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July the 17th: Seeing Mental Health through the lens of Crime and Justice

War, crimes and genocides have contributed to the development of mental illnesses and
psychosocial concerns at alarming levels. Contrary to popular belief, the embodied experience
of trauma is not restricted to the survivor alone. The vulnerability of trauma can be felt across
family members, generations, communities and geographies (Coddington & Micieli-Voutsinas, 2017). In fact, it was the psychological impact of the world wars that threw light on an
individual’s psychiatric response to stress. Differences observed in the presentation of
psychological symptoms among the soldiers established a strong association between war
conflicts and mental health (Murthy & Lakshminarayana, 2006).

Law enforcement, statutes and treaties can be viewed as tools for de-escalating crises,
which subsequently prevents worsening mental health conditions, especially in the vulnerable
population. One such celebrated statute is the Rome Statute that was adopted on the 17th of
July, 1988, establishing the International Criminal Court. This day is now observed as the
International Justice Day and commemorates not only the historic adoption of the Rome
Statute but also signifies the relevance of fighting against impunity and bringing justice to
survivors of war crimes. Coalition members all over the globe embrace this day by showing
solidarity with victims and survivors of grave crimes everywhere.

What is interesting about the Rome Statute is that it includes conflicts not only between
sovereigns and intra-state, but also crimes against civilians. The statute has established four
core international crimes to protect the people from genocide, war crimes, crimes against
humanity and the crime of aggression. After World War 1, an increase in heinous crimes was
observed, which further increased after World War 2. Torture, sexual violence, forced
pregnancy, murders and other inhumane acts injuring mental or physical health were then
categorised into crimes against humanity.

For its time, the Rome Statute can be seen as a revolutionary development for
recognising the importance of mental health and the impact different kinds of crime can have
on an individual and consequently their behaviour. The 17th of July is a solemn reminder for all
countries around the world to be committed to the protection of its citizens from any post-
conflict that may impact their psychological and physical well-being.

If you are currently struggling with mental health concerns arising from trauma or grief,
you can also reach out to the YWP; peer support team at
peersupport@yourewonderfulproject.org

 

References
Asp.icc-cpi.int. 2021. 17 July – Day of International Criminal Justice. [online] Available at:
<https://asp.icc-cpi.int/en_menus/asp/asp%20events/ICJD/Pages/default.aspx> [Accessed
11 July 2021].

Coalitionfortheicc.org. 2021. International Justice Day – 17 July | Coalition for the International
Criminal Court. [online] Available at: <https://coalitionfortheicc.org/international-justice-
day-17-july> [Accessed 11 July 2021].

Coddington, K., & Micieli-Voutsinas, J. (2017). On trauma, geography, and mobility: Towards
geographies of trauma. Emotion, Space And Society, 24, 52-56. doi:
10.1016/j.emospa.2017.03.005

Murthy, R. S., & Lakshminarayana, R. (2006). Mental health consequences of war: a brief review
of research findings. World psychiatry : official journal of the World Psychiatric Association
(WPA), 5(1), 25–30.

(2021). Retrieved 11 July 2021, from http://www.icc-cpi.int/nr/rdonlyres/ea9aeff7-5752-4f84-
be94-0a655eb30e16/0/rome_statute_english.pdf