The General Assembly, acting without a vote, adopted a resolution today that acknowledges the role of the International Criminal Court in ending impunity and promoting human rights, and calls upon States to cooperate with the tribunal regarding the arrest of fugitive defendants.
By the terms of the resolution “Report of the International Criminal Court”, the Assembly welcomed the 123 States that have become parties to the Rome Statute, the 1998 treaty that created it, and called upon all States that have not done so to consider doing so without delay. The world body further called upon all States that have not yet done so to consider becoming parties to the Agreement on the Privileges and Immunities of the Court, while also emphasizing the importance of cooperation between the Court and States that are not parties to the Rome Statute.
It also looked forward to the nineteenth session of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute at Headquarters from 7 to 17 December, which will elect a new Prosecutor and six new judges to the Court, which is based in The Hague.
The representative of the Netherlands, who introduced the draft resolution, said it resembled the one adopted by the Assembly at its seventy-fourth session, as COVID‑19 restrictions made it hard to have meaningful discussions about its content. As a result, much of what has happened with regard to the Court this past year is not reflected in the text, she explained.
Following adoption, several delegations disassociated themselves from consensus, included the United States. Some delegates, including those from Belgium and the State of Palestine, pointed at the United States decision to impose sanctions on the Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, and another senior official, and urged all nations to respect the Court’s independence.
The President of the Court, Chile Eboe-Osuji, in a pre-recorded statement at the start of the meeting, highlighted achievements and challenges, including threats by powerful global actors that rail against its existence and threaten to destroy it. Such attacks show that the Court is making a difference and cannot be ignored by those with a geopolitical interest in leaving innocent victims at the mercy of heinous crimes, he said, as he introduced its annual report (documents A/75/324 and A/75/324/Corr.1). Acknowledging that the Court, like humanity, is not perfect, he urged those States not party to the Rome Statute to reconsider their objections. He added that the findings of an Independent Expert Review into strengthening the Court, will spur reforms while also consolidating its values.
Germany’s delegate, speaking on behalf of 72 States party to the Rome Statute, reiterated their commitment to uphold and defend the Rome Statute “undeterred by any measures or threats against the Court, its officials and those cooperating with it”. Sanctions are a tool to be used against those responsible for the most serious crimes, not against those seeking justice, he said, adding that: “Any attempt to undermine the independence of the Court should not be tolerated.”
Norway’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, urged enhanced cooperation between the Court and the Security Council, particularly in cases of non-cooperation. She urged the Council to refer the situation in Syria to the Court and for the authorities to investigate the situation in Myanmar regarding the Rohingya people. A Council referral to the Court remains the most robust means for achieving accountability, she added.
Myanmar’s representative, noting that his country is not a party to the Rome Statute, said that the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine state is a result of a terrorist group. The integrity of Myanmar’s independent investigations should not be subject to outside interference, he said, adding that the Council’s referral of the situation to the Court as unlawful.
Cuba’s representative took a similarly critical view, saying the Court lacks impartiality because it is subject to the Council’s priorities. In most cases, referrals to the Court show the Council’s selective policies in targeting developing countries, he said, calling for the creation of a genuinely independent global judicial body that does not obey narrow national interests.
The Republic of Korea’s delegate, looking ahead to the Assembly of the States Parties, said that the Court’s composition should be geographically balanced, thus creating a basis for revitalizing cooperation. Wider participation of States would lead to stronger support for the Court, he said, adding that the findings of the Independent Expert Review into its work can be a starting point for reforms.
Later in the day, the Assembly took up the annual report of the International Court of Justice in The Hague (document A/75/4), hearing from its President ahead of a discussion among Member States.
Also speaking during the discussion on the International Criminal Court were representatives of Norway (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Canada (also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand), Libya, Guatemala, New Zealand, Philippines, Ireland, Australia, Slovenia, Bangladesh, Spain, Georgia, Croatia, Sierra Leone, Argentina, Chile, United Kingdom, Japan, Switzerland, Italy, Estonia, China, Slovakia, Senegal, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Republic of Korea, Ukraine, Nigeria, Cyprus, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Myanmar, Brazil, Venezuela, Luxembourg, Paraguay, Honduras and Peru, as well as the European Union.
Delivering statements during the discussion on the International Court of Justice were representatives of Poland (on behalf of the Visegrad Group), Cabo Verde (on behalf of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries), Denmark (also on behalf of Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) and Azerbaijan (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement).
The President of the General Assembly delivered opening remarks, and representatives of the United States, Russian Federation and Israel spoke in explanation of vote.
Representatives of Bangladesh and Myanmar spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 3 November, to continue its discussion on the International Court of Justice.
VOLKAN BOZKIR (Turkey), President of the General Assembly, recalled that the Rome Statute of 1998, which established the International Criminal Court, demonstrated the international community’s commitment to end impunity for the most serious crimes. By fulfilling its mandate, the Court contributes to international peace and security, human rights and sustainable development for all, but to fulfil its mission, the cooperation of all States is critical. Through its annual resolution, the General Assembly calls once again for an end to impunity and the prevention of atrocity crimes while also recognizing the Court as a permanent judicial institution. Today’s debate is an opportunity to gain insights into the Court’s work and to recommit to a shared vision of a better world, he said, adding that despite the COVID‑19 pandemic, remote working arrangements have made it possible for more than 11,000 victims to participate in cases before the Court.
