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International Criminal Court

14-10-2004 Statement

United Nations, General Assembly, 59th session, Sixth committee, item 146 of the agenda. Statement by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), New York, 14 October 2004

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

Recent events in various parts of the world continue to remind us that the essential dignity of human beings is often among the first casualties of war and other forms of violence. This happens despite the fact that there is near universal support for the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the treaties lying at the heart of international humanitarian law and which oblige all parties to an armed conflict to protect the life and dignity of persons not or no longer taking an active part in the hostilities. It therefore remains an important and urgent task to seek a better compliance with the law. In this regard, it has been widely recognized that an effective system of repression of war crimes is fundamental. Impunity for atrocities may indeed nurture the cycle of retribution and revenge and thereby contribute to the perpetuation of conflict and violence, while jeopardizing respect for international humanitarian law in the future.

The establishment of the International Criminal Court raises hope that crimes of the utmost brutality - war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide – will no longer go unpunished. For its part, the ICRC welcomes the setting up of the Court as a significant step forward in our endeavour to promote greater respect for international humanitarian law. We are confident that the Court will have a deterrent effect and thus limit the cycle of violence. With 97 States already party to the Rome Statute, we further hope that more States will join soon – thus contributing to making the Court truly universal and enhancing its credibility and effectiveness.

Importa nt progress has been achieved towards making the Court fully operational. Its capacity to fulfil its task will largely depend on the level of support and cooperation it will receive from States. In this relation, it is crucial that ratification of and accession to the Statute be accompanied by the adoption of adequate measures of implementation at national level, whether of a legislative or other character. Obligations emanating from the Rome Statute include judicial cooperation with the Court, but also the amendment, wherever necessary, of domestic criminal law and procedure. Since the Rome Statute is founded on the principle of complementarity, States must assume their primary responsibility to repress the crimes falling within the jurisdiction of the Court in their domestic legal systems, and enforce the corresponding prohibitions.

States may have over the years become party to a variety of international instruments aimed at the protection in times of armed conflict of civilians and civilian objects, cultural property, or the environment, yet without having ensured that their national legislation provides for the criminal repression of violations of those treaties whenever this is required. The ICRC therefore strongly encourages States to seize the opportunity, when adapting their national legislation, to conform to their obligations arising from the Rome Statute and from all other international humanitarian law instruments to which they are party.

Through its Advisory Service on International Humanitarian Law, the ICRC stands ready to continue to provide concerned States and authorities with legal advice and technical support in connection with participation in and implementation of the Rome Statute of the ICC, as well as other instruments of international humanitarian law.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.