Press Releases

    L/3007
    2 July 2002

    With Today's Entry into Force of Rome Statute of Global Court, Speakers Hail "Day of Hope" for Seekers of Justice

    Best Response to ICC Detractors Will Be Actual Operation of Court, Says Canada

    NEW YORK, 1 July (UN Headquarters) -- Welcoming the entry into force today of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Chairman of the Preparatory Commission for the Court said that it was a day of hope for many who would seek justice for crimes within the Court's jurisdiction.

    Philippe Kirsch of Canada, Chairman of the Preparatory Commission, which is meeting from 1 to 12 July in its tenth and final session, told the Commission that eight countries had ratified the Treaty since the Commission's last session in April. That brought the total number of States Parties to the Rome Statute to 74. Sixty ratifications were needed for the Treaty to enter into force. [Later in the meeting, Australia and Honduras announced their ratification today of the Treaty, bringing the total number to 76.]

    The Preparatory Commission has had the task, since the treaty was adopted in Rome in July 1998, of negotiating the practical and technical arrangements necessary to allow the Court to function. It discusses ways to enhance the effectiveness and acceptance of the Court and to encourage widest possible international support for the Court through ratification or accession to the Statute.

    Reading from a statement of the Secretary-General, United Nations Legal Counsel Hans Corell said it was a historic day. The entry into force of the Rome Statute reaffirmed the centrality of the rule of law in international relations. Congratulating the States that had taken the lead in ratifying the Statute, the Secretary-General appealed to those who had not yet done so to ratify or accede to the Statute as soon as possible.

    Addressing recent criticisms of the Rome Statute, the Commission Chairman said they were unwarranted. Opposition would diminish as the Court demonstrated that it had the tools necessary to fulfil its functions with all safeguards. Efforts must be redoubled to demonstrate to the world that the fundamentally important institution would contribute to ending impunity and enhancing respect for the rule of law.

    Several speakers noted that the effectiveness of the Court would largely depend on its universal acceptance. The representative of Denmark, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, hoped the countries currently hesitant about adhering to the Statute would join as soon as possible. The Court would prove itself an effective, competent and fair legal institution.

    The international community must stand united against any criticism or cynicism that might appear to impede its effective functioning, the representative of the Netherlands said. Participating States and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) must use all their skills to neutralize the negative effects of such criticism.

    The representative of Mexico said the decision in May by the United States not to ratify the Statute negatively affected international treaties in general and endangered a legal order that had functioned well over time. She urged the United States to reconsider its position and join the other members of the international community in ensuring that justice was done.

    Some critics of the Court feared that it would occupy itself with frivolous, political prosecutions, said the representative of Canada. But the ICC rested on a solid jurisdictional basis and contained the necessary checks and balances. The best response to such detractors would be the actual operation of the Court.

    Now that the Statute has entered into force, the Preparatory Commission is in the last stages of negotiations on final remaining issues, namely, a first-year budget for the Court and the administrative and financial matters connected to the initial meeting of the Assembly of States Parties, expected to take place in New York next September. The Commission is also dealing with arrangements for the nomination and election procedure for judges, the prosecutor and the registrar, as well as their remuneration, and a trust fund for victims and witnesses.

    Briefing the Commission on updates to the Trust Fund established by the Secretary-General to cover the expenses of the first meeting of the Assembly of States Parties, the Commission Chairman said that at the end of June, 23 countries had pledged some $3.13 million to the fund. By the same date, some $2.56 million had been deposited to the Trust Fund. Once the Assembly of States Parties had decided on a budget for the first financial period, the Court would be in immediate need of contributions.

    Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Argentina, Australia, Japan, Yugoslavia, Norway, Liechtenstein, Brazil, Venezuela, China, New Zealand, Colombia, Honduras and Spain. The observer from Switzerland and a representative of the Coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations for the International Criminal Court also addressed the Commission.

