The ICJ has issued its Annual Report 2016, which offers a concise summary of the work carried out by the ICJ over the past year.
In 2016, the ICJ’s mission gained new urgency as the organization countered a global assault on the concept of the rule of law and respect for the international human rights legal order.
The year started with the international community seeming to accept, via the adoption of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16, the fundamental importance of the rule of law to the implementation of sustainable development around the globe.
The inclusion of the rule of law in the SDGs emphasizes the need to develop the nexus between development and the legal framework of human rights; the ICJ has done this since its inception in 1952, and more consistently since the 1970s, and will continue to do so in the context of the SDGs.
However, this optimism has been overshadowed by an unprecedented, if not entirely unforeseen, invocation by political figures around the world of fear-mongering, discrimination, and demagoguery to erode respect for human rights and undermine the basic notion of an international legal order.
As the year drew to a close, Burundi, the Gambia and South Africa initiated steps to withdraw from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (though at the time of writing the withdrawals have either been reversed or suspended in all three countries, thanks in part to efforts by the ICJ).
A new administration in the United States of America signaled policies, inside and outside the country, at odds with fundamental principles of nondiscrimination and constitutional checks and balances.
Similarly, a new administration in the Philippines rapidly transformed the country from an important advocate for abolition of the death penalty to a country that has unapologetically embraced extrajudicial killings and taken steps to reintroduce the death penalty.
Turkey responded to a failed coup d’état by initiating an arbitrary purge of the judiciary that has significantly weakened the State’s judicial system.
Egypt has undermined the concept of judicial accountability by systematically using the judicial system as a tool of oppression.
Regrettably, there are many more examples of rights regression that can also be considered.
The anger about globalization is real and should not be ignored; in fact, the ICJ has for years pointed out the dangers of a global order that provides profit-making businesses with tremendous privileges but does not hold them to account, and we are currently engaged in the ongoing process for the elaboration of an international treaty on business and human rights.
However the solution is not to throw out the international institutions and systems that have been targeted but rather to strengthen these to ensure that they are fit for purpose.
The ICJ believes in the continued relevance of institutions such as the UN and the importance of the international standards that can be upheld through its mechanisms.
The ICJ has been working to ensure that these are increasingly accessible to everyone and has been working on a project with individuals and organizations from ASEAN to encourage and facilitate access to UN mechanisms for victims of rights abuses from the region.
The ICJ’s 2016 Geneva Forum explored the role of judges and lawyers in situations of large-scale movements of refugees and migrants and considered how the judiciary can uphold and protect the rights of those affected.
The ICJ also undertook training workshops with European lawyers to enhance their capacity to protect the rights of refugees and migrants through domestic legal systems in compliance with relevant regional and international standards.
The ICJ believes that an independent and robust judiciary is essential to this dynamic concept of the rule of law but also considers that a judiciary that acts with impunity and is unaccountable for any rights transgressions committed by the judiciary itself undermines this concept.
A new Practitioners’ Guide on judicial accountability was launched that addresses the complex and under-examined issues of how to ensure accountability for judicial misconduct whilst preserving the independence of the judiciary.
Judicial systems and processes can only be effective if they are accessible and the ICJ has been working to strengthen access to justice for particularly vulnerable and marginalized groups.
For example, in 2016, the ICJ released new Practitioners’ Guides on women’s access to justice for sexual and gender-based violence and on refugee status claims based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
For a complete overview of ICJ’s most important activities in 2016, you can download the Annual Report 2016 (in light PDF) here:
Universal-ICJ year 2016-Publications-Annual Report-2017-ENG (in low resolution to download faster)Annual reportPublications