important to have this. And we already had the senators who are ready to ratify. And when it was signed by the president, President Aquino, then they were ready. And one issue that was really very important also then was that the crime of aggression became part of the crimes under the jurisdiction of the court. And we have this problem between China and the Philippines. And we thought that maybe that can be part of what will be of benefit for the Philippines. So we had the ratification. But after the ratification, we had the president who got into the war on drugs and with all the killings, which can be possibly crimes against humanity of murder, who feared that he will be tried in the court. And so he did not want it. So that's the withdrawal. It took more than ten years for us to give the information and do the campaigning. In fact, the coalition started by election when the court was still not in place. There was already the Rome conference, but the court was not there. So what happened was the withdrawal came in and there are now efforts to really evade the ICC by creating a review panel which has not had any good progress in investigating after two years. So the civil society organisations and the victims really have to work hard so that the issue is there. And the elections came in. There were possible candidates who would have changed the course of the events, but they lost. So we have an incoming president who is the son of a dictator who doesn't recognise human rights violations during martial law. And an incoming vice president was the daughter of the outgoing president who fears the prosecution. So we're still here, although the killings continue and there's harassment of families of victims. Most of the members of the coalition deal directly with families and some victims who are alive.

Stephanie [00:27:20] That is a a sobering update of what is going on in the Philippines. If we look very briefly at Ukraine. Where are we now in the process? it issigned, but it needs to be ratified. So the next step now is for what? For the president to send it to parliament or, you know, where are we technically in the steps of ratification for Ukraine?

Oleksandra [00:27:48] President has to send the ratification bill to parliament, and it still hasn't happened yet. And we as a human rights organisation, publicly a call to do it. But I want also to emphasise on the positive steps which the Ukrainian authorities have done since a large-scale Russian invasion. Because regardless of the known development or ratification process, the Ukrainian authorities start to develop their cooperation with International Criminal Court. And last month's Ukrainian parliament voted their bill, which regulated procedure aspects of cooperation with International Criminal Court, also Ukraine as well as other countries and International Criminal Court work together in the Joint Investigative Team and collects evidence of international crimes which is committed in the frame of this war. And also, we know that there is intense cooperation between General Prosecutor Office and the Field Group of International Criminal Court to which was sent in order to provide independent and impartial investigation on the ground. So we still ask President to introduce a draft law on ratification of the Statute as quickly as possible. But it's good that on a practical level, the Ukrainian authorities are willing to establish a fruitful cooperation.

Janet [00:29:29] I wanted to just ask all of you whether this kind of focus on the ICC and I know that's what this podcast is about. It's all about the ICC and that ratification process. Is that the only thing that you really try and work on or do you see yourself part of a kind of a bigger movement? I mean, there are other transitional justice processes possible. There's other universal jurisdiction things around the world. I mean, do you also see that that that you are focused on those areas or, or do you think the ICC is really the thing that you have to work on most? Melissa.

Melissa [00:30:05] Well, at PGA, of course, we support all accounts for all accountability mechanisms, because the important thing is to provide justice to victims. But we believe that because the ICC is the only independent permanent court with the specificity of being able to investigate and prosecute within the Rome Statute system, which is quite complex international crimes, we believe that it should be strengthened. And for instance, there have been talks about establishing ad hoc tribunals. Of course, if things are not possible with the ICC, we welcome any development, we welcome any mechanism for justice. But we do believe that focusing on the ICC is a very important measure. It's good not to scatter efforts unless it's necessary.

Janet [00:31:01] And Olelsandra, you've already mentioned other countries being involved in the joint investigation team, for example, and we know how incredibly active your chief prosecutor seems to be. I mean, is the ICC the only focus, the only game in town, or do you see it as wider?

Oleksandra [00:31:19] Yeah. I really am precise on the fact that we're faced with enormous amounts of crimes and only since 24 February as a number of the criminal procedure which were open is more than 15 thousands of criminal investigations. And it's a huge number. And the question is how to deliver justice for the whole victims of this, all of 15,000 cases. And we know that according to procedure, the International Criminal Court will focus on the top officials, political and top military leaders. So International Criminal Court will not cover all this the thousands of cases. He will select several ones. So this, in turn, means that bringing thousands of perpetrators of this crime to justice remains the Ukrainians responsibility. And once again, with such a huge amount of crime, couldn't be cope even the most effective law system in the world. And that's why now we think how to additionally to International Criminal Court to create an effective mechanism of involving international element, on the level of national investigation and national justice. And probably it has to be created an international hybrid tribunal who will cover all other cases which will not be selected by International Criminal Court.