CHILE EBOE-OSUJI, President of the International Criminal Court, delivered a pre-recorded statement, saying that while the Court is separate from the United Nations, “we are members of the same family”, striving for a world free of violence and conflict, with human rights for all. The Court today is helping to loosen the ugly grip of tyranny upon the spirit of shared humanity. Some of the complaints made, almost daily, to the Court may not constitute a crime under its jurisdiction, and some come from people unaware that their country is not a party to the Rome Statute.
But, the mere fact that people look to it to lift the weight of injustice tells a story of hope, he said. This demonstrates that it is planting the flag of accountability through the rule of law and justice for victims of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression, thereby contributing to the prevention of these and other atrocities. Recalling the case of Laurent Semanza, he said it took the international criminal tribunal for Rwanda to convince witnesses that the hands of tyranny had actually been loosened from their lives by an international instrument of accountability.
However, the enormity of the threats facing the Court must not be underestimated, he said, pointing to the current number of ongoing conflicts, the Security Council’s inability to agree to refer the most serious cases and the cold war’s re-emergence. Recognizing the African Union’s objections that the Court is overly focused on cases on the continent, he said he cannot accept the reductive argument that the region’s victims of atrocities must be denied the benefit of the Court until it can attend to cases in other parts of the world. Another challenge stems from some powerful global actors that rail against the Court and even threaten to destroy it. Ironically, such attacks demonstrate that the Court is making a difference and that it cannot be ignored by those who see a geopolitical interest in leaving innocent victims at the mercy of heinous crimes. The Court’s establishment, in the wake of tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, was intended to avoid holding questions of accountability hostage to Security Council resolutions, which might be stymied by the vagaries of geopolitics.
Acknowledging that the Court, like humanity, is not perfect, he urged those States not party to the Rome Statute to reconsider their objections to its design. Citing letters written by George Washington that reflected the controversy surrounding the drafting of the United States Constitution, he said there is no perfect design, which some States wish upon the Rome Statute. The Court is keenly aware of the need to do better and, in that regard, the report of the Independent Expert Review, which aimed to identify ways to strengthen it alongside the Rome Statute system, will go a long way towards spurring it to make improvements and consolidate its positive values.
Introduction of Draft Resolution
YOKA BRANDT (Netherlands), associating herself with the European Union and introducing the draft resolution “Report of the International Criminal Court” (document A/75/L.5), said accountability and international criminal law are under severe pressure at the moment. More often the not, the Security Council fails to make it possible for perpetrators to be held accountable, she said, with Syria being a prime example. Moreover, States not party to the Rome Statute cannot be allowed to block the quest for accountability, she said, emphasizing that the Netherlands — the Court’s host country — is deeply disturbed by the sanctions imposed by the United States against its prosecutor and the Office director. Welcoming the recent Independent Expert Review on promoting its effectiveness, she said the Court and its States parties must now ensure that its recommendations are followed up and implemented, and for its new prosecutor and six new judges to be elected based on their individual performance and merit. Highlighting the need to strengthen the Court politically and financially, she said States should promptly execute outstanding arrest warrants and conclude framework agreements on witness relocation, release of persona and the enforcement of sentences. Non-compliance should be addressed through concrete action by States parties and the Security Council. Noting that “L.5” reflects a technical rollover from the 2019 resolution, she said much has happened regarding the Court that is not reflected in the draft, as COVID‑19 restrictions made it hard to have meaningful discussions about its content. In 2021, she said, as soon as it is possible, discussions should begin to update the text.
MONA JUUL (Norway), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, said increasing the number of States parties to the International Criminal Court will enable it to better address the most serious crimes with greater consistency and impact. Enhanced cooperation between the Court and the Security Council is still required, particularly in cases of non-cooperation. As such, the Council has not acted on the Court’s 16 findings of non-cooperation, she said, emphasizing the need for a more coherent approach to referrals. Noting that the Security Council has been unable to refer the situation in Syria to the Court, she urged its 15 members to continue efforts in that regard. Likewise, with regard to the situation in Myanmar, she urged authorities to conduct credible investigations in line with international standards, adding that a Council referral remains the most robust means for achieving accountability.
OLOF SKOOG, European Union delegation, voiced objections to measures interfering with the Court’s judicial functions, saying that attacking its independence amounts to attacking the multilateral rules-based system. As it approaches a critical juncture amid its ongoing review process and electing a Prosecutor and six judges, he called on the Court and States parties to follow up on the Independent Expert Review. A clear example of the importance of States’ assistance provided to the Court was the recent arrest, surrender and transfer of Ali Kushayb, suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Darfur. As a “court of last resort”, it complements national processes, but does not replace them. Indeed, it is primarily for national courts to investigate and prosecute serious international crimes. In that regard, United Nations legal and judicial reform programmes could help to build national capacity and contribute to the promotion of the rule of law at national and international levels.
CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany), speaking on behalf of 72 States parties to the Rome Statute, said the Court is an integral part of the multilateral architecture upholding the rule of law and an essential component of sustainable peace and reconciliation. National authorities have the primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute crimes in their own country, with the Court only stepping in when countries are unable or unwilling to carry out those activities. He underscored the commitment of the 72 States parties to uphold and defend the principles and values enshrined in the Rome Statute and to preserve its integrity and independence “undeterred by any measures or threats against the Court, its officials and those cooperating with it”. In that regard, he noted that sanctions are a tool to be used against those responsible for the most serious crimes, not against those seeking justice. “Any attempt to undermine the independence of the Court should not be tolerated,” he emphasized.
