(Berlin)- The International Criminal Court (ICC) has made important progress since its creation five years ago, but the court continues to face major challenges, said Amnesty International, the German Red Cross, the United Nation Association of Germany and Human Rights Watch in a joint statement today. This message will be the theme of a two-day conference that the organizations are convening in Berlin on September 21-22, to galvanize public support in Germany for the International Criminal Court.

“It is now time for states, including Germany, to continue to give the court the support that it needs in order to work successfully,” the organizations said.

The German government was pivotal in the establishment of the ICC and must continue leading the fight against impunity by actively supporting the court.

The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC is currently investigating grave crimes committed in four situations: Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur, and the Central African Republic. Eight arrest warrants have been issued against alleged perpetrators in three of these situations. In January 2007, the ICC confirmed its first instance of charges of war crimes against Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, a former Congolese militia leader. His trial, the first ever before the ICC, should start in early 2008.

The serious challenges facing the ICC include: lack of universal ratification of the Rome Statute, which established the court; the problem of investigating in conflict zones; and the difficulty of securing the arrest and transfer of accused persons. These issues have hampered the court’s effectiveness, said the organizations. The ICC should continue to pursue vigorous investigations and go even higher up the chain of command to hold to account those bearing direct or command responsibility for the most serious crimes. The court should also do its utmost to ensure that its work is meaningful to communities affected by the crimes, through effective outreach in the field.

For their part, states supporting the court must ensure that the institution has the means to deliver justice to victims. The majority of those charged by the ICC have yet to be arrested by the relevant states. In May 2007, the ICC issued arrest warrants against two suspects, Sudanese Minister Ahmad Harun and Janjaweed leader Ali Kushayb, for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur. They both remain at liberty. As attacks on civilians continue in Darfur, it is high time for the international community to press for the execution of these warrants.

The conference seeks to explore the accomplishments and the challenges that the court is facing today. Amnesty International, the German Red Cross, the UN Association of Germany, and Human Rights Watch are longstanding supporters of the ICC and are committed to its success.