Press Releases

    L/3003
    22 April 2002

    SECRETARY-GENERAL ADDRESSES PREPARATORY
    COMMISSION FOR INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT
    AS IT CONCLUDES NINTH SESSION

    NEW YORK, 19 April (UN Headquarters) -- "Crimes against international law are committed by men, not abstract entities, and only by punishing individuals who commit such crimes can the provisions of international law be enforced," Secretary-General Kofi Annan, quoting from a statement by the judges of the Nuremberg Tribunal, told the Preparatory Commission for the International Criminal Court this morning. He added that it had taken until now, however, for humanity to act and set up a permanent international criminal court.

    Addressing the Commission’s final meeting for the current session, he said that, last Thursday, "With one great leap we sailed over, and well past, the threshold of the 60 ratifications needed for the Statute to enter into force," he said, adding that tribute should be paid to those who from the time of the League of Nations onwards had kept the idea alive even when it had appeared likely to die from indifference or worse.

    He encouraged States to contribute to the trust fund that had been set up to cover the expenses of the first meeting of the Assembly of States Parties scheduled for 3 September. He also urged the other 73 States -- 66 have already ratified -- who had signed the Statute to ratify it as soon as possible. Ultimately, all States should become parties to the Statute. "The best defense against evil will be a Court in which every country plays its part", he said.

    The Secretary-General’s support had meant so much to the ICC process and would be crucial in achieving universality of the Court, said the representative of the Netherlands, which will host the Court at The Hague. On behalf of the Arab Group, the representative of Sudan also paid tribute to Mr. Annan’s support for the work of the Commission. He added that assuring punishment for the crime of aggression would be the pillar of the ICC’s work and he pledged willingness to participate in a definition of that crime.

    France, Austria and Germany announced contributions to the trust fund to cover the expenses of the first meeting, in the following respective amounts: 471,000 euros, 73,000 euros, and 750,000 euros. A 31 May deadline has been set for acceptance of contributions.

    The Chairman of the Commission, Philippe Kirsch (Canada), said it was heartening to see that the commitment of States extended not only to political but also financial support for the Court. "I cannot over-emphasize the importance of placing the Court on a sound financial footing from the beginning," he said.

    Canada was hosting a conference for Bar associations and ICC participants in Montreal from 13 to 15 June of this year to follow up on the creation of an international criminal bar for the ICC, that country’s representative said. It was essential that an outline for the future organization be approved by as many Bars and legal associations throughout the world as possible and for the outline to be ready in time for presentation at the Preparatory Commission next session in July.

    In other business, the Commission heard and adopted progress reports from the coordinators of its various working groups. Also, Enver Daniels (South Africa) was elected to replace Medard Rwelamira (South Africa) as Vice-Chairman of the Commission.

    The Commission will meet again in its tenth -- and final -- session beginning 1 July at Headquarters.

    Statement by Secretary-General

    Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN said that more than half a century ago the judges of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg had reached the conclusion that "Crimes against international law are committed by men, not abstract entities, and only by punishing individuals who commit such crimes can the provisions of international law be enforced." However, it had taken until now for humanity to act and set up a permanent international criminal court.

    Last Thursday, "with one great leap we sailed over, and well past, the threshold of the 60 ratifications needed for the Statute to enter into force", he said. Noting that the Statute would now enter into force on 1 July 2002, he said it was the fruit of efforts sustained over many decades. Tribute should be paid to those who from the time of the League of Nations onwards had kept the idea alive even when it had appeared likely to die from indifference or worse -— and also to those who had revived it after 1989, when the idea of international relations governed by the rule of law had begun to seem more realistic.

    The ad hoc tribunals had advanced boldly into areas of international criminal law never explored before, yet they could not altogether escape the charge of selectivity in addressing situations where atrocities had been committed, he said. That had led to an increased demand throughout the world for a permanent court that would not confine itself to crimes committed during a particular conflict but act as a general deterrent. "And now with the unusually rapid entry of the Statute into force, we are witnessing a great victory for justice and for world order -- a turn away from the rule of brute force, and towards the rule of law," he said.

    Countries with good judicial systems, which applied the rule of law and prosecuted criminals promptly, and fairly, need not fear. It was where they failed that the Court would step in, he said. The Court would give all States a strong incentive to improve their standards. Over time, its practice and procedures would provide a benchmark of international justice, against which the standards of States could be measured. Already, some States had amended their Constitutions and their criminal and procedural law to ensure compatibility with the Statute’s provisions. People were now more likely to insist that those who committed crimes against humanity should not be shielded from prosecution by any high office they held or had held in the past.