    The Commission will reconvene in an open meeting on Monday 8 July.

    Officers of Commission

    The officers of the Preparatory Commission are as follows: Chairman, Philippe Kirsch (Canada); Vice-Chairmen, George Winston McKenzie (Trinidad and Tobago), Enver Daniels (South Africa), and Mirza Kusljugic (Bosnia and Herzegovina). The Rapporteur is Salah Suheimat (Jordan).

    The following are coordinators for topics at the Preparatory Commission: Zsolt Hetesy (Hungary), Principles Governing a Headquarters Agreement; Saied Mirzaiee-Yengejeh (Iran), Assembly of States Parties preparatory documents; Valentin Zellweger (Switerzland), First-Year Budget; Christian Much (Germany), financial issues; John Holmes (Canada), remuneration of judges, prosecutor and registrar; Gaile Ramoutar (Trinidad and Tobago), victims and witnesses trust fund; and Silvia Fernandez de Gurmendi (Argentina), the Crime of Aggression and Chair of the Sub-committee as an interlocutor with the Host Country.

    Background

    The Preparatory Commission for the International Criminal Court (ICC) this morning began its tenth and final session.

    Statements

    PHILIPPE KIRSCH (Canada), Chairman of the Preparatory Commission, said the session was opening on a day whose significance was clear to many of those assembled and to the international community as a whole. Today the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court entered into force. It was a proud moment, and a day that brought hope to many who would seek justice in the wake of crimes within the Court's jurisdiction. Seventy-four States were now parties to the Rome Statute. Eight States -- Greece, Uganda, Brazil, Namibia, Bolivia, the Gambia, Uruguay and Latvia -- had become parties to the Statue since 11 April, when 10 States had simultaneously deposited their instruments of ratification to the Statute, paving the way for the Statute's entry into force.

    All were aware of what had happened in yesterday's Security Council meetings, he said. It was important to remember that in their vote, Council members had overwhelmingly reaffirmed the work of the ICC and upheld the credibility of the Security Council. The difficulties that had brought about the vote had not gone away; but they were temporary, while the ICC was a permanent institution. History would remember today as the day that the Rome Statute had entered into the annals of international justice, not as the day after a vote elsewhere. Concerns expressed by some were unwarranted. Over time, current opposition to the Court would diminish as the Court demonstrated that it had the tools necessary to fulfil its functions with all safeguards. Efforts must be redoubled to demonstrate to the world that the fundamentally important institution would contribute to ending impunity and enhancing respect for the rule of law. The members of the Preparatory Commission had an important role to play in that regard by completing their work and preparing the way for the Assembly of States Parties to assume tutelage of the Court.

    HANS CORELL, the United Nations Legal Counsel, then read a statement issued by the Secretary-General. In that statement, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the Statute's entry into force reaffirmed the centrality of the rule of law in international relations and gave the world a potential deterrent to future atrocities. He added that there must be no relenting in the fight against impunity or in efforts to prevent the horrendous crimes falling under the Court's jurisdiction. [See Press Release SG/SM/8293 for the full statement.]

    Mr. Corell said that as of this morning, the Treaty had received 75 ratifications. In view of the importance of ratifications made on 2 July, the Office of Legal Affairs would be prepared to receive ratifications until midnight.

    Mr. KIRSCH said that with the entry into force of the Statute, the work of the Commission had assumed added urgency. It was the Commission's responsibility to complete the preparation of proposals for practical arrangements for the establishment of the Court. The Commission also had to make arrangements for the convening of the Assembly of States Parties. At the Commission's eighth meeting, a "road map" had been developed and a sub-committee of the Bureau was created to serve as an interlocutor with the host country. The chairperson of that subcommittee had continued to consult with the host country on a wide range of related issues pertaining to the premises and infrastructure of the Court.

