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  • 2003 WCC UN Advocacy Week


    Remarks by Jeffery Huffines, Co-Chair, Faith & Ethics Network for the ICC
    “Working Session on International Criminal Court”
    Thursday, November 18, 2004


    The Faith & Ethics Network for the International Criminal Court is a multireligious coalition of religious, ethics and interfaith organizations dedicated to supporting the ICC in the achievement of its mandate to establish justice and to facilitate reconciliation within war-torn communities that have suffered from humanity's worst atrocity crimes.

    The Network is co-sponsored by the Coalition for the ICC (CICC, www.iccnow.org), a network of over 2,000 NGOs advocating for a fair, effective and independent Court, and the American NGO Coalition for the ICC (AMICC, www.amicc.org), a program of UNA-USA very capably convened by John Washburn and his deputy Wasana Punyasena.

    Religious organizations have played a special role in raising awareness of the ICC at the grassroots level and in helping to shape the development of the Court.

    Founded by the CICC in 1997 to examine the moral, ethical and religious values surrounding the Court, the members of the Faith-Based Caucus, as it was then known, joined the international NGO effort to help lobby for the establishment of the Court during the negotiations that took place at the UN. The Faith-Based Caucus provided invaluable input in the drafting of the preamble of the Rome Statute agreed upon in July 1998.

    Following the signing of the Rome Statute in 1998, and its entry into force in 2002, as UN representative for the Bahá'ís of the US, I was recruited to serve as Co-Chair of the Faith-Based Caucus in April 2002. We were very fortunate that Anne Offermans of the Centre of the Centre for Justice and Reconciliation, resident in The Hague, agreed to serve as the other Co-Chair in Winter 2003.

    Following seminars at the UN on religious persecution in Fall 2003, and on justice and reconciliation in Spring 2004, the caucus changed its name to the Faith & Ethics Network for the ICC to better reflect its international character as a “network of networks” designed to encourage faith and ethics-based organizations to support the moral and ethical development of the ICC.

    Last summer, Ms. Offermans and I invited four NGO representatives to join us to serve on an International Steering Committee for a one-year term, Sept 2004-Sept 2005:

    Mark Barwick, Pax Christi International, Brussels
    Larry Bropleh, World Council of Churches, New York/Geneva
    Sayyed Nadeem Kazmi, Al-Khoei Foundation, London
    Angela Oliver, World Conference of Religions for Peace, New York


    The Faith & Ethics Network is a multi-religious “network of networks” that seeks to stimulate, encourage and coordinate cooperation with the ICC among religious leaders, institutions and programs, on a number of different levels.

    We seek to encourage among religious leaders an attitude of cooperation with the ICC while maintaining an independent and critical witness to truth.

    As representatives of the world’s faith and ethics-based traditions, we are uniquely equipped to address the need for the ICC on the level of moral principle. Moreover, as religious organizations with a grassroots membership of millions, we have the potential to generate the popular support and understanding that the ICC needs for both its establishment and effective operation worldwide.

    What then is the role of religious leadership vis-à-vis the ICC in the promotion of the rule of law, justice, peace and reconciliation?

    How should people of faith weigh the balance between retributive, restitutive, and restorative justice against the imperatives of reconciliation and long-term peace building?

    The Faith and Ethics Network believes that the International Criminal Court provides yet another judicial instrument capable of fulfilling the relevant concerns of the United Nations Charter, the International Bill of Human Rights, the Genocide Convention, and all relevant United Nations Conventions for justice, peace, and compassionate order.

    The prime objective of the ICC is not only punishment (or retributive justice), but also rehabilitation, protection, compensation, and restitution for the offended, or what theologians in the Christian tradition have described as restorative justice. The Network also looks at the moral, political and ethical dimensions of impunity, the individual and collective healing of society, including the rehabilitation of victims and perpetrators, and the relationship between confession, repentance, compensation and forgiveness.

    Now that the Court is established, the Network seeks to assist the Court in prosecutions, the rehabilitation of victims, the protection of witnesses, and in making available faith, ethical, and religious perspectives that might help the Court in its deliberations, especially on religious persecution cases.

    The ICC will prosecute criminals who attempt to destroy, even in part, any religious group through: systematic murder; serious bodily or mental harm (including torture and rape); expulsion from their homes; the withholding of food or medical services; the prevention of births; and the forceful removal of children.

    In March 2004 the Faith & Ethics Network hosted an expert’s meeting at the UN on the significance of the ICC in justice & reconciliation where we placed the ICC within the broader framework of transitional justice. We explored lessons learned from previously established international criminal tribunals, special courts, truth commissions, domestic prosecutions, as well as indigenous customs and practices of justice & reconciliation.


    The Faith & Ethics Network encourages members to devise programs to educate their grassroots members about the theological, legal and political significance of the Court.

