• Send page
  • Print page

Establishment of an international criminal court

22-10-1999 Statement

United Nations, General Assembly, 54th session. Statement by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), New York, 22 October 1999

Mr. Chairman,

The existing system for the repression of war crimes is still all too often ignored. That is why the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has actively supported the creation of a permanent and universal system and welcomed the adoption of the Statute of the International Criminal Court.

It is our firm belief that this Court will help make the existing system of repression more effective. Therefore, we earnestly hope that the Rome Statute will soon enter into force and that many States will join Senegal, Trinidad and Tobago, San Marino and Italy in ratifying the treaty. At the same time we reaffirm our wish to see States refrain from declaring, as they are entitled to under Article 124, that they do not accept the jurisdiction of the Court for a period of seven years with respect to war crimes alleged to have been committed by their nationals or on their territory.

Given that the Court is to be complementary to national criminal jurisdictions, and keeping in mind that States continue to bear primary responsibility for instituting legal proceedings, the ICRC, through its Advisory Service, will continue and further develop its efforts to assist States in adopting and implementing national legislation for the prosecution of war criminals in general and the Rome Statute in particular.

Mr. Chairman,

Before the Court beco mes operational, much remains to be done. In addition to the question of ratification, the ongoing work of the Preparatory Commission, in particular the drafting of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence and of the Elements of Crimes, requires the utmost attention of all States. It is essential that existing international humanitarian law be properly reflected in these instruments.

With a view to contributing to this aim, and in order to be of assistance in the negotiations of the Preparatory Commission, the ICRC prepared for the first two sessions several parts of an extensive study of relevant international and national case law on the elements of war crimes. This study, which presents relevant sources of law and indicates the elements that emerge from these sources, will be completed for the Commission's next session in November/December.

If carefully drafted, the Preparatory Commission's document on Elements of Crimes, although not legally binding on judges, may nonetheless become an important tool for ensuring that the law is uniformly applied on the international level and probably on the national level as well. The highly constructive attitude of all delegations at the Preparatory Commission has been very encouraging. This approach should make it possible to agree upon a document which will no doubt be of great help to judges and to submit it to the future Assembly of States Parties for adoption.

The ICRC, for its part, trusts that, in its capacity as promoter and guardian of international humanitarian law, it has made and is continuing to make a contribution to the successful outcome of the Preparatory Commission.

Mr. Chairman,

The adoption of the Rome Statute has raised great expectations that more effective protection will be provided for war victims. We should therefore like to reiterate our firm commitment to the process under way and our support for the future International Criminal Court.

Thank you, Mr Chairman.

Ref. LG 1999-195-ENG