States can help deliver justice for victims of genocide

States must adopt a landmark treaty to strengthen international legal cooperation in the investigation of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes to improve victims’ access to justice and reparations, Amnesty International said before the start of a high-level conference on an accord.

Negotiations on the proposed convention, which sets out international obligations of states, including on mutual legal assistance and extradition in the investigation and prosecution of crimes under international law, are due to begin in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on Monday 15 May.

Fisseha Tekle, Legal Advisor on International Justice at Amnesty International, said: “Investigating genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes under international law often involves victims, evidence and perpetrators in different countries, so there is an urgent need to ensure that states can work effectively with each other to deliver justice.

“While international treaties exist for countries to collaborate legally on issues such as corruption or organized crime, the absence of a global convention on cooperation concerning suspected genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes has been a glaring omission from the landscape of international law and justice. This convention would be an effective tool in the fight against impunity for crimes under international law.

“Pursuing international justice cannot be the sole responsibility of the International Criminal Court or other international bodies. While these mechanisms are often crucial, comprehensive justice and reparations for victims requires states to investigate crimes under international law using their own national legal systems, in cooperation with other countries.”

Many states, particularly in Europe, have opened national investigations into war crimes and crimes against humanity following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This convention would provide a significant improvement to the international legal framework for states conducting such investigations and prosecutions of crimes under international law, wherever they are committed.

Amnesty International calls on negotiators to adopt a treaty which incorporates the highest international law and human rights standards. This would include the broadest possible definitions of these crimes as well as who is recognized as a victim, and enhance their rights and access to justice, truth and reparations,” Fisseha Tekle said.

Seventy-seven states are co-sponsoring the current draft of the Convention on International Cooperation in the Investigation and Prosecution of Genocide, Crimes against Humanity, War Crimes and other International Crimes. If adopted, the treaty would oblige states that have joined the convention to either prosecute suspected perpetrators of these crimes in their own domestic courts, or hand them over to another state or to an international criminal tribunal for trial there.

“Amnesty International urges all states present in Ljubljana to negotiate and adopt a convention that can be regarded as a genuine and historic legal landmark which will benefit not only investigators and prosecutors but ultimately deliver justice to the victims and survivors,” Fisseha Tekle said.

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