SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS ESTABLISHMENT OF INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT IS MAJOR STEP IN MARCH TOWARDS UNIVERSAL HUMAN RIGHTS, RULE OF LAW

L/2890
20 July 1998

SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS ESTABLISHMENT OF INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT IS MAJOR STEP IN MARCH TOWARDS UNIVERSAL HUMAN RIGHTS, RULE OF LAW

20 July 1998


Press Release
L/2890


SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS ESTABLISHMENT OF INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT IS MAJOR STEP IN MARCH TOWARDS UNIVERSAL HUMAN RIGHTS, RULE OF LAW

19980720 In Ceremony on Adoption of Court's Statute, Philippe Kirsch (Canada) Appeals to States Not to Reject 'What Is Really the Future of Humanity'

(Reissued as received from an Information Officer.)

ROME, 18 July -- The establishment of the International Criminal Court was a gift of hope to future generations, and a giant step forward in the march towards universal human rights and the rule of law, Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated at the ceremony held at Campidoglio this afternoon to celebrate the adoption yesterday of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

The Statute was adopted yesterday evening as a United Nations Diplomatic Conference decided to establish a permanent International Criminal Court with power to exercise its jurisdiction over persons for the most serious crimes of international concern, as it concluded five weeks of deliberations.

"It is an achievement which, only a few years ago, nobody would have thought possible", said the Secretary-General. Expressing his "great pleasure to be here in person" to transmit to the Italian Government the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, he noted that it would remain in Italy's hands until 17 October 1998, and after that it would be deposited with him, as Secretary-General of the United Nations, and stay open for signature in New York until 31 December 2000.

"It is my fervent hope that by then a large majority of United Nations Member States will have signed and ratified it, so that the Court will have unquestioned authority and the widest possible jurisdiction", he emphasized.

The Foreign Minister of Italy, Lamberto Dini, said the Statute of the Court introduced radically important innovations into relations between States, affecting their sovereign prerogatives, and establishing a new relationship between the national courts and international jurisdiction. It complemented the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which, 50 years on, still remained one of the defining moments in the history of the United Nations. "And thanks to this Court, United Nations credibility has now been further enhanced", he added.

The Chairman of the Committee of the Whole of the Conference, Philippe Kirsch (Canada), said the Diplomatic Conference had established the solid foundations of an institutions that will have a major impact for future generations. The international community had shown that it would not stand by silently watching genocide be committed, that "enough is enough". The adoption of the Statute had been a great moment, and efforts must be made to allow the document to play its role. He appealed to those States which had problems with the text to embark on an exercise of reflection and not reject "what is really the future of humanity in many ways".

The President of the Conference, Giovanni Conso (Italy), said the international community had written a new page of history with a message that it would never again tolerate impunity.

The Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Conference, Cherif Bassiouni (Egypt), stressed that the world would never be the same after the adoption of the Statute of the International Criminal Court. Today's ceremony was the last step of a history that had started at the end of the First World War and meant that impunity for the perpetrators of those crimes of international concern was no longer tolerable. It would not eliminate all conflicts or bring victims back to life, but would bring justice. Praising all those who had taken part in the process of establishing the Court, he quoted Winston Churchill: "Never have so many owed so much to so few."

The Mayor of Rome and host of the ceremony, Francesco Rutelli, in opening remarks, told the history of the room in which the ceremony was taking place, the Hall of Orazie e Curiazi, two families that decided to end a dispute between two cities through a sort of Olympic game instead of war. Also, 41 years ago "this hall witnessed the birth of the European Community", the important challenge of peace, development and democracy for Europe, after the catastrophic tragedy of the Second World War. Today, representatives of all nations had gathered at the end of a century full of dreadful sufferings and unique achievements, to give to the world a crucial instrument to fight against crime, violence and genocide and to establish law, justice and peace.

Echoing what has been in a way a parallel theme of this Conference, he said the signing of the Statute had been inspired by the "spirit of Rome", namely, the emotion and the awareness transmitted by the stones and the universal history of this city. He thanked all those involved with the Conference for the concrete results they had delivered. "We are very proud of all of you", he concluded.

The Executive Secretary of the Conference, Roy Lee, transmitted the Final Act of the Conference to Foreign Minister Dini; and the Secretary- General's Representative to the Conference, Hans Corell, transmitted the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

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So far the following countries have signed the Statute: Albania, Andorra, Bolivia, Cameroon, France, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, Italy, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius, Monaco, Namibia, Netherlands, Niger, Panama, Republic of the Congo, Samoa, San Marino, Senegal, Spain, Switzerland and Zambia.

Statement by Secretary-General

Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN: This is indeed a historic moment. Two millenniums ago, one of this city's most famous sons, Marcus Tullius Cicero, declared that "in the midst of arms, law stands mute". As a result of what we are doing here today, there is real hope that that bleak statement will be less true in the future than it has been in the past.

