EI5: Mariana Rodriguez Pareja
End Impunity is asking five international justice advocates from around the world five “simple” questions about their personal connection to the issue and the unique perspective that their region of the world provides them.
1. Why is the issue of international justice important to you?
I was born in Argentina, during the Dirty War. I belong to the generation of sons and daughters of the so-called “desaparecidos.” One of my first memories is of the trials against the military juntas – I remember asking my parents why they were so scared of the “military” and the “dictators” as they used to call them, because whenever there was a threat of a military coup (which was very common back in my country in the 1980s), I could see them shaking and asking us to stay quiet if something happens. I was raised with the idea that there will not be peace in the country without accountability, justice and redress. As I grew up, I realized that sometimes local justice systems are unable and/or unwilling to pursue justice for different reasons (lack of willingness or capacity to name a few) and that there are international justice mechanisms that could help bring justice to those who need it.
2. Does the region from where you are from have a particular perspective and attitude towards justice? How has this influenced you?
I truly believe that Latin America has a very positive attitude towards justice, regardless of some setbacks in Peru and Honduras. The region played an important role in the Rome Conference of 1998 which established the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the ICC. The ICC has jurisdiction in most of the countries of the region since they have ratified or acceded to the treaty; the exceptions are Nicaragua, El Salvador and Cuba. Also, if you take a quick look at the region, you will see that most of the countries have suffered internal conflicts, but have created truth commissions (Peru, Guatemala, Argentina, Chile, most recently Brazil, just to name a few) and/or have prosecuted those who committed grave crimes. For example, in Guatemala, former de facto President Rios Montt is being prosecuted for genocide, and Argentina has prosecuted (and sentenced) former de facto President Videla for crimes against humanity. There is a regional tendency to share experiences among us and it is really impressive how the HR community in Latin America celebrates when there is an achievement in justice, and when there is a setback, everybody offers help to see how to overcome the disappointment. I believe we are still learning and there is a lot to learn, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
3. What are some successes and some failures of the International Criminal Court?
Expectations were high when the Rome Statute was adopted, and they were still high when it entered into force in 2002. I was part of the beginnings of this historical court. I started working for the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) – a coalition of over 2000 civil society organizations advocating for a fair, effective and independent ICC – when the ICC had only 6 ratifications. I remember my mentor, former boss, and current Convener of the CICC William R. Pace saying that we were witnessing history. He could not have been more right. But in only 10 years of existence, it would prove impossible for a nascent and exceptional ICC to meet the demands of human rights violations around the globe.
As a criticism, I believe that the ICC Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) has failed to open an official investigation in any country outside Africa, despite the existence of grave situations that fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC in Latin America, such as Colombia and Honduras, as well as Asia, such as Afghanistan. The final drafting of the Crime of Aggression at the Kampala Review Conference in 2010 could suggest that it will take a long, long time for this crime to come into force, which to me is a another obstacle to rendering truly effective justice.
Despite this, there are many successes: the sole existence of the ICC is a success for us all. The Rome Statute is the most important instrument available in the international criminal justice system to prevent mass atrocities, to strengthen national judiciaries, penal codes, and to bring justice to victims of heinous crimes. It is also the first institution to put forward high standards in terms of monitoring gender crimes, fairness of proceedings, and victims’ rights.
I think that we should be critical yet patient: just as Rome was not built in a day, the Rome system still needs time to grow.The ICC will not stop all atrocities from happening but it plants a question for potential perpetrators: What if the ICC comes for me?
4. Who are some of the perpetrators of mass crimes that you think should be indicted by the ICC? Do you think it will ever happen? Why?
At the moment, I believe the situation in Syria should be referred to the ICC. Given that Syria is not party to the ICC and the only way the ICC can act is if the UNSC refers the situation, the odds are scarce.
I hope those who are indicted by the ICC,namely Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Bosco Ntaganda, and Joseph Kony (three of the most wanted) should be arrested and transferred to the ICC for a fair trial.
5. How can the regular citizen from around the world play a part in the fight for international justice?
We can all contribute to the fight for international justice. It is important to advocate by spreading the word, talking to our kids and to our friends about justice and its merits, using social networks to raise awareness that there are people out there who are living terrible lives suffering at the hands of merciless killers, and that maybe and very possibly it could be us tomorrow.
Some other actions that every person can take that are very important are for them to reach out to their congressmen, senators, presidents, judicial institutions and bodies, international/regional organizations in order to denounce crimes and call for the upholding of justice. Everyone can also help with NGOs working to end impunity, help with development organizations aiding in building competent national judicial systems; they can even organize events to discuss these issues, or protests/demonstrations to end impunity (good opportunity is International Justice Day, July 17th); start petitions,
We are not alone in this world. We have to learn to exercise empathy and solidarity.
Mariana Rodriguez Pareja (Argentina) holds a JD and is a PhD candidate in Law and Social Sciences at the Universidad del Museo Social Argentino (UMSA). Professional training: Pontificia Universidad Católica el Perú, Columbia University in New York, Ministry Of Justice and Human Rights in Argentina and at the Instituto Interamericano de Derechos Humanos, San José, Costa Rica
Mariana is currently the Director of the Human Rights Program at Asuntos del Sur (ADS) and previous held positions include Media Strategist and Communications Manager at the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) in New York, Buenos Aires and Lima. She consulted briefly with the Presidency of the International Criminal Court in Santiago de Chile and Human Rights Watch, in Buenos Aires.
Author of several publications, she is also a journalist, writer and blogger. Some of her articles can be found at International Justice Central, Global Memo, Justice in Conflict, International Justice Tribune, Rights International Spain, International Center for Human Rights at Ottawa University, Revista Cladem, Argenpress, The ICC Monitor, World Federalist News, Choike.uy, Instituto Interamericano de Derechos Humanos, Revista Signos, Medios Lentos and Noticias SER.
Twitter handle: @maritaerrepe