ANA SILVIA RODRÍGUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba) said the Court is not an impartial international institution because it is subject to the priorities of the Security Council. In most cases, referrals to the Court show the Council’s selective policies in targeting developing countries, he said, calling for the creation of an international judicial body that is genuinely independent and does not obey narrow national interests. Furthermore, the Court must not overlook international treaties and law.
RICHARD ARBEITER (Canada), acknowledging the Court’s efforts to continue its important work amid the pandemic, welcomed the Prosecutor’s investigation into the situation in Myanmar and Bangladesh. He called upon the Security Council to refer the situation in Myanmar to the Court to enable an investigation into the full scope of crimes enumerated in the Rome Statute. Echoing concerns about an unprecedented number of threats and attacks made against the Court over the last year, he remained equally concerned that requests for the arrest and surrender remain outstanding for 14 individuals. Welcoming the work of the Group of Independent Experts in drafting useful recommendations, he called upon all nations that have not yet done so to ratify the Rome Statute. Calling for the re‑examination of draft definitions of the terms “forced pregnancy” and “sexual violence”, she said they should reflect recent discussions within the international community.
MOHAMED A. M. NFATI (Libya) raised national concerns, including targeted attacks against schools and refugee camps that violate human rights and international humanitarian law, emphasizing that the Court plays an important role to ensure accountability of such crimes. Describing further national problems, he said civilians have suffered from land mines in the south, and authorities are intent on holding perpetrators accountable, even with delays in judicial prosecution. Libya’s independent judicial system has held hearings, and national jurisdiction must be respected, he said, calling on the international community to provide assistance so it can hold accountable those guilty of crimes.
EDGAR DANIEL LEAL MATTA (Guatemala), expressing support for the Court’s fight against impunity, crimes of genocide, aggression and war crimes, said the strengthened dialogue with the United Nations has expanded its visibility and bolstered its authority. Renewing the call for respect for the principle of complementarity, he said the Court is not a substitute for national judicial systems, which enjoy primacy, with nations bearing the responsibility for prosecuting crimes. However, there must be cooperation to combat impunity, accompanied by providing the Court with necessary resources to protect its own independence and integrity.
LUKE ROUGHTON (New Zealand) expressed support for Court as a central pillar of the international rules-based order, and in October, his delegation ratified all amendments regarding war crimes provisions, contained in article 8 of the Rome Statute. Welcoming the recent Independent Expert Review, he encouraged all States parties to give due consideration to the report and its recommendations and support the Court in implementing them. States parties should focus on helping the Court consolidate its work, consistent with the principle of complementarity. He went on to underline the need to respect its independence, spotlighting risks posed by the recent actions taken against the Court and its personnel.
MARIA ANGELA ABRERA PONCE (Philippines), disassociating herself from “L.5”, said her delegation’s decision to withdraw from the Rome Statute represents a principled stand against those who politicize human rights, and disregard national jurisdiction over charges involving efforts to protect its people. Notwithstanding, the Philippines is committed to fight against impunity for atrocity crimes and has national legislation punishing such offences, including The Philippine Act on Crimes against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity. Moreover, the International Criminal Court may only exercise jurisdiction where national legal systems fail or are unable to do so.
BRIAN FLYNN (Ireland), associating himself with Germany and the European Union, observed that the Court operates in a manner complementing national criminal jurisdictions, and in close cooperation with the United Nations. Each organization works in different ways towards securing peace and justice, but they should work together towards achieving those core objectives. Recalling that Ireland will soon serve on the Security Council, he expressed support for the French‑Mexican initiative on restricting the use of the veto in cases of mass atrocities. Turning to the Trust Fund for Victims, he noted that its vital work will stall without the voluntary contributions on which it depends and encouraged all States to make annual donations.
MITCHELL FIFIELD (Australia) said the principle underlying the critical role of “the court of last resort” is crucial for its legitimacy and success. Acknowledging its commitment to continue its work amid the pandemic, he said the Court is at a key juncture, as States parties prepare to elect a new Prosecutor and six judges in New York soon. The findings of the Independent Expert Review deserve attention, he said, adding that: “We must maintain the momentum to reform the Court.” However, the Court cannot fulfil its mandate alone, he continued, emphasizing that cooperation and support from the United Nations will be critical in the years ahead.
DARJA BAVDAŽ KURET (Slovenia), associating herself with the European Union, noted the continued increase in the Court’s workload and the scale and versatility of its efforts. The Court is the central institution for international criminal justice, tasked with fighting impunity for atrocities and other crimes. “It is now more important than ever to support the Court’s independence and impartiality,” she said, adding that no interference or obstruction in its work should be tolerated. Cooperation, assistance and the support of States remain essential, particularly against the backdrop of unprecedented threats and attacks against it. Emphasizing that cooperation by States parties “is not a policy choice” but an international legal obligation, she echoed concern about 14 outstanding arrest warrants, calling on all States to take concrete action.
TAREQ MD ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh) said the safe return of the Rohingya people to Rakhine state in Myanmar remains the only solution to the conflict there. In that context, he said the Court’s investigation is a critical confidence-building measure and recalled that, in 2020, the Office of the Prosecutor embarked on its first visit to Bangladesh. He went on to express support for Canada’s call for the Security Council to refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court.
