[Dateline: New York | Author: iSeek]
As the eyes of the world are on the International Criminal Court (ICC) while it tries its first-ever case, a trial dealing with the recruitment of children into armed conflict, take a moment to read the latest installment of Costa’s Corner in which the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa recounts his visit to a camp for formerly exploited and victimized children organized by his office and the ICC Trust Fund for Victims.
From time to time, Mr. Costa shares his views on “interesting people, tragic and inspirational stories, and world-changing events” with readers on the UNODC web site in a column called Costa’s Corner.
The latest installment is called "Descent into the heart of darkness."
According to Mr. Costa, “Child soldiers, their victimization and their exploitation for violence against civilians, are a dramatic case of contemporary slavery - one that UNODC is committed to fight in the four corners of the world.”
The powerful story of how artists have been enlisted to portray the drama of what is known as a modern form of slavery, and in turn to alleviate suffering among victims, is available in full on the UNODC web site (full story).
Landmark week for the ICC
This optimistic and powerful story highlighted above stands in somber contrast to another notable event in the UN System in the news this week – the opening of the trial of Mr. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo at the ICC (related press release).
The trial is significant because, not only will it be the first in the history of the Court, but it will also be the first one in the history of international law which will see victims participate fully in the proceedings.
Mr. Dyilo is accused of having committed, as co-perpetrator, war crimes consisting of enlisting and conscripting of children under the age of 15 years into the Forces patriotiques pour la libération du Congo [Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo] (FPLC), and using them to participate actively in hostilities in Ituri, a district of the Eastern Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), between September 2002 and August 2003.
About the ICC
The ICC is an independent, permanent court that tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The jurisdiction and functioning of the ICC are governed by the Rome Statute with 108 states parties.
The ICC is a court of last resort and only tries those accused of the gravest crimes as defined in the Rome Statute as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.
As at June 2008, 273 women and 288 men work for the ICC, coming from 80 member states.
About the ICC Trust Fund for Victims
While the Trust Fund acknowledges it is impossible to fully undo the harm caused by these most serious crimes, it is possible to help survivors regain their dignity, rebuild their families and communities, and regain their place as fully contributing members of their societies.
The Trust Fund for Victims only acts in situations where the ICC has jurisdiction.
UNODC and human trafficking
According to the UNODC web site, human trafficking is the acquisition of people, including children, by improper means such as force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them.
Virtually every country in the world is affected by these crimes. The challenges for all countries, rich and poor, are to target the criminals who exploit desperate people and to protect and assist the victims.