IN FIRST MEETING, ASSEMBLY OF STATES PARTIES TO ROME
Newly-Elected President of First Session "Driven by Sense of Purpose"
NEW YORK, 3 September (UN Headquarters) -- States parties to the treaty creating the International Criminal Court (ICC), which came into force on 1 July of this year, began their one week session this morning to formally adopt the legal agreements that will enable the Court to function, and to finalize the procedure for beginning the nomination and election process for the Court’s judges and Prosecutor.
After observing a minute of silence, the Assembly elected Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein (Jordan) as President of the First Session of the Assembly of States Parties. Mr. Al-Hussein, who said he was driven by a profound sense of purpose that the Court be built as the authors of the Rome Statute intended, said "We have already surmounted a great many obstacles in our quest for a permanent, impartial and independent ICC by virtue of the brilliant leadership of many who have chaired these proceedings before me, an in particular Ambassador Philippe Kirsch (Chairman of the ICC Preparatory Commission)."
"Our achievements were only possible", he continued, "because the position of the international community was unshakeable in its support for the Court, anchored in the conviction that humanity will never truly advance, rest with its conscience, find comfort or peace, unless we do what we hitherto have been unable to do: provide a global juridical instrument to deter those persons seeking to commit the gravest of crimes, prosecute those accused of having already brought enormous suffering on the innocent, and offer truth and justice to the victims and to ourselves collectively."
In other action this morning, the Assembly of States parties elected its Bureau, chose its Credentials Committee, established a Budget and Finance Committee and agreed on procedures to select its members. It also invited 27 countries to act as Observers, decided on seating arrangements, and adopted its work programme.
The Assembly also adopted a budget for the Court’s first financial period in a brief meeting this afternoon and approved a number of other budget-related resolutions, all without a vote.
Opening the meeting, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel, Hans Corell said it was an historic day for the United Nations and the international community. The agreements, resolutions and decisions adopted by the Assembly would allow the Court to begin its work. Setting in motion the important judicial institution had required relentless efforts by States and by civil society. International law would be strengthened and impunity for those who had committed the most heinous crimes would be curtailed, he said.
Philippe Kirsch (Canada), the ICC Preparatory Commission Chairman, said in introducing the Commission report, that Commission members had made efforts to ensure that practical arrangements for the Court were in place and to shorten the time between the coming into force of the Statute and the Court’s operations. The Commission had also demonstrated its commitment to assume moral responsibility by defending the integrity of the Statute when threatened by external developments.
Pending on the Assembly’s agenda is the transformation of criteria governing the selection of judges set out in the Rome Statute into working rules for the nomination and election of judges.
Article 36 of the Rome Statute identified several criteria for the nomination and selection of judges. The Statute stipulates that a certain number of the 18 judges be experts in either criminal law or international humanitarian or human rights law. It also calls for other factors to be taken into account, such as a representation of principle legal systems of the world as well as equitable geographical and gender representation.
Presentation of ICC Preparatory Commission Report
Mr. Kirsch (Canada), Chairman of the ICC Preparatory Commission, introduced the Commission’s report, saying that resolution F had mandated the Preparatory Commission to prepare proposals for practical arrangements for the establishment and coming into operation of the Court.
To assist delegations in considering the report, the Secretariat had prepared a guide (document PCNICC/2002/3), he said. One of the Commission’s major accomplishments was the adoption, without a vote, of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence and the Elements of Crime on 30 June 2000. The conclusion of the two sets of documents had impacted the pace of ratification and accession to the Statute.
The documents completed included: Rules of Procedure and Evidence (PCNICC/2000/1/Add.1; Elements of Crime (PCNICC/2000/1/Add.2); a relationship agreement between the Court and the United Nations (PCNICC/2001/1/Add.1); Basic principles governing a headquarters agreement to be negotiated between the Court and the host country (PCNICC/2002/1/Add.1); financial regulations and rules (PCNICC/2001/1/Add.2 and Corr.1 and PCNICC/2002/1/Add.2); an agreement of the privileges and immunities of the Court (PCNICC/2001/1/Add.2); a budget for the first financial year (PCNICC/2002/2/Add.1); and the rules of procedures of the Assembly of States Parties (PCNICC/2001/1/Add.4).
