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Establishment of the International Criminal Court

12-11-2001 Statement

United Nations, General Assembly, 56th session. Statement by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), New York, 12 November 2001.

Mr. Chairman,

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has consistently supported the establishment of a fair and effective International Criminal Court (ICC). The creation of the ICC reflects that war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide are not merely an affair for the States directly involved, but of concern to all States, or to the international community as a whole.

The ICRC is mandated by the international community to provide protection and assistance to the victims of armed conflict. It also has a recognized role to promote the development of, and adherence to, the law of armed conflict. We therefore welcome the establishment of an institution that will articulate and help enforce this legal regime.

Mr. Chairman,

The pace of ratification of and accession to the Rome Statute has exceeded the predictions made in Rome in 1998. The 60 ratifications required for the Court to come into being is surely a benchmark. But the Court's effectiveness will evidently be the greater once it has become supported by the consensus of States. In this regard, it should be noted that the Rome Statute provides solid and substantial protection of the rights of the accused to a fair trial.

Through adoption of appropriate national legislation and judicial procedures, States act in furtherance of their commitment, reflected in the Plan of Action adopted by the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, to vigorously repress war crimes. In so doing, States also fulfil the Statute's objective to complement rather than replace national jurisdiction, and to enable full cooperation with the Court when the exercise of national j urisdiction is not feasible. Thus, early entry into force and universal ratification of the Rome Statute, together with the adoption of all necessary implementation measures, should remain among the international community's highest priorities.

To this end, Mr. Chairman, the ICRC Advisory Service on International Humanitarian Law provides advice and technical assistance to States on ratification and implementation of the Rome Statute. The Advisory Service was established in 1995 to assist and advise on a wide range of measures relating to the national implementation of humanitarian law. The questions most frequently addressed by the Advisory Service in connection with the ICC include possible constitutional barriers to ratification of the Statute, the need for comprehensive implementing legislation which will permit States Parties to cooperate with the Court, and the importance of States carrying out a thorough review of their national criminal law to ensure that the crimes within the Court's jurisdiction can be prosecuted in national courts.

Through a network of regional legal advisers, the Advisory Service encourages ratification of humanitarian law treaties and the Rome Statute, advises on national legislation, and promotes the establishment of national committees for international humanitarian law.

The Advisory Service also organizes national and regional meetings on international humanitarian law and repression of war crimes, contributes to conferences attended by government decision-makers, and assists and promotes exchanges of information between national committees working towards ratification and implementation of the Rome Statute. Examples of national implementation measures are published on the ICRC's web site.

In its work to promote the ICC Statute, the Advisory Service encourages States to create domestic offences of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes if these do not already exist. The Advisory Service further encourages States to exercise jurisdiction over these crimes on the basis of universal jurisdiction — that is, regardless of the place where the offence was committed or the nationality of the alleged perpetrator.

Lastly, Mr Chairman, the ICRC would like to remind States that complying with the requirements of the ICC Statute may not be sufficient to satisfy all the obligations incumbent upon them by virtue of existing humanitarian law instruments. This does not, however, detract from the need for the international community to possess a credible and effective institution to respond to crimes of an international dimension when States are unwilling or unable to so act. Such an institution is essential not only to express the universality of opprobrium, but also to lend credibility to the consistent administration of neutral justice. Given sufficient support, the International Criminal Court will be that institution.