    SILVIA FERNANDEZ DE GURMENDI (Argentina), coordinator for the Crime of Aggression and subcommittee Chair as the interlocutor with the host country, briefed the Commission about recent activities of her subcommittee. She said that the subcommittee and the working group on the host country had worked between sessions to establish an advance team. That group would deal with implementation and the preparation of systems for essential functions. Consultations continued with the special tribunals and with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to identify international experts for the advance team. There had been difficulties not only in identifying experts but also in attaining their acceptance. Very few had been able to accept, she said.

    After an intensive process, a number of experts had been selected and a core group of four experts was created. Other experts would be joining the team to deal with financial aspects. Experts would be contracted for shorter periods for specific tasks. The group had begun its work at The Hague. The group's task was to deal with the reception and collection of information. When appropriate software was identified, all information would be transferred to an appropriate data system. The subcommittee had met with the advance team in The Hague in June, and it was their intention to meet next week in New York. She hoped the coordinator would be able to provide a detailed programme of activities for the group in the next few weeks.

    On the first meeting of the Assembly of States Parties, Mr. KIRSCH said that on 23 May he had sent advance notification through the Permanent Missions informing the Commission of the Bureau's decision to plan that meeting from 3 to 10 September. The choice of dates had been influenced by competing requests for Conference Services during a time of high demand. To enable the Secretary-General to convene the Assembly of States Parties in due time, the Preparatory Commission would have to take a decision on the dates fairly soon. To facilitate the task of delegations in organizing their schedule, the Bureau would propose a work plan for the meeting of the Assembly which would be circulated during the current session. He proposed taking that decision at the next plenary meeting.

    On the Trust Fund established by the Secretary-General to cover the expenses of the first meeting, he said that at its last session, the Commission had decided that contributions to the Fund would be deductible from States' assessed contributions. To make arrangements for the meeting of the Assembly of States Parties in September, the Secretariat had indicated that funds should be deposited no later than June 2002. As of 30 June, 23 countries had pledged some $3.13 million to the Fund. As of the same day, some $2.56 million had been deposited to the Trust Fund. Once the Assembly of States Parties had decided on a budget for the first financial period, the Court would be in immediate need of contributions. States parties must begin to plan and be in a position to quickly pay their assessed dues.

    Regarding the work of the Commission's current session, Mr. KIRSCH said it was incumbent on the Commission to prepare a report on all matters within its mandate and submit it to the first meeting of the Assembly. At its last session, the Commission had adopted several reports including draft texts of Financial Rules and Basic Principles of a Headquarters agreement to be negotiated between the Court and the host country. The Commission had also continued discussions on the crime of aggression, the budget and the trust fund for victims, and had begun consideration of procedures for election of judges, the Prosecutor and the Registrar as well as their remuneration. Five working groups, including on the Assembly of States Parties preparatory documents, the first-year budget and the crime of aggression had not yet completed their discussions. It was essential that discussions should be concluded during the current session.

    He then announced the coordinators of the working groups for remaining items before the Commission. He briefed members on additional issues before them, including the Committee on Budget and Finance and organizational arrangements for the Assembly of States Parties in September. He also informed members of changes to the Commission's work plan.

    RICHARD ROWE (Australia) said the milestone of bringing the Rome Statute of the ICC into force had been achieved by the total commitment of States parties and the valuable support of civil society, particularly the Coalition for the International Criminal Court.

    He informed the meeting that Australia had deposited its instrument of ratification for the Rome Statute on Monday morning.

    ELLEN MARGRETHE LOJ (Denmark), on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the 1990s had seen the creation of international institutions for bringing to justice individuals suspected of gross violations of human rights. Although criminal law had traditionally been a national matter, the international community was increasingly willing to accept criminal jurisdiction exercised by international legal bodies, as a way of enhancing international humanitarian law and human rights. The establishment of the ad hoc tribunals for the former Yugoslavia in 1993 and Rwanda in 1994 were turning points in that respect. The adoption of the Statute for a permanent International Criminal Court was a truly historic moment in the process of furthering the rule of law and the fight against impunity.