    Network members have produced fact sheets, a faith and ethics-based brochure series, fact sheets, and an advocacy ad campaign.

    In terms of advocacy, the ethical and moral dimensions of the Court become very important because fundamental moral values such as truth, justice, punishment, repentance, forgiveness, recompense and healing are things everybody can identify with even if they are not legal experts. As a tool of advocacy, the ICC is unique in its ability to appeal to both conservative and liberal theologies as it relates to the prosecution and punishment of criminals on the one hand, and the rehabilitation and healing of victims on the other.

    Now that the ICC has been established and some 91 countries have ratified the Rome Statute, what actions may faith-based communities take to advance the ICC in their country?

    For some countries like the United States, we are confronted with an Administration that actively opposes ratification of the Rome Statute.

    For some faith-based communities it is important to demonstrate that it is possible to support the ICC while upholding a strictly non-partisan stance towards politics and government.

    The faith and ethics-based community has the unique capacity to support the work of the ICC on level of moral principle and with a perspective of the long-term benefit to all of humanity, regardless of immediate partisan calculations of national interest.


    Since the establishment of the Court in The Hague, Network partners and other faith-based representatives have been exploring ways in which religious leaders and communities can work more directly with the Court in those countries in which it will be conducting investigations, indictments and prosecutions.

    We look forward to continuing our consultations with both the Office of Prosecutor as well as with the Victims Participation and Reparations Section of the Registrar to discuss modalities in which local and national religious leaders may assist in the protection, counseling and healing of victims and witnesses.


    We have also been concerned about addressing the often conflicting demands between justice and reconciliation among competing factions of war-torn societies, as embodied in the punishment of war criminals on the one hand, and in the adoption of amnesty programs on the other as an inducement for antagonists to come to the negotiating table. Religious leaders often find themselves on both sides of the equation from conflict to conflict, and from region to region.

    How can people of faith most effectively weigh and prioritize the theological and moral imperatives of “peace,” as represented by amnesty laws and peace negotiations with rebel groups, and of “justice,” as represented by a government’s war against rebel groups and the prosecution of perpetrators by national courts and the ICC?

    At the UN expert’s meeting in March 2004, Olara Otunnu, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, spoke about the key challenges in transitional justice.

    Mr. Otunnu argued that crimes against children should be fully investigated and punished to allow for the protection of children as well as for justice. Moreover, he stated that procedures should be put in place for the participation and protection of children as witnesses. Specifically, for any truth-seeking mechanism, the atrocities and abuses against children should not be sidelined. Further, traditional modes of adjudication, such as the Gacaca system in Rwanda, need to express themselves differently: healing needs to be the goal of any truth-seeking mechanism, but the importance for the need of reconciliation and justice must both play a role in the process. In the course of war, many questions about juvenile justice get swept aside and this simply cannot happen. For both victims and those accused, juvenile justice must be addressed.

    The challenge of countries who have referred cases to the ICC, like Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is to figure out the appropriate mix of judicial and social remedies that will most effectively achieve the demands of justice and reconciliation for both the perpetrators and survivors of atrocity crimes.

    For example, the Acholi Religious Leadership Council in Northern Uganda has taken a more critical stand against the ICC fearing that its emphasis on the prosecution of LRA members will upset the amnesty programs they had so painstakingly helped negotiate. They are also suspicious about the motivations of President Musevini in inviting the ICC to conduct an investigation against the LRA. In contrast, recent reports indicate that the members of civil society in the Congo are more enthusiastic about ICC intervention in their country.

    With the two cases from Africa now referred to the Court, we will be hosting a seminar and expert's meeting on sexual violence and female child-soldiers during the UN Commission on the Status of Women in March 2005, and preparing for an African Religious Leadership Conference on the ICC to take place in Nairobi later next spring.


    The challenge of the 21st century is to develop political institutions with the teeth to actually enforce the international norms and standards of state behavior that the majority of nations have already endorsed as Member States of the UN.

    The establishment of the ICC is the first international institution of the 21st century specifically created to enforce the most basic standards of international behavior as embodied in the UN Charter, the International Bill of Human Rights, the Genocide Convention, and other relevant UN treaties.

    Viewed in this light, the implications of the ICC in the 21st century are clear. The religions of the world remind us that we are all one human family, and that the injury of one is an injury to us all. Over the millennia the human community has grown from family to tribe to city-state to nation and now to the world. Justice must be administered at every level of society, so it is fitting that in the 21st century that an International Criminal Court has been established to enforce universally accepted standards of justice when courts at the national level are unable to do so.


    We welcome the participation of all faith and ethics-based organizations. For information, please contact:

    Jeffery Huffines
    Co-Chair, Faith & Ethics Network for the ICC
    866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 120
    New York, New York 10017
    Tel. 212-803-2530
    Fax: 212-803-2566
    email: jhuffine@bic.org








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