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Coalition press release welcoming Guatemala as the 121st ICC state party.
Coalition for the International Criminal Court
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
2 April 2012


Global Civil Society Coalition Welcomes Guatemala as 121st State to Join ICC

El Salvador, Nicaragua and Cuba are only countries in Latin America yet to accede to the Rome Statute

Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Young women on the marketplace of Chichicastenango, Guatemala 1996.

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New York/Lima—The Coalition for the International Criminal Court today congratulated Guatemala’s government for acceding to the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC)—the world’s first permanent international court to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. By joining the ICC, Guatemala has contributed to solidifying Latin American support for justice and accountability, the Coalition said. 
 

“After many years of delay, this quick turnaround in Guatemala is a welcome development that brings Guatemala one step closer to accountability for grave crimes,” said Francesca Varda, Americas coordinator for the Coalition for the International Criminal Court—a global network of more than 2,500 civil society organizations in 150 countries advocating for a fair, effective and independent ICC and improved access to justice for victims of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. “Cuba, El Salvador and Nicaragua should now follow the lead of Guatemala and the rest of Latin America in embracing this new system of international justice by reengaging in efforts toward accession to the Rome Statute,” Varda added.

Today, 2 April 2012, Guatemala deposited its instrument of accession to the Rome Statute at United Nations headquarters, the last formal step needed to join the ICC. During his inaugural speech on 14 January 2012, newly sworn-in Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina stated that his government’s commitment to the rule of law would lead it to prioritize accession to the Statute. Following this statement, the accession process unfolded extremely quickly and the bill received the required three favorable readings in plenary by Guatemala’s unicameral congress, culminating on 26 January 2012 with approval of the Rome Statute by congress and subsequent signing into law by the president.
 
“Accession to the Statute represents a symbolic reparation for all Guatemalan citizens who suffered the atrocities perpetrated during the armed conflict who have not seen their demands for justice met,” noted Maria Eugenia Solis Garcia, current director of the Office for Witness Protection of the Public Ministry of Guatemala and member of the Board of Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, one of the Coalition’s Steering Committee members. “Accession should also be seen as a guarantee of non-repetition given the deterrent effects that it will have in the future,” she added.
 
In January 2002, former president Alfonso Portillo requested Guatemala’s Constitutional Court to issue a consultative opinion on whether there were incompatibilities between the Rome Statute and the Guatemalan constitution. To provide input for that analysis, in early March of that year, the National Commission for Monitoring and Support to the Strengthening of Justice (Comisión Nacional para el Seguimiento y Apoyo al Fortalecimiento de la Justicia)— which included representatives from the Supreme Court of Justice, government ministries, the executive, the attorney-general’s office, the national police, the Rafael Landivar University, the University of San Carlos as well as civil society—issued a document with technical and juridical arguments supporting accession. By 27 March 2002, the Constitutional Court had ruled favorably indicating that there were no incompatibilities. The process however lagged and no real advances were achieved.  
 
In 2006, current minister for peace Arenales Forno issued a favorable opinion on the ratification bill in his capacity as president of the External Relations Commission in Congress. The issue was never discussed in the plenary and was largely paralyzed due to a lack of support from the different political parties represented in the assembly. In early 2010, significant efforts were made to prioritize the ICC issue within the congressional agenda but again accession was not definitively voted upon.   
 
Civil society has been advocating for to accede to the Statute throughout this time. NGOs conducted trainings, liaised with the media, published information and materials, held academic conferences, advocated with parliamentarians and organized events in the context of visits by former president of the Court—Philippe Kirsch—and former president of the Assembly of States Parties—the ICC’s governing body— Christian Wenaweser, in January 2007 and August 2010 respectively.
 
”The Guatemalan Coalition for the ICC is extremely satisfied with this important development,” said Sandino Asturias, general coordinator for the Centro de Estudios de Guatemala, which chairs the Guatemalan Coalition for the ICC. “The Guatemalan Coalition will continue to work, support and conduct oversight to ensure that this historic achievement translates into public policies and norms that strengthen the fight against impunity, the adoption of ICC legislation, full respect for human rights, defense of victims and eradication of violence against women.”
 
Latin American governments have actively engaged in efforts to ratify and implement the Rome Statute in the region. In collaboration with civil society organizations, academics, government officials and parliamentarians, advocacy efforts have mobilized diverse constituencies to consolidate Latin America as one of the Court’s staunchest supporters. To date, nearly the entire region of Latin America has become party to the Rome Statute, with Cuba, El Salvador and Nicaragua being the only countries yet to finalize their accession processes.


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For more information, contact:

In Lima: Francesca Varda
Regional Coordinator for the Americas
Coalition for the ICC
Tel: + 511.202.7194
varda@coalitionfortheicc.org
 
In New York:  Brigitte Suhr
Director of Regional Programs
Coalition for the ICC
Tel: (+1) 646 465 8540
suhr@coalitionfortheicc.org
 
In The Hague: Oriane Maillet
Head of Communications
Coalition for the ICC
Tel: (+31) (0) 70-3111082
maillet@coalitionfortheicc.org

 

Background
The ICC is the world’s first permanent international court to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. 121 states have joined the Rome Statute, the Court’s founding treaty. Central to the Court’s mandate is the principle of complementarity, which holds that the Court will only intervene if national legal systems are unwilling or unable to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. There are currently seven active investigations before the Court: the Central African Republic; the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Côte d’Ivoire; Darfur, the Sudan; Uganda; Kenya and Libya. The ICC has publicly issued 20 arrest warrants and nine summonses to appear. The ICC prosecutor has also made public that it is conducting preliminary examinations in eight situations on four continents: Afghanistan, Colombia, Georgia, Guinea, Honduras, Republic of Korea, Nigeria and Palestine. 
 
The Coalition for the International Criminal Court is a global network of civil society organizations in 150 countries working in partnership to strengthen international cooperation with the ICC; ensure that the Court is fair, effective and independent; make justice both visible and universal; and advance stronger national laws that deliver justice to victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. For more information, visit: www.coalitionfortheicc.org

Copyright © 2012 Coalition for the International Criminal Court, All rights reserved.

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