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Press Release

International Criminal Court

Assembly of States Parties

First Session

3rd and 4th Meetings (AM & PM)



Way Open for Election of Judges, Prosecutor

Speakers in the first meeting of the Assembly of States Parties to the treaty creating the International Criminal Court (ICC) celebrated its historic import and characterized the event as second only to the adoption of the United Nations Charter itself.

As the Assembly met to formally adopt the legal agreements that will allow the Court to begin operating, one representative called it an important moment in a journey of idealism and hope, and said that the terrible deeds that inflict great suffering on innocent people and that violate the international conscience would no longer be beyond the reach of the international community.

Many speakers addressed what one representative described as a campaign of hostility in some quarters against the Court.  They called for a common commitment to protecting the integrity of the Rome Statute and said they were confident that by its activities the Court would be able to dispel any lingering doubts as to its impartiality and effectiveness.

The Assembly also officially opened the way, as of today, 9 September, for the nomination period for Court judges and the Prosecutor.  Nominations will close on 30 November of this year, and elections are scheduled for February 2003.  During the meeting, several countries announced that they were putting forward a candidate for ICC judge.

As to its next meetings, the Assembly set the following dates:  the first resumed session, from 3 to 7 February 2003 in New York, to deal principally with the election of judges and the Prosecutor; the second resumed session, from 21 to 23 April 2003 in New York; the Budget Committee, from 4 to 8 August 2003, in New York; and the second session from 8 to 12 September 2003, also in New York.

The Assembly President announced that Bruno Cathala of France would serve as the Director of Common Services until a Registrar was appointed.  The representative of the Netherlands announced that his country intended to nominate a candidate for the post of Registrar.

3rd and 4th Meetings (AM & PM)

In addition, the Assembly created a subcommittee of the Bureau of the Assembly to continue work on the crime of aggression, which will be chaired by Allieu Ibrahim Kanu of Sierra Leone.

Speaking in the morning general debate were the representatives of Denmark (on behalf of the European Union), Netherlands, Italy, Canada, Germany, Croatia, Namibia, Peru, Bulgaria, Norway, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Representatives of the following non-governmental organizations also made statements in the morning meeting:  NGO Coalition for the ICC; Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l’homme; Parliamentarians for Global Action; No Peace without Justice; Human Rights Watch; Amnesty International; World Federalist Movement; and the Women’s Caucus for Gender Justice.

Speaking in the afternoon were the representatives of Trinidad and Tobago, Nigeria, Uruguay, Portugal, Venezuela, Cyprus, Mongolia, Fiji, Belgium, Uganda, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Lesotho, Ireland, Bolivia, Mexico, Russian Federation, Japan, East Timor, Ukraine and Samoa.  In addition, the Observer of Palestine spoke on behalf of the Arab Group.

The representative of the International Humanitarian Fact-finding Commission also made a statement.

The Assembly will meet for its closing session tomorrow, 10 September, at  10 a.m. to continue its general debate and hear an address by the Secretary-General.


The General Assembly met this morning to formally adopt the legal agreements that will allow the International Criminal Court (ICC) to begin operating.  The documents have been negotiated over the past four years since the Rome Statute was adopted by vote in July 1998.

At an earlier meeting, the Assembly adopted a budget for the Court’s first financial period.

The Assembly is also expected to begin its general debate, which will continue until its closing session tomorrow morning.

Adoption of Reports

The General Assembly adopted the reports of its Credentials Committee, of its Working Group of the Whole, and the report that contained the summary of their work this session.

In the reports, a period from 1 December 2002 to 15 February 2003 was set for the nomination of members to the Committee on Budget and Finance. Elections would take place at the Assembly’s second resumed session in April 2003.

As to its next meetings, the Assembly set the following dates:  the first resumed session, from 3 to 7 February 2003 in New York, to deal principally with the election of judges and the Prosecutor; the second resumed session, from 21 to 23 April 2003 in New York; the Budget Committee, from 4 to 8 August 2003, in New York; and the second session from 8 to 12 September 2003, also in New York.

The Assembly President announced that Bruno Cathala of France was chosen for the post of Director of Common Services.

The mandate of the Court’s Advance Team was extended until 31 October 2002 by another decision.

The Assembly, having agreed during the session to a procedure for the nomination and election of judges and the Prosecutor, opened the nomination period as of today, 9 September.  The nomination period will close on 30 November of this year. The President requested that States refrain from the practice of “reciprocal agreements” concerning the nomination and election of judges. 

On the matter of the Prosecutor, the President noted that the Bureau had urged States not to rush into making official nominations to the Secretariat, but instead to first try to consult one another informally.

Given that it was not yet a matter of urgency, the Assembly postponed taking a decision on the nomination of the five members of the Board of Directors for the Trust Fund for the benefit of victims until the Assembly’s session in February 2003.

The Assembly also decided to delegate to its Bureau the task of appointing an External Auditor for the Court. 

Finally, the Assembly created a subcommittee of the Bureau of the Assembly to continue work on the crime of aggression.  The subcommittee will be chaired by Allieu Ibrahim Kanu of Sierra Leone, and is expected to report and make proposals to the Assembly during its meeting in February 2003. 

General Statements

LENE ESPERSEN, Ministry of Justice of Denmark, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that in recent years the world had witnessed atrocities that offended the conscience of humankind, including genocide, mass executions of political opponents, ethnic cleansing and systematic rape.  It was imperative to restore the rule of law and to end impunity in such cases.  It was not only a matter of justice but also of peace and security.  The prospects for lasting peace and reconciliation were severely undermined if war criminals remained at large.  If the Assembly did its job right, the ICC would prove to be an effective and credible remedy.  Individuals who participated in serious and widespread violations of international humanitarian law could no longer expect to act with impunity.  The ICC would serve as a deterrent and a mechanism of accountability in years to come.