RICARDO GARCÍA LÓPEZ (Spain), associating himself with Germany and the European Union, said it is essential to consolidate the Court as a body to investigate and prosecute the most serious crimes against humanity. The fight against impunity is essential. Highlighting recent progress and advances, he regretted to note the attacks against the Court, which have accelerated and aim at restricting its investigations and prosecutions. These attacks weaken the scaffolding built up over the last 75 years to protect the international system of justice. States parties should play a loyal and critical role as they support the Court, which also needs sufficient resources to function properly, he said, adding that it is crucial to make the right choices in the coming elections for the next generation of prosecutors and judges.
GIORGI MIKELADZE (Georgia), associating himself with the European Union, said complementarity is an essential component for the Court to carry out its duties. It must also send a message of its intent to perpetrators and victims. At this crucial time with the elections of the Court’s next Prosecutor and six new judges, States parties have an opportunity to make it more effective. For its part, Georgia nominated Deputy Justice Minister Gocha Lortkipanidze to serve as a judge. The Court must foster efficiency and support victims, he said, adding that delegation remains committed to provide support to the victims of crimes in Georgia and elsewhere.
IVAN ŠIMONOVIĆ (Croatia), associating himself with Germany and the European Union, said that while atrocity risks have increased as a consequence of the COVID‑19 crisis, so must efforts to mitigate them. The Court plays a decisive role in prevention, he said, calling for universal acceptance of its jurisdiction. The Court must remain strong, independent and impartial, he said, emphasizing the importance of the review process and observing that recent recommendations demonstrate the need to improve its functioning. Hopefully, the extension of the election period will ensure the appointment of the most highly qualified judges and Prosecutor.
ALIE KABBA (Sierra Leone), associating himself with Germany, welcomed the overturning of the decision on the authorization of an investigation in Afghanistan and expressed appreciation for the juridical and peaceful means being employed to address this critical issue. He expressed regret, however, over outstanding requests for arrest and surrender, calling for robust cooperation with the Court. Commending the recent Group of Experts’ report, he underlined the need to ensure that the review process is successful in strengthening the Court and the Rome Statute system. He also noted Sierra Leone’s nomination of Justice Miatta Maria Samba to the Court for the 2021 to 2030 term. Emphasizing the importance of the Court for victims of serious crimes, he welcomed their participation in cases before the Court and commended the Trust Fund for Victims for the discharge of its mandate.
MARÍA DEL CARMEN SQUEFF (Argentina) said the upcoming session of the Assembly of States Parties should address the findings of the Independent Expert Review through a candid dialogue that includes civil society. New judges elected to the Court should include both men and women. Highlighting the work of the outgoing Prosecutor, she wished that her successor will follow in her footsteps. The new Prosecutor should be appointed by consensus and hold the requisite qualifications. There is no denying the Court’s contribution to the international system, she said, adding that the twenty‑first century cannot be allowed to go by without clear responses to the suffering of the victims of atrocity crimes.
MILENKO ESTEBAN SKOKNIC TAPIA (Chile) said the Court’s legitimacy and proper functioning hinges on respect for its autonomy and independence. In that regard, Chile joins others in expressing serious concern on restrictions placed on senior Court officials, including the Prosecutor. Hopefully, such disruptions to the Court’s independence will be retracted soon. Synergy between the Court and the Security Council has been hampered by a lack of cooperation on the part of some States when it comes to detaining and remanding suspects, he said, also expressing hope that the two States which have withdrawn from the Rome Statute will reverse their decision.
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom), associating himself with Germany, described some of his delegation’s financial, practical and political support to the Court, including currently enforcing the custodial sentence of Ahmed Al Faki Al Mahdi. Meaningful reform is a process, not an event, and requires careful and determined attention over a sustained period of time, across many aspects of the Court’s work. The election of the best possible judges and prosecutor is vital to the Court’s success, he said, noting the United Kingdom’s nomination of Judge Joanna Korner, who served for eight years as a senior prosecuting trial attorney at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
KAWASE TARO (Japan), associating himself with Germany, noted that his delegation is the largest financial contributor to the International Criminal Court. Urging the Court to undertake its activities in a cooperative way with States not party to the Rome Statute, he said doing so would strengthen its legitimacy. Emphasizing the importance of the principle of complementarity, he said that if that core principle is not adhered to, nations not party to the statute cannot help but resist the Court’s activities. As the Court is first and foremost an international organization, States parties have the responsibility to ensure its good governance and to regularly review its work.
PASCALE BAERISWYL (Switzerland), noting increased pressure on the rules‑based international order, said recent attacks on the Court were countered in June, when 67 States endorsed a public statement reaffirming their unwavering support. As a court of last resort, it may intervene only if States are unable or unwilling to do so. Switzerland invites Member States which have not yet done so to investigate and prosecute atrocity crimes through their national authorities and to ratify the Rome Statute. Political pressure is out of place on the Court, which is bound only by law. As highlighted in the report, the calibre of the Court’s high officials is crucial, with the Independent Expert Review creating a positive momentum, she said, encouraging all States to nominate and elect only the most qualified candidates to the judiciary and the Office of the Prosecutor.
