Since 2016, the 23rd of May marks the annual EU Day against Impunity for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Under the auspices of the Presidency of the Council of the EU in cooperation with the European Commission, the Genocide Network and Eurojust, this initiative aims to raise awareness of the most heinous crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
At the same time, the EU Day against Impunity is intended to promote national investigations and prosecutions, to formally recognise the common efforts of the EU Member States and the European Union in enforcing international criminal law, to address the position and participation of victims in criminal proceedings for these crimes, and to reinvigorate Europe-wide commitment to the continuing fight against impunity for these crimes.
The first EU Day against Impunity took place on 23 May 2016. Since then, the event has been attended by practitioners, representatives of international tribunals, Member States, the European Institutions and international organisations, non-governmental organisations, academics, lawyers, journalists, etc.
The initiative represents the implementation of one of the measures decided in the Strategy of the Genocide Network to combat impunity for the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes within the European Union and its Member States (Measure 7c).
5th EU Day against Impunity, 23 May 2020
On Saturday 23 May 2020, the 5th EU Day Against Impunity was marked in an alternative format due to the COVID-19 restrictions. As in the past, the event was organised in a collaboration of the Croatian Presidency, the European Commission, the Genocide Network and Eurojust.
The main theme of this year’s event was cumulative prosecution of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs). Recorded keynote statements, launched via Eurojust’s YouTube channel, featured the Minister of Justice of Croatia, the EU Commissioner for Justice and Consumers, Ms Nadia Murad, a Yazidi Human Rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, accompanied by the contributions of national public prosecutors from Germany, the Netherlands and France. The President of Eurojust, Mr Ladislav Hamran, and Mr Matevž Pezdirc, Head of the Genocide Network Secretariat, also provided introductory statements to the celebration. All video statements are available on Eurojust’s YouTube channel. Together with the statements, a report on the cumulative prosecution of FTFs and a factsheet on core international crimes were published.
Cases presented by the prosecutors illustrated possibilities for national authorities to charge returning FTFs for terrorism-related offences, such as membership, and war crimes of pillage, slavery, enlisting child soldiers or inhumane treatment. Further charges could include crimes against humanity or the crime of genocide.
The outreach of the event’s content was made by ways of various channels, including social media (LinkedIn, Twitter) and traditional media outlets. This all contributed to the dissemination to wider audiences of both the strong message to bolster EU-wide commitment to fighting our world’s most heinous crimes, and the specific issue of getting justice done for victims of FTFs.
The EU Day Against Impunity, in addition to praising the prosecution efforts of EU Member States and institutions, is also devoted to victims. ‘Living without receiving justice is another kind of torture’, said Ms Nadia Murad. For that reason, the gravest crimes should never go unpunished.
The report on the 5th EU Day against Impunity is available here.
4th EU Day against Impunity, 23 May 2019
On 23 May 2019, the 4th EU Day Against Impunity took place at Eurojust, organised by the Romanian Presidency, the European Commission, the Genocide Network and Eurojust. To mark this annual event, Eurojust hosted more than 140 participants from the diplomatic and the international community.
Eurojust President Ladislav Hamran warmly welcomed outstanding personalities such as Ferdinand Grapperhaus, Minister of Justice and Security of the Netherlands, Lorin Ovidiu Hagimă, representative of Ana Birchall, Deputy Prime Minister for Romania’s Strategic Partnerships Implementation and interim Minister of Justice, and Fatou Bensouda, Chief Prosecutor of the ICC. These three extraordinary speakers captivated the audience with passionate speeches, emphasizing the importance of fighting impunity of perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. They highlighted the excellent work done by Eurojust and the Genocide Network in this regard. Both Eurojust and the Genocide Network hold the position of forerunners, showing the EU’s commitment to fighting impunity and ensuring that the EU does not and will not become a safe haven for perpetrators of core international crimes. Moreover, Minister Grapperhaus revealed the concrete endeavour of the Dutch Government to initiate a ministerial meeting at the following UN General Assembly on the prosecution of ISIS perpetrators for mass atrocity crimes.
The EU Day Against Impunity continued with an interesting panel discussion on the topic of ‘Joining forces in the fight against impunity – providing synergies between external and internal European dimensions’. Established experts from the European External Action Service, academia, national prosecution services, the European Court of Human Rights and civil society engaged in the panel discussion. This discussion guaranteed a successful and fruitful debate, highlighting various perspectives.
Following the event, participants were invited to a light reception. The event showed great cooperation between all four partners, was widely perceived as very successful event, and was praised on social media by stakeholders. Due to the difficult financial situation at Eurojust, the event was fully funded by the European Commission, DG Justice.
The report on the 4th EU Day against Impunity is available here.
3rd EU Day against Impunity, 23 May 2018
The third edition of the EU Day against Impunity, organised by the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union in close cooperation with the European Commission and the Genocide Network, was held on 23 May 2018 at the premises of the International Criminal Court. On the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute, it was an important occasion to acknowledge the efforts of the European Union to end impunity.
The panel discussion addressed the EU’s and Member States’ achievements on this matter. Furthermore, the discussion highlighted the importance of ensuring public support for the fight against impunity as well as the shared responsibility between national jurisdictions and the International Criminal Court. With many ongoing armed conflicts, including in the vicinity of the EU, topics such as judicial cooperation and accountability for impunity gaps were considered, thereby illustrating the various legal and practical challenges of tackling core international crimes.
The high-level discussion panel consisted of Mr Christian Ritscher, Federal Public Prosecutor of the German Federal Court of Justice, Dr Ekaterina Trendafilova, President of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, and former Judge of the ICC, Ms Marietje Schaake, Member of the European Parliament, Mr Matevz Pezdirc, Head of the Genocide Network Secretariat (GNS) at Eurojust, Ms Catherine Marchi-Uhel, Head of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria, and Mrs Anita Vegter, Director General for the Administration of Justice and Law Enforcement at the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security.
The report on the 3rd EU Day against Impunity is available here.
2nd EU Day against Impunity, 23 May 2017
On 23 May 2017, the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union hosted the second EU Day against Impunity for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Brussels, in cooperation with the European Commission and the Genocide Network.
The event’s emphasis was on stepping up collective action and cooperation within the European Union when fighting impunity. In attendance were practitioners, representatives from international criminal courts and tribunals, Member States, European institutions, international organisations and NGOs, academics and lawyers.
The report on the 2nd EU Day against Impunity is available here.
1st EU Day against Impunity, 23 May 2016
The first annual EU Day against Impunity for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes took place on 23 May 2016 in The Hague, under the Dutch EU Presidency.
The event was hosted by Eurojust, and organised in cooperation with the European Commission and the Genocide Network. Commenting on the day, the Dutch Minister of Security and Justice stated that ‘the EU is no safe haven for perpetrators of atrocious crimes’.
Approximately 150 participants were welcomed by the President of Eurojust at the time, Ms Michèle Coninsx, who stressed the importance of close cooperation between Member States as an essential prerequisite of successful investigations and prosecutions of international crimes.
The report on the 1st EU Day against Impunity is available here.