The Rome Statute, she said, had successfully finalized the treaty creating the ICC.  The Statute’s 139 signatures and 79 ratifications were evidence of international commitment to prosecute those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and, in time, the crime of aggression.  In New York, the Preparatory Commission successfully finished its tasks.  The draft instruments had been completed through remarkable efforts of all delegations during the Commission’s 10 sessions.  It was now time to move the focus of operation of the Court to The Hague.  It was time for diplomats and politicians to leave it to the Court to successfully complete what had started in Rome and continued in New York.  But major challenges for the politicians and the diplomats remained.  The goal of universal adherence to the Statute must continue to be pursued, while at the same time guarding its integrity.  States, groups of States, international institutions and civil society organizations must continue to join efforts to generate worldwide support for the Court and to promote the widest possible participation in the Statute.  It was also necessary to develop the implementing legislation in participating States.  The Union would do its utmost to ensure that the threshold of 100 States parties be crossed before 1 April 2003.

The European Union Council of Ministers had recently adopted a revised common position on the International Criminal Court, she continued.  A European Union action plan had also been elaborated.  Those instruments demonstrated the Union’s commitment to remain in the forefront of the process of setting up the Court.  They also explained why the Union rejected any attempts to undermine the integrity of the Statute and of the Court.  Some States were hesitant about adhering to the Statute.  They feared prosecution of their nationals for politically motivated purposes.  The Union was ready to address those concerns and seek solutions through frank and constructive dialogue with all States having similar or unrelated concerns.  At the same time, the Union was convinced that the ICC would establish itself as a legitimate judicial institution capable of bringing to justice those responsible for the most serious crimes in a fair and effective manner.  When that happened, the States that were at present hesitant would see merit in becoming parties to the Statute.  The Union remained firmly committed to the Court, which was an essential means of promoting respect for international humanitarian law.  It would contribute to freedom, justice and the rule of law.  In short, it was a realization of the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

J.G. DE HOOP SCHEFFER, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, said there was nothing so difficult as a beginning, but “our beginning is now firmly behind us”.  The Statute had been ratified by 79 countries -- a truly remarkable achievement, if one considered that for hundreds of years men had committed crimes and atrocities that went unpunished.

Within a month, the first staff members of the Court will begin work, he continued, but several tasks remained.  Countries must continue the ratification campaign, in particular to meet the goal of 100 ratifications by the Assembly’s next meeting.  National legislations had to be brought into line, and he offered his Government’s support to that effort.  There also must be continued persistent efforts to achieve the Court’s universal acceptance, and there had to be a commitment to safeguard the integrity of the Statute.  The European Union had adopted a common position to that end, he said.

To achieve those objectives, the Court must have credibility, he said, and that would require an independent, apolitical and impartial Court.  Only the Court itself could convince other countries that their fears were unfounded.  It would also require a degree of efficiency that would allow the Court to begin work as soon as possible.

Independent judges with expertise in criminal cases were needed, as was a highly qualified prosecutor.  Judges and the prosecutors must be elected in a fair, transparent and democratic process.  Quality and competence should be the main criteria.  He stated his Government’s intention to put forward a candidate as Registrar for the ICC.

ENRICO LA LOGGIA, Minister for Regional Affairs of Italy, said the Assembly was entering a fundamental phase in the creation of the Court, which was one of the most important institutional developments in the United Nations history since the San Francisco Charter.  Following the adoption of the Rome Statute and the conclusion of the Preparatory Commission’s work, a series of steps had been taken that would culminate in the election of the Court’s judges and Prosecutor.  The Assembly would be called upon to perform its statutory duties and provide guidance to the Court.  The success of the new judicial body ultimately depended on how those duties were carried out.  The Statute’s speedy ratification showed the international community’s confidence in the Court’s ability to act impartially and effectively in the prevention and punishment of the most serious violations of humanitarian law.  It was up to the Court and the Assembly to prove that that trust was fully deserved. 

Italy had been one of the most consistent supporters of the establishment of a permanent court, he said.  The entry into force of the Court would further strengthen Italy’s commitment to assuring that it became an effective body that defended the ideals of justice and peace throughout the world.  The last decade was characterized not only by great changes in international relations, but also by the recurrence of atrocities.  The international community, though caught off-guard, quickly grasped the need to respond to such events.  While the creation of the Yugoslavia and Rwanda Tribunals was a first step, a decisive leap forward could only be the acceleration of the process establishing the permanent Court.  The support of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) was crucial to the Court’s success.

Many of the Court’s provisions had been criticized and all views deserved respect, he said.  The normative balances, however, provided sufficient assurances of the Court’s effectiveness and independence.  Crimes under the Court’s jurisdiction had been clearly defined.  The principle of complementarity protected States from any interference by the Court that was not justified by an absolute reluctance to pursue the crimes in question at the national level.  The mechanisms to activate the Court, particularly in assigning the Prosecutor an autonomous power to initiate penal action, were accompanied by guarantees to prevent use of the Court for politically motivated procedures.  Italy endorsed the position adopted by the Council of the European Union that underlined the Court’s contribution to “freedom, security, justice and respect for law”, as well as to the “maintenance of peace and the strengthening of international security, in conformity with the principles of the United Nations Charter”.

The Assembly must pursue the goal of making the Court universal, he added.  Despite progress in the process of ratifying the Statute, much remained to be done.  Various countries had substantial reservations about the contents of the Statute and had voiced fears of a possible “political” use of the Court.  Attention should be paid to those concerns in order to seek solutions that fully respected the integrity of the Rome Statute.  Italy would continue to work in that direction for the sake of fostering the broadest possible adhesion to the Court’s constitutive treaty.  The upcoming election of the Court’s judges and Prosecutor was an important step that should be taken with a special sense of responsibility.  The Court could only fully affirm its authority and dispel doubts about its ability to administer justice effectively and impartially if it consisted of the most capable, professional judges and members of the Prosecutor’s office.  In selecting its candidate, Italy took full account of those requirements.

BILL GRAHAM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Canada, said it had been a momentous year for the Court and for the promotion of the international rule of law.  In April, the simultaneous ratification of the Rome Statute by 10 States triggered the entry into force of the treaty on 1 July.  The Assembly had begun its work last week by approving many instruments and resolutions developed by the Preparatory Commission.  As was well known, the United States had formally renounced its support for the ICC.  Other States had also opposed the creation of the Court.  He would reiterate the arguments to reassure democratic, law-abiding States that they had nothing to fear from the ICC.  The safeguards in the Rome Statute and the objective manner in which the Assembly had assumed its important role were testimony to that fact.  Remaining concerns would best be assuaged by the Court moving beyond its noble intentions and proving its ability to bring to justice the most notorious violators of international humanitarian law.

