New York

17 October 2012

Secretary-General's remarks at Security Council open debate on "Peace and Justice with a Special Focus on the Role of the International Criminal Court"

I thank His Excellency, Minister Harold Caballeros, for convening this timely discussion.

When it comes to peace and justice, we are living in a new world.

Those who contemplate committing horrific acts that shock the conscience of humankind can no longer be confident that their heinous crimes will go unpunished.

Rulers and warlords who perpetrate atrocities can no longer trade their power for an amnesty and then slip away, unpunished, in some safe haven.

We live in an age of accountability.

It is an age in which there is an ever-growing emphasis on the responsibility of States to end impunity and to prosecute those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other egregious crimes.

It is an age in which UN envoys and representatives will not, as they negotiate and mediate peace agreements, promote or condone amnesties for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and gross violations of human rights.

And it is an age that this Council has played a central role in bringing about -- by establishing the Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Lebanon, and the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

At the centre of this new system of international criminal justice stands the International Criminal Court.

In that regard, I welcome the participation and presence of the Honorable Judge Sang-Hyun Song, President of the International Criminal Court.

Both the Court and the Council are frequently active in the same situations.

The grave crimes that the ICC deals with threaten, in the words of the Rome Statute, “the peace, security and well-being of the world” -- the very peace and security this Council is charged to maintain.

It is not surprising, then, to find the Court investigating, prosecuting and trying situations that are on this Council’s agenda —such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire and the Lord’s Resistance Army.

And of course, the Security Council has itself referred certain situations on its agenda to the Court’s Prosecutor— as we have seen in the cases of Darfur and Libya.

But the Court is not simply an autonomous international organization. It is also a judicial body -- independent and impartial.

Once set in motion, justice takes its own inexorable course, unswayed by politics.

That is its strength, its distinctive virtue.

But it also, frankly, presents challenges to those who have to navigate the new environment that is created when justice enters the scene.

When the Court takes up a situation — whether because of a Security Council referral or otherwise— the whole landscape changes. And it is likely to keep changing as cases are investigated and arrest warrants are issued; as suspects are detained and transferred to The Hague, trials are opened and verdicts and sentences are handed down.

The Court and Council both operate in this fluid setting, and both should explore the many ways in which they can complement and leverage each other's work, from prevention to enforcement. In this regard, the Council, where it has referred a situation to the Prosecutor, can greatly assist the Court by acting to secure the necessary level of cooperation from Member States.

Ten years have passed since the Rome Statute entered into force and the world’s first permanent international criminal court became a new part of the global system.

A considerable amount of experience has been accumulated since that time.

We have seen the value of a Court that pursues justice in all regions.

We have seen how the actions and inactions of the Court and the Security Council can have an impact on the other.

But most importantly, we have seen how the activities of each can assist the other.

Only if perpetrators of grave crimes are prosecuted and held to account, can there be any hope that future such crimes will be prevented and peace preserved.

Justice is crucial for breaking cycles of violence and fragility.

Even the possibility of ICC engagement in a given situation can create an incentive to set up local mechanisms to deliver justice.

That gives the Council a critical role when mandating peacekeeping or special political missions to strengthen national capacity to prosecute serious crimes.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, MONUSCO has worked with national authorities to set up and support Prosecution Support Cells to investigate and prosecute serious crimes in the eastern part of the country.

The Court, for its part, can help to strengthen national responses to serious crimes through the domestic incorporation of provisions of the Rome Statute. In addition, its outreach work is intended to stop cycles of violence from recurring.

The Court and the Council can support each other in building local justice responses and in strengthening the rule of law.

The Council and the Court frequently operate in the same political space. They share a common interest.

The Court can help advance the purposes of the United Nations, above all “to maintain international peace and security”.

And this Council — by understanding and respecting the work of the Court—can advance its own cause and better discharge its responsibilities.

In this new age of accountability, in this period of growing demands for justice, let us do our utmost to draw solid lessons from a decade of advances and challenges.

Let us do everything we can to see the Council and the Court work together to deliver both justice and peace.

I look forward to a constructive discussion.

Thank you.