|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on Key Issues before Ninth Assembly of States Parties
to International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute
The evolution of the rule of law in international relations would be at stake during the ninth Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, now underway at Headquarters, William Pace, Convenor of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, said today.
Speaking at a Headquarters press conference, Mr. Pace underlined the issues before the five-day Assembly, running from 6 to 10 December, including the Court’s budget for 2011, the processes for electing six new judges and a new Prosecutor, and follow-up to the first-ever Review Conference of the Statute, which took place in Kampala, Uganda, in June.
“For us, the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute is one of the most important governing bodies in the international legal order,” he said. “As we will say later at the general debate, we believe that the issue of how this governing body and the international organization that is created by the treaty — the International Criminal Court — and the Rome Statute system evolve in this next 10 to 15 years will be major factor in determining whether the rule of law becomes a primary mechanism for governing the relations of nation States and replaces brute force and military might — or to say it in another way, whether the rule of law in the twenty-first century will replace war.”
The Coalition comprises of 2,500 civil society organizations in 150 countries. According to a press release, they seek to: strengthen international cooperation with the Court; ensure its fairness, effectiveness and independence; make justice visible and universal; and advance stronger national laws that deliver justice to victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
Accompanying Mr. Pace at the press conference were Richard Dicker, Director of the International Justice Programme at Human Rights Watch; and Stella Ndirangu, Legal Officer at the International Commission of Jurists-Kenya.
Mr. Dicker urged correspondents to press the International Criminal Court’s Chief Prosecutor on Thursday regarding the recent attack by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on the Republic of Korea. While the former was not a signatory to the Rome Statute, the latter was, and the Court, therefore, had jurisdiction over the incident, he explained. Journalists should also ask the Prosecutor whether he was considering new cases in relation to Darfur, he said, adding that Human Rights Watch had long believed that other senior officials in Khartoum bore “enormous responsibility” for events in Sudan’s troubled western region.
He said that, in a “great challenge” to the Court and the General Assembly, Libya, Algeria and Egypt — non-signatories to the Statute — had been “working in concert with an accused genocidaire in the person of President Omer al-Bashir” to pressure African States parties to breach their obligations by refraining from arresting the Sudanese leader and sending him to The Hague for trial. Those three countries, “driven by their own fear and loathing of accountability for crimes committed against their own people”, sought to undermine respect for the Court on the continent, he said.
Mr. Dicker added: “It is imperative for this Assembly to begin to create an environment to assist African States parties and others to resist the unlawful pressure being imposed on them by a handful of non-State parties and to arrest Mr. Bashir” should he set foot on their territory. That resistance would require a joint effort on the part of concerned States parties, African parliamentarians, and civil society. He noted, however, that since his visits to Kenya and Chad earlier this year, President Bashir “is holed up in his palace in Khartoum” and unable to travel as widely in Africa, as he might have wished. “We are on a winning streak,” he said, referring to supporters of the Court. “Stay tuned.”
Ms. Ndirangu discussed efforts by Kenyan civil society to thwart a second visit by President Bashir and to apply for a domestic warrant for his arrest. The High Court would hear the application on 8 December, she said, adding that the preliminary assessment was that it would lean in favour of issuing a warrant. Noting that there had been much debate within Africa on the level of support given to the Court, she underscored the “very good” representation of African States parties to the Statute at the Kampala Review Conference.
Responding to questions, Mr. Dicker underlined the importance of providing the Court with the resources it needed to fulfil its mandate, “especially in this very strained economic climate”.
With regard to the presence of Ibrahim Gambari, Joint African Union-United Nations Special Representative for Darfur, at President Bashir’s inauguration earlier this year, he said: “I don’t know Mr. Gambari’s meeting schedule, but I would say he’s in violation of [United Nations] policy, unless there is a crisis issue relating to essential humanitarian issues.”
In response to a question about the situation in Sri Lanka, he said that referring it to the Court would require a Security Council resolution, as the country was not a signatory to the Statute. “I would look to China there,” he said, adding that Governments such as those of Australia and the United States should arrest Sri Lankans in their respective territories “who are believed to be associated to horrific crimes, be they military personnel or Tiger personnel”.
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