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ICC needed when state is unwilling to deliver justice - UN human rights chief

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet said the International Criminal Court was needed when a state is “unwilling or unable to deliver justice” as she spoke on the punishment and prevention of genocide in Geneva this week.

Addressing a high level panel at the 39th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, Bachelet said that “ending impunity is central to ending genocide”.

“Prevention and punishment – the explicitly stated twin aims of the genocide convention – can never be seen in isolation from each other,” she said. “Punishment is key to prevention. Impunity is an enabler of genocide: accountability is its nemesis.”

Speaking about a report authored by the UN Secretary General’s Special Adviser on the prevention of genocide, Adama Dieng and former Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence, Pablo de Greiff, Bachelet went on to say  the “central message is clear”.

“Transitional justice processes help to prevent violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, and in particular genocide, war crimes and ethnic cleansing. They deliver truth, justice and reparations – and are therefore a vital tool in breaking the cycles of impunity, discrimination and marginalisation and the risk of recurrence.”

She went on to state that though “states have the primary responsibility for prosecuting perpetrators,” use of the International Criminal Court “is wholly appropriate in cases where the State is unwilling or unable to deliver justice”.

Citing the plight of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and the Yazidi population, Bachelet said “genocide is always shocking”.

“But it is never committed without clear, multiple warning signs: a pattern of abuse against a group, an intent to harm, a chain of command and finally a brutal and horrifying outcome,” she continued.

“In the case of the Rohingya, warning signs abounded: a people oppressed from birth to death, an army answerable to no one, and systematic, state-led human rights violations that went unpunished for decades, including arbitrary deprivation of nationality.”

“As we celebrate the 70th anniversaries of both the genocide convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it remains essential that we stand up for this great vision of a more humane and peaceful world.”

See the full text of her address here.