    The Commission deserved special praise, he said. It had completed an impressive array of drafts to be considered by the first Assembly of States Parties. He encouraged States to contribute to the trust fund that had been set up to cover the expenses of the first meeting. He also urged the other 73 States -- 66 had already ratified -- who had signed the Statute to ratify it as soon as possible. Ultimately, all States should become parties to the Statute. "The best defense against evil will be a Court in which every country plays its part", he said.

    In conclusion, he said that Stalin had allegedly once said "a single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic". The process now being witnessed marked a decisive break with that cynical world view.

    Reports of Working Groups

    GAILE RAMOUTAR (Trinidad and Tobago), coordinator for the victim’s trust fund, reported on consultations she had had on the fund with delegations. She called the results of those consultations encouraging. She invited further discussions between sessions.

    ZSOLT HETESY (Hungary), coordinator of the working group on the Principles Governing a Headquarters Agreement, recommended the adoption of the group’s report. It contained, he said, the basics of the required principles. He outlined the challenges presented to the group by the multi-tiered adoption process of its work. He said the final text of the report was a balance between requirements of the court and the long-standing practices of the host country. Still under consideration were privileges and immunities of States representatives and of various organs of the Assembly of States Parties during the meetings of the Assembly.

    CHRISTIAN MUCH (Germany), coordinator of the Working Group on Financial Issues-Financial Rules, recommended the adoption of that group’s report. He reminded the Commission that the group had recommended outsourcing the Court’s procurement requirement for a limited amount of time and only as required. Procurement staff would, at the same time, be required in the most cost-effective configuration.

    SAEID MIRZAIEE (Iran), coordinator for the preparatory documents for the meeting of the Assembly of States Parties, said that documents had been prepared on the election of judges, the Prosecutor, and the Registrar, as well on a secretariat of the Assembly of States Parties and a provisional agenda for the first meeting. The election of judges in strict compliance with the requirements laid down in the Rome Statute raised certain practical questions which would need to be considered at the Commission’s next session, he said.

    He said a draft resolution for the Assembly of States Parties recommended that, for practical reasons, the United Nations Secretariat continue to serve as the Court’s secretariat until the Assembly could make arrangements for a permanent secretariat. Discussion on a provisional agenda for the first would continue at the next session.

    VALENTIN ZELLWEGER, Observer for Switzerland, the coordinator of the Working Group on a Draft Budget for the First Financial Period of the Court, said that the group had completed the first reading of part one of a revised draft of the budget (document PCNICC/2002/WGFYB/L.1). The group had also identified issues not yet considered and outlined them in a task list (document PCNICC/2002/WGFYB/RT.3). In addition, it had considered options that would enable future International Criminal Court staff to participate in the United Nations pension system.

    On the matter of the deductability of contributions to the trust fund against future assessed contributions, he said draft resolutions had been prepared which, if adopted by the Preparatory Commission, could formalize the situation. As it was not yet certain that the trust fund goal of $2.8 million would be reached by 30 May, he suggested a letter be requested from the Secretary-General to all States Parties, asking for further contributions in time for the deadline.

    JOHN HOLMES (Canada), coordinator for the issue of remuneration for the judges, the Prosecutor and the Registrar, said agreement had been reached on salaries for those categories. However, the salaries, allowances and benefits for the non-full time judges of the Court still had to be finalized.

    SILVIA FERNANDEZ DE GURMENDI (Argentina), coordinator for the Crime of Aggression, said the group’s discussion had focused on a Coordinator’s text and on the Secretariat paper on the historical evolution of discussions on aggression. The group continued to pursue a definition of the crime and the conditions under which jurisdiction could be exercised by the Court. There had been an in-depth discussion on aspects of the crime related to individual criminal responsibility. To reflect comments, a revised version of the text would be issued at the next session. Also at the next session, the group hoped to be able to make a recommendation on ways in which the discussions on the crime of aggression could be pursued beyond the first assembly.

    After reporting high praise for the "thought-provoking" Secretariat paper on aggression, she said the Commission should recommend its wide dissemination to academia and legal experts outside the United Nations community.

    Ms. DE GURMENDI, who also serves as the Chair of the sub-committee that acts as the interlocutor with the Host Country, the Netherlands, said that the group was consulting with the Ad Hoc Tribunals and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to identify independent experts who had the experience needed to set up certain systems before the first Assembly. The group had asked the Secretary-General to provide support for the search. The European Union and the MacArthur Foundation had agreed to co-sponsor the financing of the advance team.

    Adoption of Report of Preparatory Commission

    After hearing and adopting the reports of the coordinators, the Commission adopted its report (document PCNICC/2002/L.2) and took note of the Summary Proceedings of its ninth session, as introduced by Commission Rapporteur Salah Suheimat (Jordan).

    * *** *