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Establishment of the International Criminal Court

20-10-2003 Statement

United Nations, General Assembly, 58th session, Sixth committee, item 154 of the agenda. Statement by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), New York, 20 October 2003

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for giving the floor to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

In its 140 years of working in the field to protect and assist victims of war and other forms of violence, the ICRC has learned many lessons about the sources of human suffering. One such lesson is that impunity for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide impedes the course of reconciliation and fuels the cycle of retribution and revenge. In other words, impunity contributes to the perpetuation of conflict.

On the other hand, where, for example, parties to armed conflict generally respect the immunity of the civilian population from attack and bring violators to justice - in other words, where the obligation to abide by humanitarian law, in both international and internal conflicts, is met – the goal of reconciliation is well served.

Mr. Chairman,

It is for these reasons that last year at this time, the ICRC welcomed the entry into force of the Rome Statute establishing the permanent International Criminal Court (ICC). We noted that 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. We also mentioned - not without some degree of pride - that it was Gustave Moynier, one of the ICRC’s founders, who nearly one hundred and forty years ago, first proposed the establishment of an international criminal court.

The ICRC is grateful to have had the opportunity to provide technical advice and assistance in the negotiation of the Rome Statute, the Elements of Crimes, and the Rules of Procedure and Evidence, especially in relation to war crimes and the judicial guarantees applicable in times of armed conflict.

But our activities in connection with the ICC do not end there. The ICC is designed to be a last, rather than a first resort for justice. In other words, its limited mandate is to complement rather than replace national criminal jurisdictions. This relationship between the ICC and national jurisdiction 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. Through its Advisory Service on International Humanitarian Law , the ICRC provides States with technical advice in connection with ratification and national implementation of international humanitarian law instruments, including the Rome Statute.

Mr. Chairman,

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 obligations arising from 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 based on universal jurisdiction. For States parties to Additional Protocol I, this obligatio n extends to grave breaches that result from a failure to act when there is a duty to do so.

The ICRC Advisory Service stands ready to advise States in the ratification of these, and other instruments, and in the process of implementing their requirements through national legislation, regulations or other adequate measures.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.