He was convinced that there was universal consensus that all States had a duty to the countless victims of crimes against humanity, to their survivors and to succeeding generations who would bear the burden of their legacy –- an obligation to do all that was in its power to prevent those horrors from recurring.  The Assembly had assumed a special trust.  The Assembly must demonstrate to States, members and civil society, and to the victims of the most heinous crimes that the Court was impartial, apolitical and capable of interceding where national institutions fail to deliver justice.  The Assembly had taken a critical first step in the adoption of the instruments prepared by the Preparatory Commission.  The Agreement on Privileges and Immunities for the Court required ratification and implementation by States parties.  He was confident that Canada would be in a position to sign and ratify it in the near future. 

The Agreement between the United Nations and the Court was an important instrument, given the close cooperation expected between the two organizations, he said.  The Assembly had approved the guidelines for a Headquarters agreement between the Court and the Netherlands.  The Netherlands would work diligently to conclude a comprehensive headquarters agreement as soon as possible.  The Assembly had also approved the procedures for the elections of the judges and the Prosecutor.  The elections, together with subsequent election of the Registrar, were fundamental to the Court’s success.  He could appreciate how difficult the negotiations were on that issue as delegates struggled to find the right formula to elect the best possible candidates representing all geographic regions and a fair representative of female and male judges.  Canada would use its votes and its influence to promote those objectives.  He announced that Canada was nominating Ambassador Kirsch as a candidate for the judge on the Court.

The role of the Assembly would not conclude with the elections of the judges, Prosecutor and Registrar, he said.  The Assembly would continue to play a key role as the political entity overseeing the work of the Court.  The Assembly must find the appropriate balance to resist any political interference in the workings of the Court, ensure proper management of the Court and insist on adherence to the Statute and its ancillary instruments.  States parties must intensify efforts to promote the Court.  Canada would continue its promotion of the ICC.  Canada had already adopted the necessary laws to incorporate the Court into its domestic legal system.  There were many people to whom the world owed a debt of gratitude for their contributions to the establishment of the Court.  But there was a real risk that their efforts could one day be lost.  Complacency and doubt were the real threats to the Court.  The Assembly must build on the Court’s momentum and popular acceptance.  Rather than shrinking from unsubstantiated criticisms of the Court, the Assembly must prove them wrong by establishing an effective body that would make a meaningful contribution to the cause of peace and justice.

JURGEN CHROBOG, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, said the ICC was a milestone in international law.  States must do all in their power to ensure an effective and credible Court.  Direct individual responsibility under international law for the most serious crimes had its origins in the judicial handling of the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazi regime in Germany and around the world.  “For the first time, we saw what an important role law could play in dealing with injustice committed on an international scale”, he said, adding that Germany had been a convinced advocate of the Court from the beginning.

The Statute was the result of an elaborate negotiating process, he said, and naturally no single State saw its own system prevail in its entirety.  At the same time, it must be remembered that the fight against injustice and for the rule of law had played an important role in all major civilizations.  The ICC, as the instrument of all democratic and law-abiding civilizations, targeted those who systematically put themselves outside the law.

Concerns that the Court could be used for political prosecutions were unfounded, he said.  He appealed to all States that had reservations about the Court to overcome their misgivings and adopt a policy of good neighbourliness to the ICC.  “We are ready to accommodate them”, he said.  “But it must be clear that the solutions to any problems they may have cannot violate the key obligation of all States parties to cooperate fully with the Court."

INGRID ANTIČEVIĆ-MARINOVIĆ, Minister of Justice, Administration and Local Self-Government of Croatia, said her country hoped that the creation of the ICC would also put an end to the era of ad hoc criminal adjudication, which was, by its nature, selective and limited in reach and, as such, nothing more than palliative.  The society of tomorrow should be able not only to punish, but also to prevent grave breaches of international humanitarian law.

Not least because of its own tragic war experience in the early 1990s, she said, Croatia had been an ardent advocate of the establishment of a global and permanent criminal court founded on the principle of the sovereign equality of States.  Arguing that even-handed global justice could only be achieved through global participation in the Rome Statute, she appealed to those countries which had not yet become parties to the Statute to reconsider their position with regard to the ICC.

“In our view, frequently cited concerns for the protection of national interests are unnecessary and unfounded.  The Statute contains a number of carefully drafted checks and balances”, she said, adding:  “as for politically motivated or frivolous prosecutions, which we find highly unlikely, the best corrective would still be the widest possible participation in the Rome Statute, which would, in turn, lead to a strong, responsible, impartial, fair and truly representative Court.”

NGARIKUTUKE TJIRIANGE, Minister of Justice of Namibia, said it was incumbent upon all to ensure that the ICC achieved universal acceptance through the widest possible support by States acceding to the Statute of Rome.

He said resolution 1422 of 12 July 2002, by which the Security Council requested that the ICC should not prosecute United Nations peacekeeping personnel from States not party to the Statute for a period of 12 months from 1 July 2002, would have a serious impact on the fundamental principles of international law.  Further, it would have consequences for the future of the United Nations, he said. 

With regard to the work of the ICC, it was the obligation of Member States to ensure that the Court was equipped with the necessary human and material resources to successfully fulfil its mandate.  In that regard, persons of outstanding qualifications, relevant experience and integrity should be elected as judges and Prosecutor, in addition to ensuring an equitable geographical distribution in the election and employment of the personnel of the Court.

FAUSTO ALVARADO DODERO, Minister of Justice of Peru, said it was a privilege to witness the consolidation of international criminal law and the establishment of an instrument to end impunity for the most heinous crimes.  The successes and aims of the ICC were being disseminated and established.  Peru had begun a process to incorporate crimes under the Court’s jurisdiction into its domestic legislation.  Although there were still substantial matters to be addressed, it was important to reach a definition on the crime of aggression.  The legal interpretation must not paralyse the administration of justice.  Despite the noble aims of the Court, it could be subject to erroneous interpretations.  Those interpretations could not only undermine the cause of justice, but also bring into question the value of international law and multilateralism.