    The European Union was working to make the Court truly universal by encouraging as many States as possible to ratify the Statute, since the Court's credibility and chances of working effectively were largely dependent on its general acceptance by the international community. She hoped that those countries currently hesitant about adhering to the Statute would join as soon as possible, because she believed the Court would prove itself an effective, competent and fair legal institution.

    The European Union deeply regretted that yesterday's veto by the United States of a resolution extending the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina had placed Security Council members in a difficult situation with regard to support for United Nations peacekeeping and adherence to their commitment to the ICC Statute. She welcomed and supported the position of the Council's European Union members -- France, Ireland and the United Kingdom -- on the immunity of peacekeepers.

    NAOKO SAIKI (Japan) said the Rome Statute would help prevent the most serious crimes of concern to the international community from recurring in the future. The Statute established, for the first time in history, a standing international court to judge such crimes.

    Since the birth of the United Nations, the international community had seen so many lives lost, tears shed and hearts broken, he said. It had also witnessed several circumstances where justice could not be done and peace could not be achieved by one country alone. It was for such circumstances that the international community had drawn together to establish a standing international court to judge the most atrocious crimes.

    The ICC, he said, would serve as the catalyst for each nation to fully implement its obligations under international law, and suppress any attempt to commit grave violations of human rights. The Court's comprehensive coverage of serious crime, as well as the cooperation of States parties, would ensure that perpetrators had nowhere to escape to. To that end, it was imperative that the ICC won the widest possible support among members of the international community.

    DEJAN SAHOVIC (Yugoslavia) said that this was the most important moment in the development of international law in the past few decades. The ICC was a towering institution in the network of the international legal system, designed to mete out justice in an even-handed and unselective way. The Court had the capacity to become a truly universal legal body and garner universal support. There was, however, a long way to go before the final goal of universality could be reached. It would be a wrong signal to the international community if those who had demonstrated commitment to international law now created obstacles to the universality of the Court.

    Yugoslavia's quick ratification of the Rome Statute demonstrated the significance it attached to international rule of law, he said. After the painful experience of the past decade, Yugoslavia believed that perpetrators of crimes and atrocities committed during wartime had to be held accountable. It was no secret that there was an ongoing debate in Yugoslavia on whether an ad hoc solution was a proper response to the crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. The creation of the ICC provided an unambiguous answer to that question. International justice was universal, not selective.

    OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said the entry into force of the Treaty represented a decisive step towards the end of impunity. Significant contributions to the negotiation process had cemented the foundation for the ICC. On a wide-ranging number of issues, the Statute would provide support for international law and enhance legal predictability. For the Court to have come so far in such a short time was remarkable. Efforts must be directed to increasing support for the Statute and to ensuring its implementation. Proper mechanisms must be in place for the Court to function. Sustained preparations on both the national and international level were paramount to making the institution work.

    CLAUDIA FRITSCHE (Liechtenstein) said today marked a milestone in the history of international law. Only a few years ago, not many would have believed that the Court would become a reality. Today was a triumph for those who had not been discouraged by the considerable odds and obstacles that arose during the process of establishing the Court. The moral justification and political necessity of the ICC were obvious. The Statute's greatest strength, however, was the way in which it had been drafted. A solid legal foundation was combined with an understanding of politically sensitive issues. The concept of complementarity was of the utmost importance. States becoming parties to the Statute would continue to have primary competence and responsibility for the prosecution of crimes falling under the jurisdiction of the Rome Statute.

    The Statue also provided for a number of checks and balances to prevent the Court from being seized with frivolous and politically motivated cases, she said. A decision by the Security Council which amounted to an amendment to the Statute would not only raise very difficult legal questions and undermine the Statute, but would also alter the treaty-making process practiced by the United Nations since its beginning.

