(PORTLAND) When the world learned of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) landmark indictments against Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmad al Basher on July 14, Portland Amnesty International USA members witnessed another groundbreaking moment. Portland Mayor Tom Potter became the first and only U.S. mayor to sign a proclamation declaring July 17 as International Justice Day two years in a row.
“I’m a firm believer if we don’t protect each others rights, there may come a time when our rights will need to be protected and there may not be anyone to protect them,” Mayor Potter told Amnesty International USA members Carmen Martin-Stiles and Sherry Harbert of Portland Group 48. Martin-Stiles and Harbert met with the mayor to discuss the significance of the Rome Statute that established the ICC and congratulate him for his support.
Mayor Potter read the proclamation to urge all residents to observe the date and participate in activities that recognize the contribution of the ICC for the advancement of justice, peace and security. “If we don’t have equity and justice for everyone, we don’t have it for anyone,” he said, echoing Martin Luther King’s statement engraved in concrete on the side of the Federal Justice Center which faces Mayor Potter’s office. By signing the proclamation for the second year, Mayor Potter hopes to continue that ideal with many issues facing the city and nation. He said it was important to acknowledge what is happening in the world as a first step to solving problems.
Amnesty International worked to help support the Rome Statute, passed in 1998 to establish the world’s first permanent court to prosecute genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the statute. The ICC was launched in The Hague in 2002 and has issued indictments for war crimes and crimes against humanity in nations that will not or can not administer justice. The recent indictment against Sudan’s al Bashir marks the first for the crime of genocide and against a sitting leader. Four current cases before the court involve Darfur, Sudan; Uganda; the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR). Although the ICC only tries those accused of the gravest crimes, the U.S. has refused to support ICC.
Mayor Potter expressed his hope that U.S. policy will change in the future. “I’m hopeful that our new President will take some of these issues more seriously once he’s in office,” said Mayor Potter. “I am glad I can help in a small way.” Mayor Potter called the residents of Portland to join in observance of the anniversary and to participate in activities that recognize and support the work of the ICC.
For more information about Amnesty International USA’s International Justice and Accountability (IJA) Campaign, visit www.amnestyusa.org/international_justice. The campaign includes a documentary, Justice Without Borders, which can be viewed online.
July 27, 2008