He hoped that erroneous conceptions of the Court would be put aside.  The ICC was called upon to be an instrument in the service of justice.  A universal court was preferable.  The complicated process of negotiations had given the Court the guarantee of impartiality.  The challenge was to provide the Court with the instruments it needed to carry out its work.  Regarding the election of judges, he said the transparency of the process should be guaranteed so that the best candidates would be selected.  He hoped the desire for universal justice would be even further crystallized and that there would be an end to impunity for those who committed the most serious crimes.  The Court would lead to a more harmonious and peaceful international community.  Peru would continue to cooperate to ensure that the effective functioning of the Court became a reality.

SEVDALIN BOJIKOV, Deputy Justice Minister of Bulgaria, said the creation of the ICC was one of the most notable achievements in the history of the development of international law.  The ICC would put an end to impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes. It was not only a mechanism for justice but also a means to promote respect for universal human rights.  The Court must not only be effective; it must also be a court that inspires confidence.

States parties and signatories now faced a new challenge, he said -- that of finding a bridge to other States to gain their support for the Court, as well.  The attainment of universality required the cooperation of all States.  Bulgaria had always supported the establishment of a permanent international criminal court, and had incorporated the provisions of the Statute into its domestic codes.

VIDAR HELGESEN, State Secretary of Norway, said the international community must redouble its support to the International Criminal Tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, as the successful completion of their mandates would serve as building blocks for the future work of the ICC.  Stating that the ICC could not work without a swift entry into force of the Agreement on Privileges, he called on other States to ratify it as soon as possible.

He announced that the “Elements of Crimes” would be disseminated by Norwegian authorities to the country’s armed forces.  He commended the non-governmental organization ICC Coalition for the essential role it had played in disseminating and promoting objective understanding of the Court and its purposes. His Government would continue a dialogue on ICC issues with States that had shown a preference for addressing those issues only within the framework of their own national systems.  Norway’s approach would be guided by the fullest respect for the integrity of the Statute, as well as the wish to demonstrate over time that this institution was also in the national interest of all States attached to the rule of law.

ATOKI ILEKA (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said the Court was a unique instrument in the international judicial panorama because of its permanent nature.  The present session of the Assembly was being held in the context of a campaign of hostility against the Court.  That campaign, which had begun in 1998 in Rome, had accompanied all the phases of the Court’s development.  Following its ratification in April, the Rome Statute now had more than the 60 required signatures.  Given the increasing support for the Court, there were grounds for optimism.  The commitment of his country had been renewed at the Millennium Summit, when it signed the Statute.  The old dream of worldwide justice was becoming a reality.  He invited States that had not signed the Statute to do so.

For those who had already signed the Statute, the process of implementation was urgent, he said.  The ICC would sooner or later be able to overcome even its strongest opponents.  The Court should play the role expected of it by the international community -- that was, to be an effective deterrent.  He hoped the Court would provide hope for future generations.  He invited States that had ratified the ICC to quickly incorporate its provisions into domestic legislation.  There was urgent need to work on the establishment of a consensus on the definition of the crime of aggression.

Statements by NGOs

WILLIAM PACE, Convenor of the Coalition for the ICC, said that today government and world leaders had described the Rome Statute and the establishment of the Court as the greatest advance in international law since the founding of the United Nations.  He said the Court was one of the greatest developments of the tools and technology of peace in history.  It represented a truly momentous victory for the protection of universal human rights and the advancement of human security.

He expressed special appreciation to the group of like-minded States of the ICC and to the hundreds of individual government representatives that had fought for and preserved the integrity of the Rome Statute over the last eight years.  He added that the ICC would not be coming into existence without the contributions of civil society and the ICC Coalition, and thanked those who had joined that great campaign.

Unfortunately, powerful nations and political forces continued to oppose the ICC and were seeking to undermine the treaty by shameful and dangerous misuse of the Security Council and by efforts to secure immunity through bilateral treaties. The Coalition strenuously opposed those efforts and called upon the Assembly to defend against those attacks, not only on the Rome Statute, but also the United Nations Charter and the basic principles of international law.

Mr. KABA, of the Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l’homme, said this was the first time that humankind had a permanent, international body to prosecute the perpetrators of the most serious crimes.  It was also the first time that the right of victims to participate and demand reparation was recognized.  The difficult negotiations carried out in an atmosphere of hostility had dealt a

severe blow to the Court.  The United States had been able to use a complex, legal arsenal to guarantee that the ICC would not be able to prosecute anyone. The United States intended to give total leeway to authorities to fight terrorism by giving them guarantees that any action would be covered by total immunity.  The challenge confronting the Court today was its credibility. 

He appealed to States to begin the ratification process so that the Court could become truly universal.  He looked to the States of the Middle East, Asia and Africa.  He called on States parties to adopt necessary provisions to harmonize internal legislation with the Court’s provisions.  The States that had resisted United States pressure should make a common front.  He appealed to the European Union in that regard.  He urged the United States to reconsider its position regarding the ICC and called on it to join the numerous camp of States supporting the struggle against impunity. 

The representative of Parliamentarians for Global Action said that the treaty establishing the ICC was the most important development in countering impunity since the Second World War.  The Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals first gave hope that such an international court would be established, but it was not until the horrors of the late twentieth century that such an institution became reality.  He recounted the process of the establishment of the ICC and saluted the vision of those who worked for it.

Since the Rome Statute was adopted, he said, parliamentarians around the globe had been working towards the successful establishment of the ICC.  Universal participation was crucial.  No State or other entity should remain outside a system of global justice, or exempted through bilateral agreements, thus diluting its benefits.  Parliaments in all countries were important for that purpose.  He issued an invitation to a gathering of parliamentarians on the issue, taking place on 4 and 5 November 2002 in Ottawa, Canada.  Emphasizing the importance of universal jurisdiction of the Court, he said there must be no havens for the enemies of humanity.

EMMA BONINO, of No Peace without Justice, said that almost eight years ago she had had the honour to extend, on behalf of the Italian Government, her country’s invitation to host the Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries to translate years of negotiations into a legal document.  Today she was in a different seat and capacity, but her commitment to the international rule of law remained the same.  The 79 States parties to the Court were proof of what had been achieved by synergy and mutual cooperation.  The entry into force of the ICC marked the beginning of a new era in international affairs. 

