PRESS CONFERENCE ON INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

31 January 2003

PRESS CONFERENCE ON INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

31/01/2003
Press Briefing

PRESS CONFERENCE ON INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

The first resumed meeting of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, to take place from 3 to 7 February at Headquarters, will elect 18 Judges to the Court from among candidates nominated by 43 countries, William Pace, Convenor, Non-governmental Organizations (NGO) Coalition of the International Criminal Court, told correspondents this morning at a Headquarters press conference.

Also participating in the briefing sponsored by Jordan, President of the Assembly of States Parties, were:  Vahida Naihar, Board Member, Women’s Caucus for Gender Justice; Caroline Baudot, Legal Research Officer of the Coalition; and Richard Dicker, Director, International Justice Program, Human Rights Watch.  The NGO Coalition is a global network of over 1,000 members working to support a permanent, fair and independent Court.  (For more information, see:  www.iccnow.org.)

Mr. Pace said 87 countries had ratified the Statute, of which 85 had voting rights during the resumed meeting.  Two countries were expected to ratify the Statute soon.  Forty-five countries had submitted nominations, two of which had withdrawn them.  It was anticipated that the election of the Prosecutor would be postponed until the second resumed meeting from 21 to 23 April.  During the first meeting, the Netherlands, host to the Court, will report on progress made.  A report from Bruno Cathala, leader of the Court’s international civil servants, was also expected.

Vahida Naihar, Board Member, Women’s Caucus for Gender Justice, said as the elections were drawing closer, the temptation for “hose-trading” was high.  The rules for nomination and elections had limited the possible outcome of such unethical practices, to some extent, by requiring minimum voting for ensuring fair regional and gender representation.  The qualifications of most, if not all, candidates belied concerns of some States that they would be compelled to vote for unsuitable candidates in order to fulfil such requirements.  Indeed, the nomination of ten women candidates, all highly qualified individuals with appropriate experience in addition to coming from diverse regions, was a clear example that those concerns were unfounded.  She was seriously concerned that the voting requirements were understood by some States as quota, stressing that the requirements were a minimum, and not a maximum or a quota.

She said there was also a concern that after four rounds of balloting, the rules regarding minimum voting requirements would be discontinued, which could lead to skewing the composition of the Court with regard to regional and gender representation.  The elections were not another “business as usual” election for an international position.  “Victims, survivors, women and people affected by the most heinous crimes around the world have high expectations that the International Criminal Court will be an institution they could depend on for justice”, she said.

Caroline Baudot, Legal Research Officer for the Coalition, addressing the procedures for the elections, said the first round of ballots would probably

take place on Tuesday morning.  Subsequent ballots would take place from Wednesday morning on.  The fact that several rounds would probably be required was a good thing, because, in that way, States Parties would see a balance emerging slowly and could adjust their voting after the first ballot results became known.

She said the election procedure was unprecedented, as it was the first time that States would be encouraged to ensure fair gender and regional representation.  States would vote for a minimum number of candidates per region:  three for Africa, two for Asia, two for Eastern Europe, three for Latin America and three for Western Europe.  They would have to vote for at least

9 candidates from List A, candidates with competence in criminal law, and five candidates from List B, candidates with competence in international law.  Minimum requirements for gender consisted of six votes for male and six for female candidates.  After every balloting round, the ballot would be adjusted to reflect the minimum requirements.  A two-thirds majority of those voting and present was required for election:  57 votes out of 85.

Mr. Pace said that the Coalition had disseminated information about the nominees worldwide.  All but six candidates had filled out a coalition questionnaire and most candidates had been interviewed.  The Coalition did not endorse or oppose any candidate.  He added that, after the elections, the Assembly’s President would draw lots to determine which nine Judges would serve the full term of nine years, which nine a term of six years, and which a term of three years.  Only those serving a three-year term would be allowed to run for re-election, one time.  The Judges would be sworn in during a ceremony on

11 March in the Netherlands.

Richard Dicker, Director, International Justice Program, Human Rights Watch, addressing United States’ Government efforts regarding the Court, reminded correspondents of that Government’s announcement in July 2002, after adoption of Security Council resolution 1422, that it would embark on a campaign to press governments to sign for bilateral agreements granting immunity to

270 million American citizens, plus those who worked under contract for the United States Government.  The results of that campaign had been “anything less than a spectacular success” for United States diplomacy.  Seventeen States had signed those agreements, mostly States vulnerable to United States pressure, and non-party States.  Moreover, he said, the world nowadays was different from that of July last year, and the United States was now facing more pressing challenges.

Regarding challenges the Court would face after the elections, he said that if election of the prosecutor did not take place, a key challenge for the next session would be to select a prosecutor who had the competence to head the office of the prosecution.  Other challenges of the Court would be to apply lessons learned from the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, in order to make the Court “a mean and lean machine” to act effectively, efficiently and with all deliberate speed to take on the cases it was created for, of which there was no shortage.  Those cases could include crimes committed in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and Colombia.  He was pleased to note that the Government of Afghanistan had decided to ratify the Statute.

Answering a question, Mr. Pace said it was essential in the Statute that only nationals of countries that had ratified the Treaty could be nominated.  Conversely, it would be inappropriate to have a national from a country that had tried to kill the Treaty as a Court judge.  There were candidates with top-qualifications from outside the United States.

Responding to another question, Mr. Dicker said it was unlikely the Court would take up cases arising from a possible war in Iraq, as neither Iraq nor the United States were party to the Statute.  That situation illustrated the need for universal ratification.  The Security Council, however, could refer a genocidal situation to the Court for investigation for prosecution.  That would not be an incentive for Saddam Hussein to remain in power in order to avoid prosecution, as the events around the indictment of a sitting President (Milosovic) by the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia had illustrated.

Asked if the United States was working behind the scenes to undermine the Court, Mr. Pace said there were reports from Morocco, the Philippines and Fiji that the United States was discouraging countries from nominating judges and participating, and other governments had said that was just the tip of the iceberg. The real story, he said, was that those efforts had not succeeded.

Asked about the budget, Mr. Pace said the Court was an independent organization, with, he hoped, close relations to the United Nations and other international organizations, funded by the States Parties.  The first year budged amounted to $30 million, spread out over 85 countries, according mostly to the United Nations distribution formula.  All meetings at United Nations facilities had been pre-funded, so there was no budgetary impact on the Organization.  Coming September, the Assembly of States Parties would create its own secretariat and meetings would move to The Hague, the Netherlands.

Asked to explain the lack of good candidates for the position of prosecutor, Mr. Pace said good candidates were probably available.  However, early on in the process of nominations, it had become evident that trying to elect judges and a prosecutor at the same time was a mistake, as some candidates for prosecutor came from countries that also had candidates for judges. The qualifications for the prosecutor exceeded the qualifications for almost any other position of world leadership, because of the complex of intellectual, language, diplomatic, legal and management requirements.

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For information media. Not an official record.