    MARCEL BIATO (Brazil) said the speed with which the Rome Statute had been ratified was indicative of the international community's firm commitment to the ICC. Brazil had reaffirmed its own long-standing commitment when it became the sixty-ninth State to ratify the Statute in June, a step which had come after almost two years of domestic discussions.

    The outcome of the Statute was a widely acclaimed set of documents aimed at suppressing massive violations of human rights and upholding the rule of law. The Court's ultimate effectiveness would depend on its ability to deter those who would otherwise commit heinous crimes. Integrating an elaborate set of safeguards into the Statute would prevent its misuse.

    ADRIANA PULIDO SANTANA (Venezuela) said the Rome Statute showed that international criminal law was not an academic fiction, but a tangible reality. The establishment of the ICC was vital because of its contribution in building an international order based on justice and peace, which would encourage the necessary conditions of development in the economic and social fields.

    Several important questions and issues remained in building up the Court, but she was confident that those would be resolved in an acceptable way. Brazil would work constructively to that end.

    Brazil was convinced that universal participation must be the cornerstone of the new Court. It was concerned that some countries had not joined in ratifying the Rome Statute. Universality and efficiency were clearly inseparable.

    EDMOND VELLENSTEIN (Netherlands) said the international community, on the day the Rome Statute entered into force, was celebrating an event of hope and joy, especially for victims and families. It was a historical breakthrough in the effort to end impunity for the most heinous crimes, an enormous achievement of the international community.

    As it established the Court, he said, the international community must stand united against any criticism or cynicism that might appear to impede its effective functioning. Participating States and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) must use all their skills to neutralize the negative effects of such criticism.

    He had held a press conference on 26 June about the current status of the Court, he went on. He was pleased by the high attendance and huge interest in the ICC. Two weeks ago the Netherlands Senate had unanimously adopted a bill on cooperation with the ICC, which had now entered into force. All legal provisions necessary for the functioning of the ICC were in place. Today, the advance team for the Court had set up its offices and formally begun its operations in close cooperation with the task force.

    He would present the Chairman in due course with suggestions about how States could assist in the process of setting up the Court. An architect's competition would take place next year for the Court's permanent building.

    VALENTIN ZELLWEGER (Switzerland), coordinator for first-year budget, said the world would become more safe and just when inter-State relations were based on law. Law gained credibility when implemented effectively, and Switzerland emphasized the importance of humanitarian international law and its effective implementation. The ICC would be a mechanism for such implementation.

    He said the fact that 75 States had ratified the Statue in less than four years proved the extent to which the Court's establishment responded to a real need of the international community. The number of States parties would have to increase, however. Switzerland would continue to participate in efforts to further expand the Court's support.

    The ICC was based on a treaty, he said. That differentiated it from ad hoc Security Council tribunals. The Rome Statue was a major work for the contemporary classification of international law. Its implementation was based on the will of States parties. It was not up to the Security Council to reappropriate a work which was in the hands of States parties. He also pointed out the importance of domestic implementation of the Statute. Switzerland had already adopted a law on cooperation with the Court. Regarding the issue of the election of judges and the prosecutor, transparency in the process must be ensured.

    ZHANG YISHAN (China) said great changes in international relations since the end of the cold war had fostered the development of international criminal law. A permanent ICC had finally come into being. The entry into force of the Statute reflected the strong desire to punish the most serious international crimes. China had always supported the establishment of an independent, just and effective international criminal court. The Court would not only help build trust and justice but also contribute to peace and security. China had participated in the entire process for the establishment of the ICC.

    The future development of the ICC would depend on a few factors, he continued. To establish its authority, the Court should operate in strict accordance with the principle of complementarity. The role of the ICC was to complement, not supercede, national courts and domestic judicial systems. The ICC should confine itself to the most serious international crimes, and it should not contravene the provisions of the United Nations Charter. The Court should perform its functions in an objective manner and should be free of political prejudice and double standards, thus saving it from becoming a forum for politically motivated allegations. As an observer State at the future meeting of the Assembly of States parties, China would continue to follow the operation and evolution of the Court.

