Posted on July 19, 2019
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“To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chain, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others” (Nelson Mandela)
World Day of International Justice 2019
Every year on July 17, World Day for International Justice is observed all around the world. The aim of the day is to promote international criminal justice. The date was chosen in 2010 at a conference in Uganda as it is the same date as the signing of the Statute of Rome and the formation of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The book, East West Street, by the international criminal lawyer, Philippe Sands QC, uses his family’s struggle for survival in Nazi occupied Europe (they were Jews from Poland/Ukraine) to beautifully reconstruct the origins of international law, the formation of the Nuremberg trials and the birth of the terms ‘crimes against humanity’ and ‘genocide’. Both terms were argued for by two Jewish refugee lawyers, who survived the Holocaust and fought for the recognition that something momentously horrific had occurred in those years and a new system of laws were needed not only to punish such acts but to deter others from committing such barbarity.
World day of International Justice is celebrated with events promoting international justice, not just the International Criminal Court, but also focusing on issues like crimes against humanity, crimes of violence against women and human trafficking injustices of poverty and lack of justice for widows, orphans and other disadvantaged children.
International Justice concerns us all. Africa, like every other continent has its own share of challenges that affects the freedom of its people, even now in the 21st century.
Today, on the World Day for International Justice, we honour the many women who are widowed and have suffered injustices, their fatherless children and the orphans, who as a result are disadvantaged and now live in poverty and whose courage and perseverance challenge injustice every day.
These are the people otherwise forgotten; they are the reason why ACT exists.
On 8th July 2019, the infamous Bosco Ntaganda was found guilty of war crimes committed in the DRC. Originally from Rwanda, Ntaganda, known as ‘The Terminator’, got his first taste of combat in Uganda, where he was drafted into the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in 1990 at the age of 17. ACT works in both DR Congo and Uganda. After Rwanda’s unrest spilled over into DR Congo, he started to flip between fighting rebellions and serving both in the national armies of Rwanda and Congo. He became one of the most feared and brutal warlord involved in mass killings, rape and sexual slavery of underage girls and the recruitment of child soldiers. The ICC found him guilty of 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2002 and 2003. Given his crimes, it would be easy to think a ‘monster’ has been brought to justice. While his conviction is an important statement that crimes of this nature will not be tolerated by the international community, we must remember that ‘monsters’ are not born, they are made.
Ntaganda himself suffered injustice, forced to become a child soldier in one of the bloodiest conflicts the world has ever seen. He had to choose sides during the Rwandan genocide to survive and became part of that horror. Imagine what impact this has on a child. This is not to defend the atrocities he committed but simply to highlight that the seed of injustice can result in monsters. Perhaps if he had the benefit of a stable environment, education and love Bosco Ntaganda, may have turned out as another person, perhaps a lawyer defending those suffering injustice?
This is why the work ACT is doing is so important.
Exploitation of the vulnerable is often only possible because of a lack of knowledge of a person’s rights.
Without the business skills training that ACT provides for widows to empower them and the education and welfare support for their disadvantaged children and orphans, they will feel isolated and give up hope of a better life. Our early intervention with the most vulnerable young boys and girls allows them to choose a bright future, one away from militia and conflicts, a future that leads to the classroom not the court.
“Thus says the Lord: “Keep justice, and do righteousness” (Isaiah 56:1)
To help us continue to bring justice to vulnerable people in Africa and support our work of fighting injustice please click here.