She said that, if triggered properly, the ICC could act as a powerful deterrent for future conflict, preventing bloodshed and saving thousands of innocent lives.  To achieve that objective, it was of paramount importance to strengthen the Court, providing it with the necessary expertise and financial means.  For the Court to work with effectiveness, fairness and impartiality, it was imperative that all those countries that had endorsed the Rome Statute continue to work to ensure that the Court would benefit from the election of officials of the highest quality.  All the major players in global affairs should find ways of working together with the Court.  It was incumbent on ratifying countries to protect the first permanent institution to combat impunity worldwide.  The world did not need another toothless or biased institution.  The first step was to work towards the universalization of the Court’s jurisdiction.

KENNETH ROTH, of Human Rights Watch, said the Rome treaty establishing the ICC was a tremendous advance for the human rights cause.  The moment of triumph and celebration, however, was no time for complacency.  There was urgent need to redress today’s atrocities and deter tomorrow’s would-be killers.  The Court must uphold the highest standards of fairness and justice.  There was a need to elect a Prosecutor and judges of unimpeachable integrity.  There was also a need to fend off new challenges to the Court, including from the United States.  If the Bush administration had its way, it would rip up the Rome treaty and substitute its own version –- the Washington treaty.  The Washington treaty saw no role for enforceable international standards and saw the super-Power’s justice as infallible.  No one should confuse the impunity agreements of the Washington treaty with article 98 of the Rome treaty.

It was a dangerous violation of the Rome treaty to agree to surrender any ICC suspect to a government that did not recognize the critical oversight role of the ICC, he said.  A court that exempted the world’s super-Power risked losing its legitimacy.  The threats and arm-twisting could be intense.  The temptation to accept unprincipled compromises was substantial.  But the challenge of defeating impunity was also large.  Collective action was needed to defeat new challenges to the scope and legitimacy of the ICC.

The representative of Amnesty International said that, with the Rome Statute coming into effect and the establishment of the ICC, the new challenges for the international community concerned the effectiveness of the Court.  Among other priorities, the Court must be protected from improper pressures, the most competent justices must be elected, and States must fulfil their responsibilities under the Rome Statute.

One of the most crucial aspects of those responsibilities, he said, was the institution of legislation in national penal codes to allow national prosecution of crimes that would otherwise all be under the jurisdiction of the ICC.  If that legislation was not in place, States would be placing a heavy burden on the ICC and would be in violation of the treaty.  States must be urged to complete such legislation.

LUCY WEBSTER, of the World Federalist Movement, said that, as the Assembly met, the world was focused on New York and the United Nations where one of the greatest terrorist attacks in history occurred only one year ago.  It was also where some of the most powerful nations were seeking primarily to use war and military force in response to last year’s terrorist attacks.  The twentieth century was one of the most war-ridden, violent and destructive in all history.  The primary hope for preventing a repetition in the twenty-first century rested not on war, but on fundamental strengthening of the rule of law in international affairs.

International justice was an essential pillar of the rule of law, she said.  The Rome Statute represented not only the greatest advance in international law and justice in 57 years, but also one of the greatest achievements of a new type of international diplomacy and law-making.  The Rome Statute, for the first time,

held individuals who perpetrated the worst crimes against humanity accountable to international law and justice.  The adoption of the Rome Statute also represented one of the greatest advances of democracy in international affairs.  For the world’s most powerful nation to oppose the treaty was very ominous.  For that nation to use its veto in the Security Council to seek immunity from the Court, to pit peacekeeping against international justice, was almost unbelievable.  The Assembly must have the courage to stand against the threats to basic principals of international law.

Ms NAINAV, of the Women’s Caucus for Gender Justice, welcomed the swift entry into force of the Rome Statute.  Women and children, she said, had always been the first casualties of armed conflict, genocide and crimes against humanity.  It was now acknowledged that sex-related crimes were crimes against humanity, and such offences were receiving increasing attention from governments.  She said that the decision to promote gender parity among the Court’s personnel was a landmark of which the international community could rightfully be proud.  The Court should be able to render justice to children and women, and States must adopt national legislation that conformed to international legal norms.  She expressed concern that the selection of judges might reflect the concerns of particular States.  The Caucus for Gender Justice stressed the need to avoid politically inspired nominations.

Statements on Resumption of Meeting

When the meeting resumed this afternoon, GLENDA MOREAN-PHILLIP, Attorney-General of Trinidad and Tobago, said the ICC stood as a great achievement for the international community, demonstrating to the world what could be achieved with unity of purpose and action.  Its creation also showed the importance and impact that small States could have on the international stage.  When her country had reintroduced the prospect of a permanent international criminal court in 1989, few would have thought that within less than 12 years a statute would be adopted and the Court actually established.

The ICC drew strength from the fact that its establishment was the result of the collective will and determination of so many, rather than being the idea and efforts of a few.  States parties, in fidelity to their treaty obligations, must be prepared to stand together in the face of attempts to undermine the integrity and independence of the Court.

Stating that the Court must live up to and even surpass the global community’s expectations for it, she said the first elected Judge, prosecutors and Registrar must be persons of the highest competence and moral character and must be able to carry out their functions with fairness and integrity.  Those considerations should also guide the selection of the staff of the Court.  The Court must also fairly reflect the diversity of the States parties, and gender balance should not be overlooked.

She announced that her country was nominating Karl Hudson-Philips for a judgeship.

ARTHUR C.I. MBANEFO (Nigeria) said the Rome Statute represented a significant milestone in global efforts to end impunity.  It was a bold attempt to strengthen the international legal order in the fight against perpetrators of horrendous crimes.  Nearly 80 countries had ratified the Statute.  Regarding the procedure for the election of judges, Nigeria was concerned that the complicated voting mechanism might not guarantee fair and equitable representation of judges from the various regional groups.  It had become a time-honoured practice to ensure geographical representation.  The fact that it was an International Court would ensure the universality of the Court’s composition and decisions.  He urged States parties to honour all the provisions of the Statute.  To do otherwise would amount to retrogression and an invitation to chaos.

He said he recognized the complementary relationship of the Court with national jurisdictions.  There were adequate safeguards in the Court to protect genuine national concerns.  The Assembly should ensure that the Court’s integrity was preserved.  The Court had adequate legal capacity for the exercise of its functions.  It must be allowed to operate without hindrance or interference.  He stressed the need to strengthen the Court for it to become an effective deterrent to crimes against humanity.  Above all, it must contribute to global peace and security and the rule of law.  The Court must be given the necessary support in order for it to achieve those objectives.