MARIA ANGELA ZAPPIA (Italy), associating herself with Germany and the European Union, said the Court sits at the apex of the broader system supporting international criminal justice and accountability. Echoing concerns raised over political attacks and sanctions imposed against the Court and its personnel, she called upon all States to respect its integrity and independence. “The number of victims participating in proceedings […] is testimony to the fact that the Court remains an indispensable institution of last resort for the still too many individuals who have fallen victim of the most atrocious crimes,” she said, noting Italy’s contribution to the Trust Fund for Victims and the provision of reparations and support to victims and their families. Voicing regret over the lack of responses to cases of non-cooperation communicated to the Security Council, she said deeper cooperation with States remains key to the Court’s success.
Ms. MAJOR (Estonia), associating herself with the European Union, called on all States to uphold and defend the values enshrined in the Rome Statute. Commending the Court for continuing its work amid the pandemic, she said that all States must cooperate with the arrest of individuals wanted by the Court who are not subject to domestic prosecution. Looking ahead to the Assembly of States Parties, and emphasizing the Court’s impartiality and independence, she said that the quality of the incoming judges and Prosecutor will ultimately play a key role in shaping its decisions.
LI KAI (China), noting that his delegation participates in the Assembly of States Parties as an observer, said that a certain country has imposed unilateral sanctions on the Court’s Prosecutor and other officials. China opposes such sanctions, bullying practices and power politics, he said, adding that the Court should act in accordance with the principles of objectivity while also resisting attempts to abuse its proceedings for political purposes. He noted with concern some legally controversial judicial practices that do not align with international law and unduly expand the Court’s jurisdiction. Going forward, China hopes the Court will abide by the principle of complementarity, prudently exercise its jurisdiction and prevent the abuse of international justice.
RÓBERT CHATRNÚCH (Slovakia), aligning himself with Germany and the European Union, expressed deep concern over the adoption of measures against Court officials and staff. It must remain independent and impartial, qualities recognized by the relationship agreement between the Court and the United Nations. Such measures weaken the very rule of law. All political efforts should focus, instead, on strengthening the rules-based international order and encouraging non-participating States to accede to the Rome Statute. He encouraged the Security Council to refer cases as mandated by the Rome Statue, but it must follow up on those referrals to ensure cooperation by Member States. The ongoing review of the Court provides an opportunity to explore further ways to deepen its relations with the United Nations.
CHEIKH NIANG (Senegal), said the Court’s role is to deliver justice to millions of people worldwide, showing scared populations that their calls have been heard and answered. Noting that the Court has been resilient in the face of the COVID‑19 pandemic, he said it can only end impunity through steadfast support from the international community, calling for frank and constructive dialogue among States parties.
CRISTIAN ESPINOSA CAÑIZARES (Ecuador), associating with Germany, expressed hope that the Assembly would adopt “L.5” by consensus. Committed to a rules-based international order and supportive of the Court’s role, he said it is part of the global scaffolding that upholds the rule of law. As a court of last resort, he said national authorities bear the primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute crimes identified in the Rome Statute. Ecuador rejects any unilateral action taken against the Court’s independence, he said, also acknowledging both its heavy workload and progress made amid the pandemic. The Court needs financing to achieve its objectives and to keep pace with the increase in investigations, he said, calling for increased financing.
RODRIGO A. CARAZO (Costa Rica) said the budget lines of the International Criminal Court must be classified so there is no superfluous spending, and technology should be leveraged so operational costs are reduced. Expressing support for far reaching reforms of the culture of the Court, he said an analysis is required of how it carries out business and the leadership required to ensure it remains a united organization in terms of its mandate.
HWANG WOO JIN (Republic of Korea), welcoming progress, said the Court itself should be represented via a geographically balanced perspective, not only as an initiative for individual underrepresented States, but as the basis for revitalizing cooperation with State parties all over the world. The success of the international community’s fight against impunity hinges on adequate cooperation and the universal application of the Rome Statute. Wider participation of States in the Rome Statute would undoubtedly lead to stronger support for the Court. His delegation expects more Court efforts to enhance its efficiency and appreciates the Group of Experts’ report, which serves as a starting point for efforts towards improvements.
YURIY VITRENKO (Ukraine), noting Kyiv’s acceptance of the Court’s jurisdiction to investigate crimes perpetrated by the Russian military between 2013 and 2014, said such activities can be exercised regardless of the nationality of perpetrators. The Government continues to provide the Court with information and cooperates with the Office of the Prosecutor through consultations, he said, adding that he looks forward to the Court’s assessment of the situation in Ukraine.
SAMSON SUNDAY ITEGBOJE (Nigeria) said State cooperation with the Court is critical in executing outstanding warrants, protection of witnesses, enforcement of sentences and other activities. While highlighting achievements, he said the fight against impunity is far from being won. Several meetings have been held between Nigeria and the Court, he said, adding that the Government takes all allegations of violations by military personnel seriously. Cross‑border corruption is as serious as genocide, he said, suggesting that more people may have been killed by such activities than other crimes listed in the Rome Statute.