Until now, when powerful men committed crimes against humanity, they knew that as long as they remained powerful no earthly court could judge them.

Even when they were judged -- as happily some of the worst criminals were in 1945 -- they could claim that this is happening only because others have proved more powerful, and so are able to sit in judgement over them. Verdicts intended to uphold the rights of the weak and helpless can be impugned as "victors' justice".

Such accusations can also be made, however unjustly, when courts are set up only ad hoc, like the Tribunals in The Hague and in Arusha, to deal with crimes committed in specific conflicts or by specific regimes. Such procedures seem to imply that the same crimes, committed by different people, or at different times and places, will go unpunished.

Now at last, thanks to the hard work of the States that participated in the United Nations Conference over the last five weeks -- and indeed for many more months before that -- we shall have a permanent court to judge the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole: genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Other crimes, wherever and whenever they may be committed, may be included in the future. The crime of aggression is already mentioned in the Statute.

For the United Nations, this decision has special significance. We never forget that our Organization has its origins in a global struggle against regimes which were guilty of mass murder on a horrendous scale. And unhappily, we have had to deal all too recently, in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, with new crimes of the same appalling nature, if not quite of the same magnitude.

By adopting this Statute, participants in the Conference have overcome many legal and political problems, which kept this question on the United Nations agenda almost throughout the Organization's history.

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No doubt, many of us would have liked a Court vested with even more far- reaching powers, but that should not lead us to minimize the breakthrough you have achieved. The establishment of the Court is still a gift of hope to future generations, and a giant step forward in the march towards universal human rights and the rule of law. It is an achievement which, only a few years ago, nobody would have thought possible.

It, therefore, gives me great pleasure to be here in person; to place in your custody the Final Act of the Conference; and to transmit to you the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court adopted yesterday. From now on, the Statute will bear the name of this Eternal City, in fitting tribute to the people of Rome and of Italy who have hosted this Conference, and to their Government which worked tirelessly for its successful conclusion.

The Statute was opened yesterday for signature. Some States have already signed it, and more will do so during this ceremony. It will remain in your hands until 17 October 1998. After that it will be deposited with me, as Secretary-General of the United Nations, and will stay open for signature in New York until 31 December 2000.

It is my fervent hope that by then a large majority of United Nations Member States will have signed and ratified it, so that the Court will have unquestioned authority and the widest possible jurisdiction.

Statement by Foreign Minister of Italy

Foreign Minister of Italy, LAMBERTO DINI: An intense round of resolute, patient negotiating has now been concluded, just in time, with the adoption of the Final Act and the opening for signature of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Italy is honoured to have hosted such an important event to lay down the rules that will govern the international community and to define the instruments to be used to guarantee their enforcement. The Government and the City of Rome are also honoured to provide this solemn venue to celebrate the conclusion of the Conference.

None of us can fail to perceive the significance of this ceremony. None of us can fail to appreciate the expectations of international public opinion, clamouring around these ancient walls, but which will not be disappointed thanks to the far-sightedness shown by all of you and the countries you represent. This success would not have been possible without the pressure of civil society in our countries expressed by the non-governmental organizations that have so passionately backed the work of governments.

Inevitably, these negotiations have been difficult, at times even acrimonious. But this was to be expected. The Statute of the Court introduces radically important innovations into relations between States, affecting their sovereign prerogatives, and establishing a new relationship

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between the national courts and international jurisdiction. It complements the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which, 50 years on, still remains one of the defining moments in the history of the United Nations. And thanks to this Court, United Nations credibility has now been further enhanced.

Every country has played a part in drafting the Statute, including those which have declared their unwillingness to sign it. And we can understand their reasons. But we earnestly hope that once the nature and the operation of the Court has been more carefully appraised, they will come to a different determination in the not too distant future, and will accede to the new institution.

Not everything that some of us had hoped for has been put into the Statute. This was inevitable in such a complex exercise, carried through by such a large number of countries, with the aim of attracting the broadest possible support for the future. I nevertheless believe that we must acknowledge that the International Court which is being instituted here in Rome today is vested with the qualities of effectiveness, independence and authority commensurate to the tasks that lie ahead of it.

It is not over-optimistic to say that the Court will help us to feel that our individual rights are now more safely guaranteed, and will render coexistence between people less precarious, reducing recourse to arbitrary conduct and violence on a large scale. In other words, it will mark not only a political but a moral stride forward by international society.

I would, therefore, like to express my gratitude for the work of the delegations, for the constructive attitude adopted by your governments, for the commitment of the United Nations and particularly its Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, whom I wish to thank for being here in person, and for the hospitality of the Mayor of Rome, Francesco Rutelli.

It is with these sentiments in mind that I take custody of the Final Act of the Conference and the text of the Rome Statute for three months, which I shall now sign and invite everyone present with the powers to do so to sign it with me.

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For information media. Not an official record.