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Establishment of an International Criminal Court

19-10-2000 Statement

United Nations, General Assembly, 55th session. Statement by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), New York, 19 October 2000 United Nations General Assembly

Mr. Chairman,

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), pursuant to its mandate to promote both the development of, and respect for, international humanitarian law, has consistently supported the establishment of a fair and effective International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICRC is grateful for having been able to contribute to the drafting of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence and to the definition of the Elements of Crimes, adopted at the last session of the ICC Preparatory Commission.

The Geneva Conventions of 1949 entrust the ICRC with the role of protecting and assisting victims of armed conflict. This role, complementary to that of repressive mechanisms such as the ICC, can only be accomplished if the ICRC both maintains and is perceived to maintain strict neutrality in its work. Specifically, its delegates'access to the victims of armed conflict depends on the confidence of the warring parties that the ICRC will not provide evidence against them in subsequent criminal proceedings. For this reason, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia recently recognized that the ICRC enjoys a privilege against providing evidence as a matter of customary international law. We wish to express our gratitude to the Preparatory Commission for this same recognition, embodied in the Rules of Procedure and Evidence.

Mr. Chairman,

The work of the international community is not finished. We congratulate States that have already signed and/or ratified the Rome Statute establishing the ICC. We are also gratified by the efforts undertaken by States to incorporate into their domestic law the crimes within the ICC's jurisdicti on. Such implementation is the best indicator that the ICC will, as intended, complement rather than replace national jurisdiction.

We continue to call upon States which have not already done so to promptly sign and ratify the Rome Statute. This we do for three reasons:  First, to send a strong message of deterrence to those who would continue to flout the most elemental laws of mankind.  Secondly, to bring the ICC into force at the earliest possible moment, thereby losing no opportunity to bring to justice those who commit the most heinous crimes against their fellow humans.  Thirdly, to convey a message in support of the ICC to those States that have not yet become convinced of the Court's rightful place in the scheme of international justice - a place reflecting the recognition that certain crimes are so serious that they concern the international community as a whole.  We note that several States have been waiting for the adoption of the Elements of Crimes and Rules of Procedure and Evidence before proceeding toward ratification.  Now that the picture is complete, we encourage those States to proceed toward ratification without delay.

Through its Advisory Service on international humanitarian law, the ICRC also invites States to avail themselves of the technical assistance we offer in connection with ratification and national implementation of the Rome Statute.

Mr. Chairman,

We would like to express our hope that the continuing work of the Preparatory Commission will not result in a dilution of the integrity of the Rome Statute, in particular with regard to the jurisdiction of the Court.  In this respect, we first note that a State on whose territory a crime is committed has the authority to prosecute a national of another State, without regard to the consent of that other State. There should also be no doubt about the right of a State to delegate this authority to an international trib unal.  Secondly, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide are already subject to universal jurisdiction under customary international law.  Thus, any State may prosecute anyone for such crimes, regardless of where they are committed.  The Geneva Conventions go even further, imposing an obligation on States to either try or extradite those who may have committed war crimes qualified as grave breaches.

In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, the International Committee of the Red Cross expresses its continued support for the early entry into force of a fair and effective International Criminal Court.  We express our appreciation for the work of the Preparatory Commission to date.  We also urge States to take the long view, to retain their faith in the fundamental principle expressed in the Rome Statute, that the best formula for a credible International Criminal Court is one that protects the universality of its mission.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

Ref. LG 2000-107-ENG