ANDREAS MAVROYIANNIS (Cyprus), associating with Germany and the European Union, said the Court has established itself as a mature institution with 123 States parties around the globe, representing international community’s stance against impunity for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression. A strong supporter of the Court, Cyprus strives with other States parties to consolidate it as an independent and impartial judicial institution. Despite challenges, the Court is of great value to humanity, as it is the only such institution that ensures criminal accountability for individuals when all other venues fail. Yet, it depends on the international community, he said, encouraging all States to do their part to support the Court through the United Nations.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said the first‑ever permanent, independent International Criminal Court with jurisdiction over the most serious crimes has changed the dynamic with respect to the role of accountability in global affairs. It is not a perfect institution and needs fresh momentum to make meaningful changes and become more effective and persuasive in its central role to fight impunity. Still, his delegation is grateful to the Group of Experts and their recommendations. Indeed, the Court is more meaningful now than ever before, he said, pledging Liechtenstein’s support going forward.
The representative of Mexico said new appointees to the Court should have a stellar record of expertise and an understanding of the political dimensions of the situations under review, keeping in mind that their election has implications beyond the time limit of its mandate. The Court’s agenda coincides with United Nations bodies and entities, he pointed out, calling for strengthened capacities to avoid overlap. The Court’s success depends on its ability to act, he continued, calling for States parties to the Rome Statute to support it fulfils its mandate. In closing, he encouraged States to support the French‑Mexican initiative to restrict veto power in the Security Council in cases involving mass atrocities.
The representative of Myanmar dissociated himself from “L.5”, saying that it is illegitimate to exercise the judiciary power of the International Criminal Court on States not party to the Rome Statute. Noting that Myanmar is not a State party, he said the Court’s attempt to exercise jurisdiction over the situation in Rakhine state violates principles of national sovereignty and is in contravention with the Charter of the United Nations. Such measures jeopardize the legitimacy of the Court within the international community. The humanitarian crisis in Rakhine is a result of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, which is a terrorist group, he said, adding that Myanmar has its own national processes to address incidents within its borders. Moreover, the integrity of Myanmar’s independent investigations should not be subject to outside interference, he said, reject the Security Council’s referral of the situation to the Court as unlawful.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil), highlighting achievements and challenges, underlined the importance of universality, noting that all South American countries are parties to the Rome Statute. On improving the relationship with the United Nations, he reiterated concern on the financing of Security Council referrals. The Group of Experts’ report warrants serious consideration to bring the Court closer to the ideals of its founders, particularly as related to transparency and inclusiveness. This is particularly important in regard to the upcoming election of new judges. Affirming his country’s continued commitment to the Rome Statute system, he said there should be no opposition between peace and justice, as both values complement each other.
JHON RAFAEL GUERRA SANSONETTI (Venezuela) said the Court’s cases and new investigations show that it is discharging its mandate and is committed to the fight against impunity. Urging all States to support the Court, he recalled that national institutions have the primary responsibility to uphold the law. Unilateral measures imposed by the United States run counter to international laws, causing increased child and adult mortality and undermining human rights. As a State party to the Rome Statute, his delegation renews its unwavering commitment to the Court, but rejects preliminary investigations undertaken against the President of Venezuela, actions that undermine the work of national courts.
The representative of Luxembourg, associating with the European Union, said the Court is one of the most fundamental pillars that support the rule of law. It is crucial and plays an important part in international justice, but continued attacks against it means that more support is needed. As such, Luxembourg gives its support to the Court and will continue to support the Rome Statue.
ALBERTO ESTEBAN CABALLERO GENNARI (Paraguay) said his country supports a supernational legal order that guarantees the enforcement of human rights. The International Criminal Court is a body of last resort and must act in cooperation with national courts, only intervening when States cannot. Emphasizing the importance of the Court’s impartiality, he said judges must not be obstructed in any way. In addition, non‑governmental and civil society organizations play an important role in raising awareness about the virtues of a universal system of justice.
KAREN VAN VLIERBERGE (Belgium), associating herself with Germany and the European Union, said the Court’s primary function must work in addition to national courts, which bear the main responsibility of investigating and prosecuting crimes within its borders. Rejecting the imposition of sanctions on the Court and its members by United States authorities, she said such attacks violate essential values and interests, calling on Washington, D.C., to lift those measures.
MARY ELIZABETH FLORES (Honduras) affirmed her delegation’s support to the Court as a party to the Rome Statute. Also voicing support for the Declaration of the Parties to the Rome Statute, she outlined a reservation to one paragraph which attempts to openly stigmatize a country that is not a party. It is inappropriate to criticize and internationally condemn such a country, which is simply exercising its sovereignty on its own territory, she said, stressing that the aforementioned paragraph is not in line with the Vienna Convention.
LUIS UGARELLI (Peru) underlined his delegation’s commitment to a rules‑based international order, for which international justice is vital. Perpetrators committing grave human rights and humanitarian law violations must be held accountable. At a time when several countries are questioning the Court’s role, Peru reaffirmed its importance and joined the Declaration of the Parties to the Rome Statute. Welcoming that the Court has continued its work “even in a COVID‑19 world”, he took note of important legal progress made amid such an unprecedented situation. Appropriate financing and ensuring the prompt appointment of a new Prosecutor are critical to the Court’s work going forward.
