When the International Criminal Court was established in 1998, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan noted that it was ‘a historic moment and certainly one of the finest moments in the history of the United Nations, when, finally, the Rome Statute, creating … a permanent International Criminal Court was adopted … Its creation represents a giant step forward in the marchtowards universal human rights and the rule of law.’
Accordingly, the International Criminal Court, established ‘to guarantee lasting respect for and the enforcement of international justice’ and to ‘put an end to impunity’ for the perpetrators of ‘the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole’, ultimately raises the recurring questions of what universal human rights are and what the purpose and role of international criminal law in human rights is.
THE HISTORY OF UNIVERSAL HUMAN RIGHTS
THE HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENT
The beginning of the modern international human rights movement occurred in the post war period, withthe promulgation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, shortly after the establishment of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg (IMT). The movement embraced the idea that there is a correlation between peace and human rights, that there could be no peace without justice, that universal values and morality exist in human life and that ‘it is not reasonable to allow this value to be diluted by the mere boundaries whichhuman beings happen to have constructed against eachother’. The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg has long been an important symbol of the universality of law. Individuals could be held accountable for crimes against international law, in particular ‘crimes against humanity’ as defined in the Nuremberg Charter. The IMT, and its subsequent trials, ‘provided a springboard for the development of international human rights law’.
HUMAN RIGHTS GLOBALISATION
International human rights norms have now ‘gone global’.1 Their protection is a collective goal of the international community as evidenced by the establishment of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and that for Rwanda and not least the creation of the world's first permanent International Criminal Court, created by the Rome Statute.