    JOHN HOLMES (Canada), coordinator for remuneration of judges, said that from now on a new line of defence existed to defend victims of crime. The ICC would help to establish a culture of accountability. The entry into force of the Statute was a product of the efforts of many States as well as of civil society organizations.

    He then informed members of the creation of an international criminal bar. Many of the individuals involved in efforts to create that bar were present, and would be seeking means to link the bar to the ICC process. Canada would continue to promote widespread ratification of the Treaty. Canada reiterated firm commitment to upholding the integrity of the Statute. It supported the position taken yesterday by the vast majority of the Security Council members. Canada opposed any efforts to undermine the Statute. Some detractors feared that the Court would occupy itself with frivolous, political prosecutions. But the ICC rested on a solid jurisdictional basis and contained the necessary checks and balances. The best response to such detractors would be the actual operation of the Court. It was important for the Commission to finish its remaining work and give the Court the tools it needed to carry out its mandate.

    JULIET HAY (New Zealand) said the ICC aimed for universal participation in order to achieve maximum effectiveness. Her country was disappointed in the United States veto yesterday in the Security Council -- for the ICC itself, for treaty obligations in general and for United Nations peacekeeping.

    Negotiations in the Council must have been difficult, she said. She extended her gratitude to Council members who had defended the Statute. They had represented the interests of States Parties and also ideals for which the Court stood -- that there should be no impunity for genocide and crimes against humanity.

    SCORRO FLORES (Mexico) said the long path towards ratification of the Rome Statute was irreversible, and his country welcomed its entry into force. In Mexico, legal problems had prevented ratification, but the country would become party to the Statute in the near future.

    Mexico was convinced that the Statute contained the necessary safeguards to make it an effective and impartial institution. The United States decision last May not to ratify the Statute had negatively affected international treaties in general and endangered a legal order that had functioned well over time. She urged the United States to reconsider its position and join the other members of the international community in ensuring that justice was done.

    GUILLERMO REYES (Colombia) said Colombia's ratification of the Rome Statute was proceeding as quickly as possible, so that it could join the Assembly of States Parties. In May, the Colombian Congress had adopted a law incorporating the Rome Statute in Colombian jurisdiction. The President had approved that law and sent it to the Constitutional Court -- the last step before ratification. He hoped ratification would occur by the end of July.

    The new Colombian President, who would come into power in August, supported ratification of the Statute, he said. Fighting impunity and defending human rights in an international, universal body had been one of the major points of his campaign. Those who had committed serious crimes against humanity would know, from today, that they would not escape punishment and that Member States and NGOs would not remain silent. From today, they would know that international justice existed and that all heinous acts would be punished.

    MARCO ANTONIA SUAZO (Honduras) announced that Honduras was now the seventy-sixth State party to the Treaty. Honduras was committed to making the ICC a successful instrument for humanity.

    Mr. YANEZ-BARNUEVO (Spain) informed members of the recent convening of an international parliamentary conference on the ratification of the ICC. More than 100 parliamentarians had attended the meeting. His delegation had submitted several proposals, including on the establishment of a future secretariat of the Assembly of States Parties.

    A representative of the Coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations for the ICC said the governments represented today had won the World Cup in international law. All who believed in democracy and justice could celebrate the entry into force of the Rome Statute as one of the greatest advances in international law since the adoption of the United Nations Charter. The entry into force of the new system of international criminal justice represented a great victory for the protection of human rights. It also represented a new partnership between governments and civil society. The success of the ICC would mean that millions of lives would be saved. Though there was a dark cloud over the present celebrations, international law had in truth won. Efforts to undermine peacekeeping would in the long run only weaken the moral leadership of those who made inappropriate demands. International law and justice were linked and mutually reinforcing. The ICC was a vital missing link.

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