FELIPE PAOLILLO (Uruguay) said the international community should be pleased by the swiftness of the establishment of the Court.  Humanity now had an instrument appropriate to judge those who heretofore had committed some of the most serious crimes with impunity.  Its very existence would have a deterrent effect on those inclined to commit such crimes.

He was pleased that the Assembly had succeeded in reaching agreement on many organizational problems that had to be settled beforehand.  The recent approval of a procedure for the nomination and election of judges would ensure that States parties could elect judges with the highest qualifications.  The procedure also ensured that the bench of the Court would reflect the various legal systems of the world, as well as provide geographical representation and a fair balance between male and female judges.  For maximum effectiveness, it was necessary to have the largest number of States ratifying, he said, expressing the hope that the next Assembly meeting would see many more new States parties.

ANTONIO CASCAIS (Portugal) said the Assembly of States Parties was experiencing an historic moment, participating in an endeavour that would be seen as a decisive step towards a new international legal order.  The ICC Statute was remarkably innovative.  For the first time, it provided the international community with a permanent judicial mechanism that made real the promises of the Geneva Conventions on humanitarian law, among others.

The Statue also created an original body in tune with changes in the world and international legal order, he added.  That had been achieved through its jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression. Portugal had been actively engaged in the process of setting up the Court since 1995.  Portugal's commitment to ending the impunity of perpetrators of the worst international crimes had been a question of principle.  Portugal would continue to defend those principles, not only through the pursuit of a growing number of ratifications, but also through the implementation of the idea that no person could commit such crimes and remain immune.

VICTOR RODRIGUEZ (Venezuela) said the Assembly of States Parties, as one of the main bodies of the Court, had clear responsibilities, which had been defined in the Rome Statute.  He was pleased at the adoption of the fundamental texts that would now allow the Court to function.  The Assembly should continue its work on the crime of aggression, and of no less importance was the question of expanding its jurisdiction in the future to adapt to new realities in international society.

He stressed the need for all States, even those which had not yet ratified, to cooperate with the Court.  Reaffirming his country’s support for the ICC, he said that an effective Court would only be possible with the political support and cooperation of States.  He expressed confidence that the anxieties which had arisen on the part of some would be dispelled, and that the Court would prove itself to be an independent judicial institution, free of political motivations. 

J. ENKHSAIKHAN (Mongolia) said the Court would be functioning in a concrete international political and legal environment and no longer in a vacuum.  Its effectiveness would thus depend to a great extent on the prevailing environment. It would need the cooperation of all States, parties as well as non-parties. There was ample room for fruitful and successful cooperation in the interests of international peace and security and for the cause of strengthening of the rule of law and justice.

No State should be placed in a situation where it was forced to breach its obligations either under the Charter or the Statute, he said.  As one of the founding members of the ICC, Mongolia was interested in maintaining the integrity and effectiveness of the Court from the very first days of its existence.  To that end, it would be nominating a candidate for judge.  “We have faith in the integrity of the Court, since the Statute had adequate safeguards against possible abuse.  We are sure that by its activities the Court will be able to dispel any lingering doubts as to its impartiality and effectiveness”, he said.  However, the Court needed to be given the possibility to start functioning normally, without undue pressure or duress.  On the other hand, the Assembly should be prepared, if required, to take political or even legal measures to safeguard the integrity of the Statute or its provisions, which would be necessary if the Court was to be truly impartial, apolitical, respectable, fully competent and effective.

LAZAROS SAVVIDES, Ministry of Justice and Public Order of Cyprus, said the entry into force of the landmark instrument of international law and the meeting of the First Assembly of States Parties were events of historic significance for humankind.  They signalled the realization of the aspirations of the international community to put an end to impunity for those responsible for acts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.  He hoped the deliberations would bring about the necessary breakthrough in defining the crime of aggression.  It was imperative that the international system should be based on respect of humanitarian values, a prerequisite for the prevalence of universal justice, peace and legality.  It was his hope that the establishment of the Court would bring an end to a culture of impunity that had encouraged the perpetration of heinous crimes throughout human history.

As a representative of a country which was a victim of illegal military occupation, Cyprus attached utmost importance to the provisions of the Rome Statute, he said.  The Court's jurisdiction extended over war crimes and crimes against humanity, such as the forcible transfer of populations.  Cyprus was committed to contributing to the efforts aimed at turning the ICC into an effective and credible reality.  In that context, Cyprus had decided to present the candidature of Georghios Pikis, President of the Supreme Court of Cyprus, for the post of Judge.

AMRAIYA NAIDU (Fiji) said he was confident that the first elections would produce judges of the highest calibre from Member States, each possessing the experience stipulated by the Rome Statute.  He was pleased that fair gender representation would also become a reality at the Court’s inception and that equitable geographical representation remained a steady principle.  The formula for election of the prosecution team demanded adherence to the same elements, as it presented the first physical and professional face of the ICC.  Their election would serve as a benchmark for pursuing the ideals of the Rome Statute. 

He encouraged other United Nations Member States not yet parties to the Statute to ratify or accede to it.  The Court faced many challenges and would need goodwill and solidarity to prevail.  That would afford the Court the strength it needed to set a solid foundation upon which it could begin to develop criminal jurisprudence within its jurisdiction. 

JEAN DE RUYT (Belgium) said this meeting of the Assembly was a day of victory for justice and for the fundamental universal values of respect for human rights. Individuals would now have to be accountable for their actions, whether in national systems or before the ICC.

The Preparatory Commission had completed truly remarkable work in a very short time.  However, the Assembly could not rest on its laurels as much remained to be done.  The ICC needed to prove itself and establish its credibility.  He was convinced that it would soon demonstrate its relevance and usefulness.  There must be a commitment during this crucial stage to protect the integrity of the Rome Statute and see that it remained intact. He added that his country had nominated Marc Bossuyt as a candidate for a judge of the Court.

JULIET SEMAMBO KALEMA (Uganda) said the entry into force of the Rome Statute was a dream come true.  The holding of the First Assembly of States Parties was yet another memorable occasion that would go down in history.  The work of negotiating the practical and technical arrangements necessary for the Court’s functioning had been accomplished in 10 sessions of the Preparatory Commission.  Uganda had fully supported the establishment of the ICC since the early negotiations in 1996 and had intensively participated in all meetings leading to the adoption of the Statute in 1998. 

