What does ‘justice’ mean to us?
This Sunday is International Justice Day: the anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute, which created the International Criminal Court (ICC).
With our domestic political system still reeling from the vote to leave the EU, it serves as a reminder that some fantastic and hugely important things have been achieved when we work together with other countries to address common challenges.
The creation of the ICC was a hugely significant step towards ending impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious international crimes. Headquartered in The Hague in the Netherlands, it is charged with investigating and prosecuting crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. To date, 123 countries have ratified the Statute and thereby endorsed the work of the Court.
On Sunday please take a moment to reflect on our relative good fortune in light of the extremely inhuman, wicked acts which have been – and continue to be – committed around the world. We also need to take time to celebrate the efforts of many individuals and the international community who have helped to create a more just and peaceful world.
It is an opportunity to think about what justice means for us all. Some people we support have offended, and we believe strongly in their right to a second chance. Central to our uStep model is the mantra: “Treat a person as they are and they will remain as they are. Treat a person as they could be and they will become as they should be.”
I worry that sometimes people are so quickly labelled – and that label can stay with them for life. Of course I am not talking about those war criminals who end up in the ICC. I am talking about those in our society which are statistically more likely to end up in custody before their 18th birthday just because of the circumstances they were born into. While people need to make their own choices and take responsibility for their own actions, they also need to be understood, heard, respected and supported when they sincerely commit to learning and changing their ways.
What we want to do as an organisation is equip people with the skills and tools they need to become active, positive citizens. We believe everyone, whatever their ability and background, has a place in society and should have the same opportunities to achieve. But in order to achieve this they need the support of their family, friends and community. If this network is not there, they will falter.
Speaking about the ICC, Mona Rishmawi (who has the incredible job title of “Chief of the Rule of Law, Equality and Non-Discrimination Branch at the UN Human Rights Office”) said she felt that, “People really have this embedded sense of justice. It can help address loss and relieve pain. It is necessary for the community as a whole.” As a community, therefore, we need to show that we are committed to justice. Personal interpretations of what “justice” looks like will vary, but I think that it’s so important for a “just” society to focus on rehabilitation and restoration. Punishment alone will get us nowhere.
To mark this day please encourage those around you to join us in thinking about what “justice” means, and why it is important for our community. I’d love to hear your thoughts.