He said the Commission had also adopted a report on the crime of aggression (PCNICC/2002/2/Add.2), which included a discussion paper on the definition and elements of the crime of aggression and a draft resolution on recommending continued debate on the issue in the form of a special working group.
As it became clear that the Statute’s entry into force would occur earlier than anticipated, the Commission had prepared proposals for practical arrangements. They included the establishment of subsidiary bodies; procedures for nomination and for conduct of elections and financing for the Court and the budget for the first financial period. While the procedure for the election of judges was still pending, he was confident that the Assembly would be able to reach agreement on outstanding issues.
Reporting on the work of the advance team of experts located in The Hague, he said that while the process of setting up the advance team was not simple, by the first week of September a core team would be in place. The team would consist of eight people including a coordinator, a legal adviser, and human rights, finance and public information officers. Despite a number of obstacles in two months of hard work, the advance team had made substantial progress. It was working to assist the future common services division to make decisions on procurement matters and to ensure the smooth flow of information between the organs of the Court. The advance team had also completed a review of the United Nations staff regulations and had made all necessary adaptations. The team had also completed the drafting of job descriptions for the first 60 posts created.
The Commission had adopted all the draft texts before it without a vote, he noted. Although some of the issues under consideration were technically complex and politically sensitive, he was pleased that general agreement had been possible on all matters. It was his hope that the report would be adopted without reopening matters of substance on which the Commission had striven to reach a compromise.
Also elected, were Allieu Ibrahim Kanu (Sierra Leone) and Felipe Paolillo (Uruguay) as Vice-Presidents.
The other remaining 18 members of the Bureau elected were: Congo, Gabon, Namibia, Nigeria, Cyprus, Mongolia, Croatia, Romania, Yugoslavia, Ecuador, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, Austria, Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom.
Alexander Marschik (Austria) was elected Rapporteur.
Members will serve three-year terms.
The following countries were chosen to serve on the Credentials Committee, which was expected to meet at 10 a.m. on Friday, 6 September: Benin, Fiji, France, Honduras, Ireland, Paraguay, Slovenia, Uganda, Yugoslavia.
Budget and Finance Committee
A Budget and Finance Committee was established, and the Assembly also decided on the procedure for the nomination and election of Committee members, through the adoption of two resolutions referred by the Commission.
Following a practice adopted by similar treaty bodies, the Assembly decided to allow Observer States (those who have signed but not yet ratified the treaty) to participate in the deliberations of the Assembly but not to participate in the taking of decisions.
The Assembly also decided to invite the following 27 countries, which did not have observer status, to be present during the Assembly’s work: Bhutan, Cook Islands, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Grenada, Kiribati, the People’s Democratic Republic of Lao, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, the Federated States of Micronesia, Myanmar, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Somalia, Suriname, Swaziland, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
So far 78 countries have ratified the treaty; 60 were needed to bring it into force.
Following the drawing of lots by the Secretary-General on 9 August, Portugal had been the first State party drawn and alphabetical seating order followed accordingly.
In adopting its work programme for the session, the President said time had been provided in plenary for general statements on 9 and 10 September. The Secretary-General is expected to address the Assembly on Tuesday morning at its closing meeting.
The Agreement on the Privileges and Immunities of the Court will be open for signature on Tuesday as well.
The resolutions covered the budget’s appropriations and the means for assessing them; the scale of assessments for the apportionment of the expenses of the Court (modelled after the scales used at the United Nations); and the ability for States to offset their contributions to the Trust Fund to Support the Establishment of the ICC against their assessed contributions to the budget of the Court.
Other resolutions adopted established a Working Capital Fund of
Euro 1,915,700 to cover the short-term liquidity requirements of the Court while it awaited assessed contributions; and, requested the Secretary-General to inform States parties of their commitments to their assessed contributions for the first financial period and the Working Capital Fund.
The Assembly also adopted a resolution that provided that the Court’s Registrar would accept voluntary contributions from States to the ICC only if those contributions would not affect the Court’s independence. By another decision concerning interim arrangements for the exercise of authority pending the assumption of office by the Registrar, the Assembly decided that the Director of Common Services would perform the functions in the meantime.
The appointments of the Director of Common Services as well as the External Auditor are expected to occur later this week.
Finally, the Assembly agreed to refer the finalization of the procedure for the nomination and election of the Court’s judges to a Working Group of the Whole.
The Assembly will meet next in plenary on Monday, 9 September at 10 a.m.
* *** *