Fighting impunity: strengthening EU support for international justice

EU Parliament in Brussels
19 Mar 2014 14:22:40.900
PA 73/14

A legal expert from The University of Nottingham has presented research to the European Parliament on strategies for strengthening member state support for the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Olympia Bekou, Professor of Public International Law and Head of the University’s Human Rights Law Centre’s International Criminal Justice Unit, was in Brussels today (Wednesday March 19), outlining the findings from her study, Mainstreaming Support for the International Criminal Court in the EU’s Policies.

The study could help shape future policy on the way in which the EU and its member states offer the ICC both practical and financial assistance.
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Grave crimes

The ICC is the first permanent international course with the power to investigate and prosecute people charged with some of the gravest offences in our society, including genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The European Union and its member states have been the staunchest supporters of international criminal justice and the fight against impunity, sharing in the ICC’s commitment to human rights, justice and the rule of law.

The EU has been able to use its considerable political influence and financial capital to provide the ICC with the technical, political and financial support it needs to uphold international law.

Both the EU and its member states have been responsible for delivering support to the ICC through a range of policies and activities. Examples of this have included raising the issue in the course of human rights dialogues or other diplomatic initiatives and inserting ICC clauses in trade and development agreements.

They have also funded non-governmental organisations and civil society organisations which play a vital role in the promotion of international justice and the ICC and to help states to develop the capacity to conduct their own investigations. The EU facilitates closer coordination between member states, which allows them to more effectively cooperate with the court to access the assistance they need to collect evidence and to execute arrest warrants.

Professor Bekou’s study, conducted with the assistance of Hemi Mistry, PhD student in the School of Law at The University of Nottingham, aimed to highlight the degree of support that the EU and its member states provide the ICC, while critically assessing the effectiveness of the assistance it delivers.

Delivering justice

Professor Bekou said: “The EU and its member states have been the staunchest supporters of the ICC system of international criminal justice and have been consistent providers of political support in the pursuit of its objectives. However, it is clear that they can — and should — do more to provide the court with technical and financial assistance, particularly to encourage greater cooperation with the court to implement the principle of complementarity.”

With all the cases under investigation by the court hailing from the African continent, and with two sitting African heads of state currently subject to ICC proceedings, the study focussed in particular on the role that the EU should play in assisting the Court with overcoming the challenges that its increasingly fractious relationship with some African states presents to its ability to ensure that justice is done. 

The research makes concrete and specific policy recommendations directed at both the EU and the member states to improve the effectiveness of their support for the ICC, particularly through enhanced technical and financial assistance.

Professor Bekou’s presentation was streamed live on EUROPARL TV and the study was due to be made available by the Subcommittee on Human Rights soon afterwards.

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottinghamhas 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with campuses in China and Malaysia modelled on a headquarters that is among the most attractive in Britain’ (Times Good University Guide 2014). It is also the most popular university among graduate employers, the world’s greenest university, and winner of the Times Higher Education Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Development’. It is ranked in the World's Top 75 universities by the QS World University Rankings.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…

Story credits

More information is available from Amy Weatherburn in The University of Nottingham’s Human Rights Law Centre, The School of Law, on +44 (0)115 846 6310,

Emma Thorne Emma Thorne - Media Relations Manager

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