MAJED S. F. BAMYA, of the State of Palestine, said true justice required creating a permanent and universal criminal court that will act whenever States failed to prosecute all perpetrators without distinction. The International Criminal Court was the first attempt at establishing such a body with a true universal calling, but it was only a matter of time until a State not party to the Rome Statute would consider that it enjoyed immunity. The United States not only criticized the Court, it enacted sanctions against its officials, with the stated objective to deter the Court from fulfilling its mandate. “It is appalling to see such measures, adopted usually against terrorists and those allegedly responsible for grave violations of international law, used against those entrusted with upholding the law,” he said. The State of Palestine stands by the Prosecutor, the judges and all Court officials, he said, expressing support for Germany, who spoke on behalf of the States parties to the Rome Statute. “These sanctions reflect a misplaced sense of superiority, whereby justice must be pursued as long as it spares the powerful,” he said, emphasizing that “justice that suffers double standards is no justice at all”. Palestinian victims have been denied justice for more 70 years, and their plight is one of the rare cases before the Court where some States parties continue to call upon it to consider itself incompetent, even when that means perpetrators will continue to enjoy impunity. In that vein, he called on the Prosecutor to immediately open investigations into the crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territory and asked States parties to stand united against related efforts to obstruct or politicize the work of the Court.
The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution “Report of the International Criminal Court” (document A/75/L.5) without a vote.
The representative of the United States, speaking in explanation of his delegation’s position, disassociated himself from consensus. The United States has been and will remain a strong supporter of meaningful accountability and justice for victims of atrocities through appropriate mechanisms, but care must be taken to ensure that there is a correct and effective tool for each situation. The United States objects to any attempt to assert the Court’s jurisdiction over nations that are not party to the Rome Statute, absent a Security Council referral or the consent of such a State. The Court’s past conduct has led the United States to conclude that major changes are required, including an amendment to the Rome Statute regarding the Court’s jurisdiction.
The representative of the Russian Federation wondered why the Court submits an annual report to the Assembly, given that it is not a part of the United Nations nor is the Organization responsible for it. One gets the impression that the Court is not delivering justice, but rather carrying out political machinations, she said, pointing to its interest in Syria as an example. The Court also groundlessly drags States not party to the Rome Statute into its orbit, she continued, citing its investigation into the Rohingya people’s situation. Commending the legacy of the Nuremberg tribunal, established 75 years ago, she said that the contribution of subsequent judicial bodies is a matter of dispute as they put pressure on Governments and meddle in internal affairs. The case of Afghanistan before the Court is an eloquent example of double standards. Many States that oppose sanctions on senior Court officials, impose or support sanctions themselves. They should aim at ensuring that justice is served for crimes committed in Odessa, Donbass or South Ossetia.
The representative of Israel, disassociating herself from the consensus, said there is growing concern, among signatories and non‑signatories of the Rome Statute, about the Court and its crisis of legitimacy, as laid out in the findings of the Independent Expert Review. She urged those States that strongly support the Court to recognize that its legitimacy and future hinges on a critical reform process.
Right of Reply
The representative of Bangladesh, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that as a State party to the Rome Statute, his delegation fully supports the Court. He emphasized that the Rohingya problem originated in Myanmar and that the solution lies in that country. Rather than shift the onus and burden on others, Myanmar should take responsibility for its own decisions, he said, adding that cooperating with the Prosecutor would be a first step in that direction.
The representative of Myanmar said that punitive action against his country will not contribute to a peaceful and sustainable solution. A bilateral agreement is the only way to begin the repatriation of the Rohingya people, he said, adding that his country seeks friendly relations with all countries, including Bangladesh.
International Court of Justice
Mr. BOZKIR, President of the General Assembly, underscored the significant role played by the International Court of Justice, the United Nations principal judicial organ. Welcoming its efforts to ensure continuity during the COVID‑19 pandemic, he noted that 74 States have accepted the Court’s jurisdiction as compulsory and that, through its annual resolutions, the Assembly has encouraged others to follow suit. In addition to supporting the maintenance of international peace and security, the Court’s judgements and advisory opinions help to clarify and reinforce international law. He went on to say that this year, the Assembly and the Security Council will elect five new judges to the Court. Despite challenges regarding in‑person meetings, efforts are being made to ensure that the election is not delayed, he said, adding that he is collaborating with the Council and the Secretariat to that end.
ABDULQAWI AHMED YUSUF, President of the International Court of Justice, said the Statute of the Court, which is based on the Permanent Court of International Justice, will be 100 years old on 16 December, being one of the most enduring and well‑known international legal documents in the world. Indeed, it remains “the best text that legal talent could devise for international adjudication”, shaping the basis for its evolution and profoundly influencing the formulation of statutes for other global and regional courts created in the past 70 years, he said, adding that: “I believe that it still has a lot to offer for the future development of international law and that it will continue to inspire adjudicatory processes and procedures throughout the world.”
Reflecting on its work and the excellent relations with its Host Country, the Netherlands, he said the pending temporary relocation resulting from the proposed renovation of the Peace Palace in The Hague may last eight years and could impact the Court and its judicial activities. Noting that the Peace Palace has housed the Court and its predecessor, the Permanent Court of International Justice, for nearly a century, he said it expects the Netherlands would not make a decision about relocating the Court before holding meaningful consultations. As this address will be his last as President, he reflected on the annual opportunity to engage with Assembly members on the Court’s work and activities, emphasizing that the Court is very proud of the growing trust States have placed in the judicial settlement of their disputes. The Court’s strength is also based on its tested rules of procedure, methods of work, the quality of its jurisprudence and its judges’ absolute dedication. Recalling recent reform efforts aimed at modernizing, updating and clarifying the inner workings of the Court, he said the expanded use of digital technology, a shift in proceedings and a need to adapt to the constraints created by the pandemic have brought the Court’s working methods into the twenty‑first century.
