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VAN Forum

Local Action, Global Results
Influencing International Conflicts

March 11, 2008

Dr. Ellen Kennedy, State Coordinator, GI-Net (MN Genocide Intervention Network)



Question of the Day:  Dolores Zeller began by asking "What is justice and who gets to define it?"  Responses are noted below:

  • An opportunity to be treated fairly, which is self-defined.
  • Make sure everyone has justice as a basic right.
  • Consequences for actions as defined by society.
  • In a democracy, justice is a cultural or social norm defined by the legal system.
  • Honoring and respecting our true identity.
  • Equal opportunity to be treated equitably.
  • Fairness within society.
  • Laws applied fairly across all populations.
  • Equality for everyone, humane treatment.
  • Feeling that the situation is right.
  • Fairness, humane treatment


Dr. Ellen Kennedy stated that two forces spur individuals to take action: moral imperative and enlightened self-interest. The bottom line is to encourage folks to act.  She began by listing four types of violence for which action must be taken:

  • War Crimes
  • Aggression
  • Genocide
  • Crimes Against Humanity

After giving examples of genocide taking place today in Darfur, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and citing the genocides that took place in Cambodia in the 1970's and Rwanda in the 1990's, Dr. Kennedy described international efforts to end genocide. After World War II, war crimes trials were held in Germany and Japan. Efforts to bring war criminals to justice continued into the 1980's. Also after World War II, efforts were made to set up an international court to try war criminals and to create a universal declaration of human rights. 

The International Criminal Court (ICC) was established by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, so called because it was adopted in Rome, Italy on 17 July 1998 by the United Nations Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court.  The Rome Statute is an international treaty, binding only on those countries which formally express their consent to be bound by its provisions.  These countries then become "Parties" to the Statute. In accordance with its terms, the Statute entered into force on 1 July 2002, once 60 countries had become Parties. Today, 105 countries have become Parties to the Statute. Unfortunately, the United States, Russia, China and South Africa have declined to become Parties to the Statute.

Following the adoption of the Rome Statute, the United Nations convened the Preparatory Commission for the International Criminal Court.   As with the Rome Conference, all Countries were invited to participate in the Preparatory Commission.  Among its achievements, the Preparatory Commission reached consensus on the Rules of Procedure and Evidence and the Elements of Crimes.

The ICC is an independent, permanent court that tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The ICC is based on a treaty, joined by 105 countries, and only citizens of those countries that have signed the treaty can be brought to trial.

The ICC is a court of last resort.  It will not act if a case is investigated or prosecuted by a national judicial system unless the national proceedings are not genuine, for example if formal proceedings were undertaken solely to shield a person from criminal responsibility.  In addition, the ICC only tries those accused of the gravest crimes; charges can be brought either by governments or individuals.

Dr. Kennedy encouraged attendees to contact their Senators and Representatives. Calling 1-800-GENOCIDE will offer the option to be connected to appropriate legislators or to the White House; talking points will be given. The purpose of the call is to encourage the U.S. Government to consider signing the ICC treaty and to respond to the ongoing genocide in Darfur.  Other civil actions suggested on behalf of the population in Darfur are to boycott the sponsors of China's Olympics (VISA, Coke, McDonalds, Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft), so that China in turn alters its activities with Sudan.
Attendees can also go to to educate themselves about genocide taking place today, donate money to buy clothing and food for those under attack, and find ways to advocate for victims.

Minutes respectfully submitted by Gail Hernandez


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