23 May marked the first annual EU Day Against Impunity for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Taking place in The Hague under the auspices of the Dutch EU Presidency, the event was co-organized by Eurojust, the European Commission and the ‘Network for investigation and prosecution of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes’. Among the key objectives of the EU Day Against Impunity is to raise awareness of these heinous crimes and as such the event is also intended to promote national investigations and prosecutions.
The EU Day Against Impunity also aims to recognize 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 a Europe-wide commitment to the continuing fight against impunity for these crimes. The Netherlands Minister of Security and Justice, H.E. Mr Ard van der Steur, commented that “It is primarily the responsibility of states to investigate and prosecute alleged perpetrators of core international crimes. International criminal courts and tribunals are often set up as courts of last resort, and are not able to prosecute ALL violations of international criminal law.”
The Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Ms Vera Jourová, added that the European Commission has made support to victims of crime a priority. Therefore, victims in criminal proceeding conducted in EU courts enjoy a variety of rights under European law, regardless of their nationality. “Together with the Member States, the European Union has been striving for consistency between the European Union’s internal and external policies in relation to the fight against serious international crimes. Close and swift cooperation between national judicial and law enforcement authorities matter greatly. At the EU level, Eurojust and Europol play a crucial role in this respect,” she said. There are currently 1339 ongoing core international crime cases in the EU Member States.