Janet [00:32:5] And Aurora. Let's say you had different political leadership in the Philippines. But let's say the ICC, because of maybe the balance in the Senate or something, was still off the table. Could you imagine a different form of accountability? And do you see that also as your role, or do you think the ICC is really what you need to aim at?

Aurora [00:33:18] We believe that the ICC is very important for command responsibility, especially since the President has the immunity from prosecution. However, we have tried the U.N. Human Rights Council to do an investigation, an enquiry into that situation. But the Philippine government was able to evade it by creating this review panel that I mentioned earlier. However for other cases, we have had some success where we use the alien tort law to prosecute for compensation in the U.S. when the dictator was in the U.S.. And so that's a possibility in case the outgoing president goes there. Also, we had transitional justice mechanisms, which we had here in the Philippines. I was part of a quasi-judicial body which looked into the gross human rights violations during martial law. And we were able to recognise thousands of victims and provide the reparations from that ill-gotten wealth, the one that was stolen by the dictator from the country. And this was used for the reparations. So these are things that are still in our mind. But we also are trying to see if the national legislation which looks into the crimes similar to the ICC can take on the cases which are really outside of the ICC because it is after the withdrawal Because, like Oleksandra said, not everyone will really get to have that possibility to be included in the ICC. So there's still efforts to have cases brought to the court locally. And of course, right now, because we have withdrawn, the coalition continues to do human rights education, hoping that if there's a new government and it will be a government that has all these qualities and values for human rights and accountability, then maybe we will be ready by then. So we need to build constituencies right now.

Stephanie [00:35:46] And if we kind of zoom out and look at the big picture of the court, you have the big countries, U.S., Russia, China, India, they seem unlikely to sign up, although, of course, we should never say never. Do you, all three of you, think that the court will always be a kind of court of medium or smaller sized countries? And what kind of arguments can you use when you get that as a counter from the people you're lobbying with to get this Rome Statute ratified? Is this really helping to have a voice against the bullies and. Is it still a goal of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court to have this universal ICC court? Does that goal still matter after all this time?

Aurora [00:46:30] You can say I'm an optimist. Even with my age. We need to have hope so that we can be strengthened to continue the work that we have been doing. So I think that the goal of universal court is very challenging, but we need to continue trying to get states to ratify to be part of it. We have, I think, to do more information work, not just with governments because those big countries are really against the ICC. So maybe we have to get to the citizens of these countries and perhaps build international solidarity and then put forward that all of us have signed the U.N. declarations and conventions, as well as the Geneva Conventions, and it speaks about non-discrimination. And therefore, there has to be universal jurisdiction that the right to remedy is universal. So we hope that the citizens can pressure at some point their leaders. And if it happens that their citizens are ready and the political leaders are there to do it, then it can happen. I think be maybe not in my lifetime, but I'm hoping.

Stephanie [00:38:03] And Oleksandra, are you still optimistic? I mean, Ukraine obviously is impacted by the fact that Russia isn't a member. Is it still worth it to try and get this?

Oleksandra [00:38:18] I am strongly believed that sooner or later Ukraine will retain firearms statute. I have no doubt in it. We are on the right track. We sent to a declaration. International Criminal Court has already started investigation. Ukrainian authorities has already started close cooperation with the International Criminal Court. So we are on the right track and we have to push our authorities to finish this final ratification point. And it's important because we need the idea of universal court. I know them from my practise. I personally gather testimonies from hundreds of victims of war crimes and they told horrible stories. And I know for sure that they need the justice. And we have a huge task as a human rights defender, as a country, as this international community, to be able to provide this justice for victims. because people who suffered from war crimes and other kind of international crimes, they need not only to restore the broken infrastructure, the separated families, their ruined vision of their own future. But they need to restore their belief that the justice is possible, even if the justice is delayed in time.

Stephanie [00:39:39] And Melissa, what is your reply when parliamentarians or the kind of smaller countries say, well, the U.S. and Russia, China and India are not members. So, you know, why should we be holier than thou and join this thing if the big boys aren't playing. So let's say.