The international community had been waiting for more than 40 years to establish the ICC, she said.  During that time, the perpetrators of horrendous crimes had escaped justice with impunity.  Now that the Court was in place, it would have global jurisdiction and would serve as a safety net if national courts were unable or unwilling to bring offenders to justice for the most serious crimes of international concern.  The Court would be able to hold individuals personally responsible for planning, ordering or committing atrocities.  Setting up ad hoc tribunals would no longer be necessary.  Some States had criticized the Statute and the Court under the pretext that the Court would involve itself with frivolous prosecutions.  Yet, they knew that the Statute had clear provisions with checks and balances, including the concept of complementarity.  The misinterpretation of article 16 even before any situations had arisen was unwarranted and a clear violation of treaty law.  

SIVU MAQUNGO (South Africa) said the first Assembly marked an end to a significant stage in the process of establishing the Court.  As it was much easier to plan than to follow through on a plan, this new stage would challenge States’ commitment to this institution of justice more than ever before.  States had an obligation to provide the Court with financial resources and to elect the most deserving officials who were representative of the States parties while striking a fair gender balance. States also had to provide legal mechanisms at the national level to cooperate fully with the Court, and they had to strive for universality through encouraging more ratifications.

In addition to all those challenges, he said, States faced requests from the United States to enter into bilateral agreements that did not advance the purpose and object of the ICC, nor did they alleviate the immediate challenges in establishing the Court.  “What we, as individuals, representatives of States, representatives of non-governmental organizations do from here on will determine whether we can earn the honour of being named as the founding fathers of what is to become the greatest institution of international justice and a beacon of hope for victims of international crimes around the world."

ARNOLDO LISTRE (Argentina) said that the Assembly had already adopted practical measures to ensure the efficient beginning of the ICC.  The Assembly had also been able to find a solution to the only outstanding issue -- the mechanism for the election of judges.  That mechanism would be of great importance in ensuring the adequate composition, as well as the equitable representation, of the Court.  The adoption of decisions had been carried out in a transparent manner and such openness should be maintained in the future.  The Court was of a universal nature.  The Assembly must continue to include civil society and all States in its debates and decisions.  In that way, States would be convinced to join the Court.

The ICC still faced the concerns of some States, he said.  The system developed by the Rome Statute, however, and its complementary procedural and substantive instruments contained the necessary safeguards to preserve the competence and legitimate interests of all States and their nationals.  It also contained the appropriate mechanisms to ensure proper implementation of the organs of the Court and to avoid any misdirection in the exercise of its judicial function.  It was neither necessary nor convenient to modify the balanced rules of the Rome Statute.  In the coming months, States parties would have additional opportunities to strengthen the credibility of the Court and to ensure its proper implementation through the nomination and election of the best women and men to work at the Court.  States parties would face the new challenge with the same level of responsibility and compromise shown in the past.

GELSON FONSECA, JR. (Brazil) said the meeting was the crowning achievement of the lofty goal set by the international community at the 1998 Rome Conference  -– the establishment of a permanent and independent tribunal to promote the rule of law and ensure that the gravest international crimes did not go unpunished.  The institution represented a milestone in the long-standing commitment to the protection of human rights and a milestone in the pursuit of peace and security.  It was a tribute to the international community’s determination to create a truly universal court that consensual solutions were found for all the demanding and often controversial questions before the Preparatory Commission.

Four years ago, few could have imagined that this Assembly would be meeting today, he added.  The speed and number of ratifications to the Statute was indicative of the international community’s firm resolve to see the Court in action soon.  The most fundamental values of civilization expected no less.  The inter-agency task force charged with bringing the Brazilian legal system into conformity with the Rome Statute would present its report next month.  By fostering the adoption of national legislation to curb heinous crimes, the Court could most meaningfully combat impunity.  The ultimate effectiveness of the judicial machinery would require that the Court be thorough and even-handed in its judgements.  That responsibility would fall largely on the judges elected.

LEBOHANG K. MOLEKO (Lesotho) said the entry into force of the Rome Statute of the ICC was a triumph for the international community, which thereby affirmed its dedication to helping win justice for victims of serious violations of human rights.  The shocking images of devastation and suffering caused by genocide and war crimes had led the international community to reconsider and strengthen the international criminal justice system with a fair and independent judicial body.

Lesotho commended the work done by the Preparatory Commission of the International Criminal Court under the stewardship of Ambassador Kirsch of Canada, and applauded the remarkable spirit of compromise that prevailed throughout the deliberation process.  Also deserving note were the States and non-governmental organizations whose contributions made it possible for the least developed countries to participate in the work of the Commission.

He also noted that, in order to ensure the universality and credibility of the Court, it was crucial that a greater number of nations accept the jurisdiction of the Court.  The positive aspects of the Statute outweighed its negative elements, but Lesotho favoured an approach that would take into account the concerns of those States that continued to be doubtful of the ICC.  The Court should not be distracted from capitalizing on the momentum generated by the entry into force of the Rome Statute.  Finally, Lesotho recognized the hard work that went into making the Court an effective complement to national jurisdictions, and pledged its continued cooperation and support for the ICC.

RICHARD RYAN (Ireland) said the first meeting of the Assembly was an important moment in a journey of idealism and hope.  Terrible deeds that inflicted great suffering on innocent people and that violated the international conscience would no longer be beyond the reach of the international community.  The world was witnessing not only a defining event in the development of international law, but also a strengthening of international cooperation to ensure the protection of the innocent and punishment of the guilty.

“We have seen the international community strive to create a comprehensive and workable system of international criminal justice.  This process has involved the coming together of jurists of all the world’s regions and legal systems, who, in a spirit of compromise and cooperation, have developed the substantial body of documents relating to the International Criminal Court we have today”, he said. “In achieving this, delegations have concentrated not on differences but on the common goal of creating an international framework to end impunity.”