One of the fundamental requirements of the Statute of the Court is for States to consent to its jurisdiction, he said. This consent is usually expressed either through a declaration of acceptance of the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court, or through a compromissory clause, inserted in a multilateral or a bilateral treaty. Compromissory clauses in multilateral conventions, some of which were adopted by this Assembly, provide the basis for the Court’s jurisdiction in a large majority of cases submitted to it. Currently, out of the 15 cases pending before the Court, nine were instituted on the basis of compromissory clauses included in multilateral conventions. Yet, there is a noticeable decline in the number of new treaties that include compromissory clauses providing for recourse to the Court. He called on the Assembly once again to take a leadership role and advocate for the continued inclusion, particularly in multilateral treaties, of such compromissory clauses. The insertion of these clauses helps bring about peaceful settlements of disputes and reinforces the centrality of the rule of law within the multilateral system.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland), speaking on behalf of the Visegrad Group, recalled that the International Court of Justice had delivered three judgements during the reporting period and observed that the 25 cases remaining on the Court’s list represent a diversity of issues, demonstrating that it is a truly universal judicial body. As there is no world human rights court, she highlighted the importance of the role of the Court plays in interpreting disputes concerning the observance of related treaties. She went on to commend the Court for amending its rules of procedure to allow it to continue operating through virtual meetings during the coronavirus pandemic.
RICHARD ARBEITER (Canada), also speaking on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, said the Court, as the only international judicial body with general international law jurisdiction, is uniquely placed to further the core goals of the United Nations. Expressing support for the establishment of a trust fund for the Judicial Fellows Programme of the Court, he said such a programme would promote the geographical and linguistic diversity of participating legal practitioners. Canada, Australia and New Zealand have always been strong supporters of the Court and its independent role in settling legal disputes submitted to it by States, and providing advisory opinions on the legal questions referred to it. Spotlighting their acceptance of compulsory jurisdiction, he called upon States that have not yet done so to consider doing the same, pointing out that the Court’s programme of work for the year ahead remains full and its workload is likely to be demanding.
JOSÉ LUIS FIALHO ROCHA (Cabo Verde), speaking on behalf of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries, welcomed the 1945 decision to replace the rule of force with the rule of law. “That decision has made all the difference for humanity,” he said, noting that the centrality of the International Court of Justice rests on its impartial character. Among other things, the Court has made outstanding contributions to the development and codification of international law, including in such areas as the use of force, maritime and territorial disputes and the sovereign immunity of States, and today it stands as an institutional pillar of global society. Citing the Court’s heavy workload and the wide range of items on its agenda as testaments to the confidence placed in it by States, he also welcomed the expanding of scope of international law more generally as it continues to inspire other global instruments and tribunals, and reaffirmed the bloc’s confidence that it will continue to overcome the challenges facing it.
RASMUS JENSEN (Denmark), speaking also on behalf of Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, said that the large amount of cases referred to the Court indicate the confidence States place in it. He underlined the importance of the case filed by the Gambia against Myanmar regarding the application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which he called an opportunity to develop jurisprudence regarding obligations erga omnes and erga omnes partes. All States parties share an interest in complying with such obligations under the Genocide Convention. Applauding the Court for continuing to operate despite the pandemic, he said that the Court’s role in peaceful settlements of disputes has never been more important in the current climate, in which multilateralism faces new challenges. He urged all States to actively support the rules-based international order of which the Court is an integral part. In the upcoming election of judges, he encouraged all States to vote based on merit, while he also underlined the importance of ensuring gender balance and the representation of diverse legal systems, cultures and languages. He also welcomed the interest the Court takes in the education of youth.
TOFIG MUSAYEV (Azerbaijan), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reaffirmed the bloc’s principled positions on the peaceful settlement of disputes and the non-use or threat of use of force. Recalling that the Security Council has not sought an advisory opinion from the Court since 1970, he urged the organ to make greater use of it. Ministers of Non-Aligned Movement countries recently encouraged the greater use of the Court in cases where unilateral coercive measures that were not authorized by relevant United Nations organs may undermine international peace and security. In that regard, he reaffirmed the importance of the Court’s 1996 advisory opinion on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons, pointing out that the Court concluded unanimously that there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all aspects under strict and effective international control. In addition, he called on Israel to fully respect the Court’s 2004 advisory opinion on the legal consequences of building a wall in the occupied Palestinian territory and called upon all States to respect and ensure respect for the provisions therein.
PEDRO LUIS PEDROSO CUESTA (Cuba), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Court’s heavy caseload of disputes in Latin America and the Caribbean stands as a testament to the region’s confidence in its work. Expressing regret over the fact that some of the Court’s rulings have not yet been implemented, he said some countries continue to overlook and disregard sentences that are not in their favour. The fact that States are able to use their veto power in the Security Council shows that the Court’s jurisdiction is “not without flaws”. Calling for reform of the United Nations system to ensure more protection for developing countries, he spotlighted the obsolete and absurd blockade still imposed on Cuba by the United States. Among several important advisory decisions, he called for the full implementation of one on the legality of the threat or use of force related to nuclear weapons; another on the erection of a wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory; and another which found that the United States, as Host Country, is obligated to submit itself to arbitration to resolve disputes involving the United Nations. He also called for better financing for the Court’s work.