Melissa [00:46:15] Yes. I think it's a sovereign. I tell them that it's a sovereign decision of their state. But considering all the benefits that there are to becoming a states party, including participation in a framework of international support, and also in a framework that allows their own legislation to be strengthened, capacity building for their judicial actors and prosecutors, prosecutors, all the judiciary, in cooperation with an international framework, cooperation with other states. I think that they have everything to gain. And so they should not look to what the U.S. is doing or what China is doing or Russia. That shouldn't be the standard. And furthermore, the U.S., depending on its administration, we have seen there is a progression. There is even now legislation, bipartisan legislation, because of the momentum created by the Russian aggression against Ukraine. And even the ambassador at large for global criminal justice mentioned that one of the key priorities of the Biden-Harris administration is to contribute to the international justice system and to assist, provide assistance and identify areas where to help the ICC succeed and other accountability efforts. And so I think that states should really, instead of looking to what their neighbours are doing, to really see what is good for their own domestic systems and their populations. International justice is, is really something that we should preserve and should strive to achieve because it's really worth it for them to be part of the Rome Statute system.

Stephanie [00:41:44] Thank you all very much for contributing to this discussion we're having at the end of our podcast. We always like to ask, are what we call asymmetrical haircuts questions? Because there's a lot of you. I'm going to do something and throw them in a bit of a mix. We have two questions. I'm going to pose the two of them, and you can decide which one you prefer to answer and just pick the side. There is the question of do you have a favourite court case that you like or that formed you in some way in what you do? And the other question we tend to ask is, what are you watching, reading, listening to that you'd like to recommend. So you can pick either one of those two answer, or if you really want to answer both because you have a very favourite court case and you're also listening to some great podcasts, then of course we will allow that as well. But this way you have a little leeway in what you would like to pick. I saw Aurora smiling, so I'm going to let her go first. But maybe this was a smile of, Oh my God, I haven't prepared this so well.

Aurora [00:43:06] You know, I'm looking at Afghanistan and Myanmar/Bangladesh. Afghanistan, because U.S. troops were included initially for those supposed to be investigated. And then the other, Bangladesh, because it's from my region where there's no ICC office in the region, Asia Pacific region, and what we're trying to really push so that there can be progress in the cases.

Stephanie [00:43:319] So your favourite ICC cases are Afghanistan and Myanmar I understand from this, Melissa, do you want to go with a favourite case or do you want to recommend something you're reading, watching or listening to?

Melissa [00:43:32] Well, I'm currently reading Why We're Polarised by Ezra Klein and it's it's I think it's a really interesting book because it talks a lot about the Democratic backsliding and why we can't talk to each other anymore in society in general. And I think that has an impact on multilateralism and it has an impact on atrocity crimes. And so it's really interesting to read that. This is in the American context. But I think that it's something that we're noticing everywhere around the world.

Stephanie [00:44:30] And finally, Oleksandra.

Oleksandra [00:44:45] It's very important to examine the past experience because we all stand on some previous basis. But maybe I will encourage you to create the most interesting case together. And now we are working on this issue because we need not to predict the future. We need to create future which we want. And I want to have a future with justice.

Janet [00:44:33] Thank you all so much for contributing today. Just before we wrap up, I want to play a final clip from Brigitte Suhr. Why? Well, this one actually has a cock crowing a rooster in the background, and it's just sounds wonderful. No, that's not the real reason. The real reason is that I think it helps to round up what contribution the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, our partners on this podcast, have managed to make over the last 20 years. So I ended up just by asking her whether she's proud of what they've achieved.

Brigitte [00:51:56] I'm proud of what I've managed to do. I'm proud of the coalition we built. And I'm proud of the partnership between the international NGOs and the national NGOs and how that how that carries forward in many, many ways. It carries forward in the regional courts and commissions and justice, nationally, legal reforms that are that are required in capacity building. I mean, it carries forth in a lot of different ways that I'm really proud of.

Janet [00:45:22] So with that final note from Birgitte, from her tropical island, just reminds me to say thank you to everybody and hope to see you here in The Hague for whatever reasons. Oleksandra and Aurora and Melissa. Bye.

Melissa Oleksandra Aurora [00:45:45] Nice to meet you. Thank you. Bye.

Stephanie [00:45:50] Thank you. Bye.