MARTHA LOPEZ DE MITRE (Bolivia) said her country had supported the entire process from the beginning and was one of the first to sign the Rome Statute.  The maintenance of peace and security was impossible without concrete justice.  The quality of human life could not be improved without removing the fear of heinous crimes.  The Court had been constructed in such a way as to ensure that terrible crimes were not committed with impunity.  Ad hoc tribunals were not enough.  A permanent, impartial body for that purpose was needed.  It was not enough to have created an instrument.  It was now essential to strengthen and commit to that instrument.  In that vein, Bolivia had decided to submit the candidature of an eminent Bolivian jurist for the post of judge to the Court.

She hoped that doubts regarding the Court would soon dissipate.  For justice to prevail, political motivations must not harm the Court’s goals.  Humanity expected much from the decisions the Assembly was adopting.  Bolivia would continue to support the lofty goals of the Court.

ADOLFO AGUILAR ZINSER (Mexico) said this first Assembly meeting was without a doubt of historical relevance.  It demonstrated the international community’s firm commitment to create an impartial and credible Court that would combat and eradicate impunity for the most serious crimes against humanity.  Humankind had followed a long path to reach this day.  While Mexico would have preferred to participate as a State party, he expressed confidence that the ratification process would soon be completed to allow it to participate fully in the Assembly’s next meeting.

The Assembly’s task now to elect judges was of critical importance in establishing the impartiality and credibility of the Court.  Mexico was concerned about biased interpretations of the Statute that took provisions out of context, possibly in order to enable certain persons to avoid their international responsibilities.  Any situation regarding the Statute, including article 98, must be interpreted with respect for the specific circumstances in which it was designed and in conformity with the Vienna Convention on Treaties.

He called upon members of the Assembly to refrain from any acts that could frustrate the purpose and objective of the Statute.

TOMOAKI ISHIGAKI (Japan) began by declaring that a new chapter in the history of international justice had been ushered in by the first Assembly of the 80 States parties to the Rome Statute which brought the ICC into existence.  Those States represented every part of the world.

He said that the Court, which was set up to punish the most serious crime of international concern, should operate smoothly in its early stages in order to induce other States to join it.  One hundred countries had yet to become members to make the Court truly universal.

“As the Court exhibits its competence, reliability and independence, it can build further confidence among all countries and, even more importantly, dispel any doubts cast upon it”, he concluded.

K.G. GEVORGYAN (Russian Federation) said the Court would be an essential instrument for maintaining the rule of law.  The ICC would contribute to the attainment of the goals of the United Nations Charter.  The Statute contained a set of fundamental elements for carrying out its task.  It was important that the Statute incorporate the Court into the existing system for the maintenance of peace and security.  Participation in the principles of the Charter should provide every assurance of the universal recognition of the Court.  The Court had been established not to replace but to supplement national judicial systems.  Its main goal was to ensure effective criminal prosecution by national courts.  It presupposed serious adjustment in national legislation.  In Russia, the necessary work was taking place. 

Elections of the judges and Prosecutor would soon take place, he noted.  The future of the Court would depend on how strictly it acted in an objective and politically neutral way.  The Statute provided the necessary legal conditions for impartial discharge of the functions allocated to it.  He also pointed to the active role played by civil society in the creation of the Court and its future functioning.

JOÃO CAMARA (East Timor) said his country was uniquely placed to recognize the importance of the Court.  Its recent troubled history had made it painfully aware of the need to end impunity for all crimes wherever they occurred in the world.  It had become the first country in the world to use the substantive provisions of the Rome Statute in its own domestic courts.

Citing the negative reaction to reports that his country was in the process of signing a bilateral agreement with a non-State party, he stressed that the process had not reached any conclusion.  He anticipated that the agreement would be the subject of considerable discussion in the East Timorese Legislative Assembly.  However, he wanted to point out a few observations.  His country was barely three months old and was learning the business of government as it entered into this new and fragile state of existence.

East Timor could not forget the role the international community had played in achieving its long-desired status.  In particular, he said, it owed a debt of gratitude to the United States, which took a leading part in assisting the country to independence and in ensuring that United Nations peacekeeping forces were deployed.  This new country was trying to protect its interests and its people.

VOLODYMYR KROKHMAL, Director General of Legal Affairs of Ukraine, said his delegation fully subscribed to the statement of the European Union.

Ms. HEATHER-LATU (Samoa) said the first session of the Assembly marked a decisive step forward since adoption of the Rome Statute.  In a rapid journey from Rome to New York, The Hague was now firmly in sight.  At the current juncture, the only thorny subject was the procedure for electing judges.  The first session brought to a culmination the articulation of humanitarian principles and international law.

Violations of international humanitarian law were unacceptable and would no longer be afforded impunity, she said.  The Court would be an effective remedy to such violations.  It was necessary to safeguard the integrity of the Rome Statute.  She informed the Assembly that Samoa was in the final stages of depositing its instrument of ratification.  It was essential that the ICC be an effective and independent court of law and justice.

SOMAIA BARGHOUTI, Observer of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said the Group was pleased at this historic event.  She expressed appreciation for the efforts that had been made to define the very serious crime of aggression.  Although there was no agreement yet, the Group noted with satisfaction the Assembly’s decision to continue work on the definition of the crime.  She hoped the Assembly would make every effort to finish its work on that important issue as soon as possible.

The Arab Group attached much importance to ratification and adherence to the Rome Statute.  The Middle East had suffered and continued to suffer from wars of occupation. The people of Palestine were victims of the worst crimes of aggression and crimes against humanity, she said.

The Arab Group trusted that the Court would carry out its activities with impartiality, and rejected any attempts to create exceptions to the Court’s jurisdiction.  Those attempts were contrary to the spirit and letter of the Rome Statute and infringed on the very concept of the Court itself.

The representative of the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission expressed satisfaction with the entry into force of the Rome Statute and noted the complementarity of his organization and the International Criminal Court.  Both were established to protect the victims of grave crimes which threatened international peace, security and well-being.  Where the Court was concerned with alleged breaches by individuals, the Commission focused upon allegations of breaches of Geneva law by parties to armed conflicts.

The representative said that the Commission looked forward to future opportunities of discussing with representatives of the Court possible forms of cooperation, including the possibility of conducting inquiries when requested by the ICC Prosecutor or other interested parties.  Either instead of a trial or in conjunction with one, such an inquiry might lead to reconciliation and the restoration of respect for the law.

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For information media. Not an official record.