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ICRC welcomes inaugural session of International Criminal Court

11-03-2003 News Release 03/13

Geneva (ICRC) - Ever since the community of nations recognized that the rights of war victims must be better protected under international law, there have been few more significant dates than 11 March 2003.

On this day in The Hague, the 18 judges elected by the Assembly of States Parties for terms of up to nine years are to be sworn in during the inaugural session of the International Criminal Court (ICC), an event that should convincingly boost efforts to deprive of the cover of impunity all those who commit crimes against humanity, war crimes and acts of genocide. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), an organization that has over the past 140 years consistently been at the forefront of the struggle to enforce and broaden protection and assistance for the victims of armed conflict, welcomes this event and wishes every success to the ICC and all those who have worked and continue to work to uphold increasingly efficient standards of justice.

As the guardian of the Geneva Conventions, the ICRC took an active part in drawing up the ICC's Rome Statute, which entered into force on 1 July 2002. The organization's president, Jakob Kellenberger, will attend the inaugural session. From an ICRC perspective, the Geneva Conventions and their two Additional Protocols were prime sources of inspiration for the Statute. This fact, along with the establishment of the ICC, is incontrovertible proof that international humanitarian law is more than ever necessary and relevant. The ICC is the latest and most important development in the field of international law. By making individuals criminally responsible for their actions, it should prove to be a powerful deterrent. From now on there will be a permanent and independent institution to enforce respect for the Geneva Conventions.

The ICC is, however, an international court designed to supplement national courts. Under the principle of complementa rity, it may act only when a State is unable or unwilling to exercise its own jurisdiction. The ICRC, through its Advisory Service on International Humanitarian Law, will continue to assist governments with the national implementation of their obligations under humanitarian law treaties so that they are better able to prosecute perpetrators in their own domestic courts and under the ICC Statute. To ensure the widest application of the Court's jurisdiction, all States should ratify the Statute.

 Further information:  

 Kim Gordon-Bates, ICRC Geneva, tel.: ++41 79 217 32 16