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Establishment of the International Criminal Court

14-10-2002 Statement

United Nations, General Assembly, 57th session, Sixth committee, item 158 of the agenda. Statement by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), New York, 14 October 2002. The ICRC welcomes the entry into force of the Rome Statute establishing the permanent International Criminal Court.

Mr. Chairman,

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) welcomes the entry into force of the Rome Statute establishing the permanent International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC reflects what is now an established international consensus that war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide are of concern to all States, and to the international community as a whole.

Nearly one hundred and forty years ago, Gustave Moynier, one of the ICRC’s founders, first proposed the establishment of an international criminal court. It took another eighty years for the proposal to win serious consideration, with its placement on the agenda of the General Assembly of the newly-created United Nations. Nonetheless, its actual establishment would have to wait another fifty years.

This serves as an indication not only of the breadth and depth of obstacles that had to be overcome, but also of the challenges that remain, if we are to achieve a truly international, credible and effective criminal court.

One such task is to provide the Court with the broadest possible political and financial support, to ensure its independence and the universality of its mission. In this regard, it is important to elect a prosecutor and judges who possess the highest competence and integrity, while at the same time, hail from a broad spectrum of States, cultures and legal systems.

A second task is to assure that States party to the Rome Statute review their national laws and procedures to enable them to cooperate with the ICC.

A third task derives from the ICC’s intentionally limited mandate, which is to complement rat her than replace national criminal jurisdictions. In other words, the Court is designed to be a last rather than a first resort for justice. This can only be effectively achieved if States ensure that their domestic legal systems repress the crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court and then enforce those prohibitions. In this regard, the ICRC 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 and the nationality of the alleged perpetrator.

By enacting appropriate legislation and judicial procedure, States act in furtherance of their commitment, as reflected in the Plan of Action for the years 2000 to 2003, adopted by the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, to implement their international obligations regarding the repression of war crimes.

Mr. Chairman,

The ICRC Advisory Services stand ready to support States in their efforts toward ratification and implementation of the Rome Statute. In relation to war crimes, States should be aware that adopting legislation to criminalize the offences defined in the ICC Statute may not be sufficient to discharge the obligations they may have by virtue of other treaties. Thus, States parties to the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their 1977 Additional Protocols, the 1954 Hague Cultural Property Convention and its two Protocols, the 1980 Conventional Weapons Convention and its four Protocols, the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, and the 1997 Ottawa Convention will need to consider what additional obligations these treaties impose by way of prevention and punishment of violations.

The Geneva Conventions, Additional Protocol I, and the Second Protocol to the 1954 Hague Cultural Property Convention contain an obligation to search for, and to try or extradite persons who commit or order the commission of grave breaches of those instruments. For States parties to Additional Protocol I, this obligation extends to grave breaches which result from a failure to act when there is a duty to do so.

Mr. Chairman,

To conclude, the ICRC welcomes the recent formal adoption, by States Parties to the Statute of the ICC, of the Elements of Crimes and the Rules of Procedure and Evidence. We would like to warmly thank States for having recognized, in Rule 73 which grants the ICRC immunity from providing evidence to the Court, the specific mandate of the ICRC. Obviously, the plight of war victims demands both humanitarian action and enforcement of the rules of international humanitarian law.

Thank you Mr. Chairman