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Remarks at Event marking the 65th Anniversary of the Adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide


Mrs. Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court [delivered by by Amady Ba, ICC Head of International Cooperation Section]


Mr. Secretary-General,
Mr. Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information,
Mr. Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide,
Madam Ambassador,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

First, let my crave your indulgence for Prosecutor Bensouda, who sincerely regrets that she could not come and speak in person this distinguished audience. Given the importance of this meeting and her unwavering commitment to putting an end to impunity for those who commit enormous, heinous crimes such as genocide, the Prosecutor was eager to be here to pay tribute to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and to discuss with her distinguished guests, sixty-five years after the adoption of the Convention, ways of combating and forestalling the scourge of genocide. The Prosecutor sincerely regrets that, owing to unforeseen circumstances, she is unable to be here today.

I am pleased to present the following observations on her behalf.

“Let me first express my thanks to the members of the United Nations Holocaust Outreach Programme and the Joint Office on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect for their kind invitation to today’s event, which marks the 65th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
The International Criminal Court was established by a treaty, the Rome Statute, adopted in July 1998 after several weeks of diplomatic negotiations and intense legal discussions of the concrete details of what would become our founding legislation. In my view, however, the international community had begun drafting the Rome Statute long before. In fact, its beginnings can be traced to 1948, with the Genocide Convention.

The definition of genocide in the Rome Statute was taken word for word from Article 2 of the Convention.

Another visionary element of the Convention was the fact that it provided for the establishment of an international criminal court: in its Article 6 it refers to the authorities having jurisdiction in cases of genocide in the following terms: ‘a competent tribunal of the State in the territory of which the act was committed, or by such international penal tribunal as may have jurisdiction’.

The discussions held in Rome in 1998 were the result of the international community’s efforts to establish such a permanent court of justice.

The 1948 reference to an ‘international penal tribunal’ marked a revolution in international law. That idea, together with the lessons learned from the political hesitations that followed and which allowed new tragedies to occur, like the genocides in Srebrenica and Rwanda, provided the additional impetus needed for the creation of the International Criminal Court—an outcome born of humankind’s hope that such acts would never again be perpetrated and of a recognition by the international community of the need to establish an independent international judicial mechanism whose mandate it would be to solidify that hope.”

With your indulgence, I will deliver the remainder of my remarks in English.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

In two days, I will provide my eighteenth report to the United Nations Security Council since the referral of the Darfur situation, more than 8 years ago. You may recall that Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir is charged with committing genocide in Darfur. This is exactly what the Genocide Convention foresaw: to bring to the fore, the erga omnes obligations of states to defeat genocide and promote the investigation and prosecution of those alleged to have committed this heinous crime.

Today, we are celebrating 65 years of the Genocide Convention; this year we also celebrated the 15th anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute creating the ICC, the “international penal tribunal” foreseen in the Genocide Convention.

We have come a long way since 1948; yet much still remains to be done. Sixty-five years on, this crime is yet to be completely eradicated. Even as we speak, the unfolding events in the Central African Republic indicate that, if the escalating violence is not curtailed, another genocide may be in the making. Clearly the promise of “Never Again” is yet to be transformed into a reality. The internal and transnational chaos that genocide creates, leave us no room, but to win the struggle against this atrocious crime.

But we should not be discouraged; as Raphael Lemkin’s extraordinary example demonstrates, even one person can contribute meaningfully to ending crimes.
The strong, consistent support and commitment of a wide range of actors is needed in order to ensure that the promises and the hopes contained in the Genocide Convention are truly and consistently enforced today.

I call on all our partners, on all persons concerned, to continue to stand resolute in their support and cooperation with the International Criminal Court as we all join the fight against this heinous crime.

I thank you for your attention.”