9 June 2000


9 June 2000

Press Release


20000609 Background Release

The Preparatory Commission for the International Criminal Court (ICC) will begin a three-week session on Monday, 12 June, to meet the mandated deadline of 30 June for finalization of the operational details of the Statute necessary for the eventual functioning of the Court.

The Commission is required to complete, by 30 June work on two aspects of the Court’s agreed-upon Statute: the Rules of Procedure and Evidence and Elements of Crimes. The Rules cover such issues as composition and administration of the Court, penalties for crimes, obligations of international cooperation and assistance, as well as enforcement of sentences. On the matter of crimes initially within the Court's jurisdiction -- genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity -- the Commission is working to identify what elements would constitute those crimes and would need to be proven in order to obtain convictions. In the category of crimes against humanity, it is discussing such crimes as murder, enslavement, extermination, persecution, disappearance and sexual crimes.

At its last session in March, the Commission conducted a “second reading” of those two key texts, based on a consolidation of the results of the Commission’s three previous sessions. The Commission is flushing out the legal details of the general principles enunciated in the Statute.

The Court, which is to be a permanent judicial body with jurisdiction over crimes committed by individuals, will become operational once the treaty establishing it -- commonly referred to as the Rome Statute -- receives 60 ratifications. So far, 97 countries have signed the treaty and 11 have ratified it (Senegal, Trinidad and Tobago, San Marino, Italy, Fiji, Ghana, Norway, Belize, Iceland, Tajikistan and Venezuela). Many others, though, have announced their intention to ratify by the end of the year, prompting the Chairman of the Commission to predict that the Court will come into being earlier than initially anticipated. The treaty is with the Secretary-General and will remain open for signature until 31 December 2000.

At the Rome Conference, where the ICC treaty was adopted on 17 July 1998, the Commission was also requested to prepare proposals on the elements and conditions under which the Court could exercise its jurisdiction over the crime of aggression. Once agreement is reached on a legal definition of that crime, the draft text will be presented to an ICC amendment conference, which is expected to take place seven years after the Court becomes operational. In the meantime, the Commission has established a working group that has begun discussions on the subject and will continue until agreement is reached on a definition.

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Other tasks that remain to be addressed by the Preparatory Commission, which will remain in existence until the conclusion of the first meeting of the Assembly of State Parties, include finalization of financial rules and regulations, a first- year budget for the Court, a relationship agreement between the Court and the United Nations, and a headquarters agreement with the host country (the Netherlands).

The Commission will focus on those logistics at its next session from 27 November to 8 December.

Participation in the work of the Preparatory Commission is open to all States that were invited to the Rome Conference, including those that have not yet signed the Statute. Representatives of relevant regional intergovernmental organizations and international bodies, including the International Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, may participate as observers. Non- governmental organizations also may participate in the Commission's open meetings.

The Commission's officers are: Philippe Kirsch (Canada), Chairman; George Winston (Trinidad and Tobago), Medard R. Rwelamira (South Africa) and Muhamed Sacirbey (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Vice-Chairpersons. Salah Suheimat (Jordan) is the Rapporteur.

The Coordinators of the Commission’s working groups are: Herman Von Hebel (Netherlands), Coordinator for the Elements of Crimes; Silvia Fernandez de Gurmendi (Argentina), Rules of Evidence and Procedure; Medard Rwelamira (South Africa), Rules of Procedure and Evidence relating to Part 4 -— Composition and Administration of the Court; Rolf Fife (Norway), Rules of Procedure and Evidence relating to Part 7 —- Penalties; Phakiso Mochochoko (Lesotho), Rules of Procedure and Evidence relating to Part 9 -— International Cooperation and Judicial Assistance, and to Part 10 -- Enforcement; and, Tuvako Manongi (United Republic of Tanzania), the Crime of Aggression.

In addition, the Commission has appointed two contact points for the other outstanding issues: Hiroshi Kawamura (Japan) for financial regulations and rules, a budget for the first financial year, and the rules of procedure for the Assembly of State Parties; and Cristián Maquieira (Chile) for a relationship agreement between the Court and the United Nations, a headquarters agreement between the Court and the host country, an agreement on the privileges and immunities of the Court, and the request contained in paragraph 4 of General Assembly resolution 53/105 and reiterated in paragraph 3 of resolution 54/105, which, among other things, requests the Commission “to discuss ways to enhance the effectiveness and acceptance of the Court”.

The 13-part Statute of the International Criminal Court, which was adopted by an unrecorded vote of 120 in favour to 7 against with 21 abstentions, gives the Court the authority to investigate and bring to justice individuals who commit the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. States Parties to the Rome Statute, the Security Council and the Court's Prosecutor have the power to bring cases before the Court, which will be presided over by 18 judges from 18 different countries. It will have an independent prosecutor elected through secret ballot by States that have ratified the Statute.

The idea of a permanent court began with the unsuccessful attempt to establish an international tribunal after the First World War. Following the Second World War, the Nuremberg and Tokyo war crimes tribunals set the stage for efforts to create a permanent court. It was first considered at the United Nations in the context of the adoption of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Further development of the notion was effectively forestalled by differences of opinions for many years.

In 1992, the United Nations General Assembly directed the International Law Commission to elaborate a draft statute for an international criminal court. Further public interest was created by the Security Council's establishment of the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia in 1993 and for Rwanda in 1994.

In December 1994, the Assembly established an ad hoc committee of all Member States and members of specialized agencies to review the final version of the International Law Commission's draft statute. In December 1996, the General Assembly set 1998 as the year for the Conference of plenipotentiaries to consider the establishment of the Court.

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For information media. Not an official record.