16 June 2000


16 June 2000

Press Release



Sierra Leone today announced its ratification of the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court, which will have the ability to try individuals for the most heinous offenses.

As the Court's Preparatory Commission continued its work on finalizing the operational details of the Court's Statute, Allieu Kanu (Sierra Leone) said his Government's action, which had been taken on 23 May, should send "a loud and clear signal" to those who had committed crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone. Those crimes would not pass with impunity. "There are still leaders in our sub-region that overtly or covertly continue to support inhumane acts against the people of Sierra Leone. Our ratification sends a clear message that those leaders will not continue to get away with those acts."

Foday Sankoh, the leader of the Revolutionary United Front, should be punished, he continued. The Government of Sierra Leone had begun to put mechanisms in place to allow for the investigation and trials of those who had committed crimes. The Government was in the process of seeking help from the Secretary-General in creating those mechanisms.

The Commission has a mandated deadline of 30 June to complete work on two aspects of the Court's Statute that are essential to its eventual functioning: the Rules of Procedure and Evidence, and Elements of Crimes. Coordinators for working groups on the various issues related to those texts briefed delegates this morning on their progress.

The Court, which is to be a permanent judicial body with jurisdiction over crimes committed by individuals, has now received 13 of the 60 ratifications necessary to bring it into being (Senegal, Trinidad and Tobago, San Marino, Italy, Fiji, Ghana, Norway, Belize, Iceland, Tajikistan, Venezuela, France and Sierra Leone). So far, 97 countries have signed the treaty establishing the Court. The treaty remains open for signature until 31 December.

The Rules of Procedure and Evidence 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.

ICC Preparatory Commission - 2 - Press Release L/2958 18th Meeting (AM) 16 June 2000

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.

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 two contact points appointed for those matters are: 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 Commission will focus on those logistics at its next session from 27 November to 8 December.

At the Rome Conference, where the Court’s 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.

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), 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.

The Commission will meet again in plenary on Monday, 19 June, at 10 a.m.

Reports from Working Group Coordinators

HERMAN VON HEBEL (Netherlands), Coordinator for the Elements of Crimes, said the working group had met formally three times this week and had held two further informals. The issues which needed further consideration had been identified and there had been an exchange of views on them. To facilitate the seeking of compromises on the issues, three more coordinators had been appointed: Per Saland (Sweden) would conduct consultations on the chapeau for the crimes against humanity and for the crimes of murder and extermination; Yukio Satoh (Japan) would conduct consultations on the crimes of enslavement, deportation and forcible transfer, imprisonment, torture and the set of sex crimes; and, Georg Witschel (Germany) would conduct consultations on the crimes of persecution, forced disappearance, apartheid and other inhumane acts. Informals and "informal informals” would be held and would be open to all delegations.

The second reading of the texts on Elements of Crime was largely a technical exercise and was not intended to reopen discussion on the elements that had been agreed upon in the first reading. He hoped that most of the group's work would be finished next week.

SILVIA FERNANDEZ DE GURMENDI (Argentina), Coordinator for the Rules of Evidence and Procedure, said the working group had held four formal meetings and four informals. The document from the intersessional meeting held in Canada had been very well received and had facilitated discussions enabling good progress to be made. She intended to submit revised texts on the basis of compromises on Parts 2 and 3. However, she was concerned about the pace of negotiations on Parts 5 and 6. The discussions were proceeding slowly and as a result, it would be necessary to hold night consultations next week.

MEDARD RWELAMIRA (South Africa), Coordinator for the Rules of Procedure and Evidence relating to Part 4 (Composition and Administration of the Court), said the working group had held one formal session during which it considered outstanding issues under Part 4. Notable among those issues, highlighted in the footnotes, were rules relating to the functions of the Registrar of the Court and the proposed Victims and Witnesses Unit. The rules also covered protection and assistance that could be given to victims and witnesses. He said that after a lengthy and useful debate, the Group had agreed on a common approach that would be reflected in a text to be discussed informally next week.

Other issues considered by the working group were the present content of the formulation on solemn undertaking for judges, election of the Registrar and adoption of the regulations and the first plenary session of the Court. The working group also discussed clarification of certain ambiguities in the rules relating to disciplinary measures. There had been some discussion on the structure of Part 4, with a general understanding that a formulation in a document agreed to at the intersessional meeting in Canada might provide a useful framework. On the whole, discussions in the working group were cordial and were characterized by a spirit of co-operation.

TUVAKO MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania), Coordinator for the Crime of Aggression, said the working group had continued its discussion of the definition of aggression and the conditions under which the Court could exercise its jurisdiction over that crime in accordance with the relevant Statute provisions. The discussion was broadly conducted on the basis of the consolidated text of proposals on the crime of aggression and the preliminary list of possible issues relating to it. The exchanges in the working group had been useful. However, he

said one of the difficulties it continued to face was the broad range of various notions relating to aggression which needed to be narrowed and harmonized.

It was evident that the broader the issues became, the more elusive consensus became. There also continued to be a clear concern among delegations about the importance of finding common ground to allow for a formulation that would in the end enable the Court to have jurisdiction over the crime of aggression.

He hoped the working group would pursue an approach that would be limited in scope so as to restructure areas of differences and allow for further progress.

ROLF FIFE (Norway), Coordinator for the consultations on Rules of Procedure and Evidence relating to Part 7 (Penalties), said the report on that Part would be finalized on Tuesday. He requested delegations to check for consistency among the language versions.

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For information media. Not an official record.