Summary: October 14, 2004: Statement by H.E. MR. DIRK JAN VAN DEN BERG, AMBASSADOR PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF THE NETHERLANDS TO THE UNITED NATIONS, on behalf of the European Union at the 59th SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY - 6th COMMITTEE - Item 146: International Criminal Court (New York)
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. The Candidate countries Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey and Croatia, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia and Montenegro, and the EFTA countries Iceland and Liechtenstein, members of the European Economic Area, align themselves with this statement.
On the sixth of October, the European Union spoke in the Security Council on the Report of the Secretary-General on the rule of law. We addressed the full range of transitional justice mechanisms, as well as international efforts to end impunity for the most serious international crimes. In this respect, we emphasised the importance of the International Criminal Court.
The Secretary-General pointed out in his Report that the ICC is already having an impact by putting would-be violators on notice that impunity is not assured and serving as a catalyst for enacting national laws against the gravest international crimes.
The European Union shares the view of the Secretary-General that the ICC is beyond doubt the most significant recent development in the long struggle to advance the cause of justice and rule of law. The importance of the ICC as a safeguard against impunity cannot be underestimated.
By fighting impunity, the Court strengthens the pre-eminence of law and respect for human rights, thus making a fundamental contribution to peace and security, and to the achievement of the very purposes of the UN.
Still, the Court will not impose itself. The Court is complementary to national criminal jurisdictions. It may assume jurisdiction as a last resort and only when a State is unable or unwilling to do so. As the Secretary-General pointed out in his report, the Security Council has a particular role to play in this regard, as it is empowered to refer situations to the Court, even in cases where countries are not States parties to the Statute of the Court.
On 21 June 2004 and 28 July 2004 the Court's Prosecutor announced that he has determined that there is a rational basis to commence an investigation into crimes allegedly committed, respectively, in the territory of the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Uganda since the entry into force of the Rome Statute on 1 July 2002. These notifications by the Prosecutor clearly indicate that the ICC is fully operational and that the ICC has just begun facing its actual challenge: the fight against impunity.
Monday the 4th of October was an important day in this respect: the Secretary-General and the President of the ICC signed the Relationship Agreement between the UN and the ICC. This will enable the UN and the ICC to co-operate more effectively, not only between headquarters, but also in the field on issues as security and transport, where it often matters the most for criminal investigations in post-conflict and conflict-areas. The EU hopes and trusts that the co-operation between the UN and the ICC will be a fruitful one.
The EU welcomes the decision, taken during the 3rd annual meeting of the ASP, to intensify the dialogue between the Court and the ASP. According to the Rome Statute, the annual meetings of the Court's Assembly of States Parties shall be held at The Hague or at UN Headquarters. Like this year, next year's ASP will be held in The Hague, near the Court. At the same time, the European Union would like to stress the importance of maintaining co-operation with the UN and the UN-community at large in New York. In this context, it is good to note that the next elections for Judges will be held in New York, for which a Session of the Assembly of States Parties will be organized. The link between the UN and ICC is laid down in the Statute and is made operational, inter alia, through the observer status of the ICC at the UN, as well as the existence and effective functioning of the Group of Friends of the ICC in both The Hague and New York.
The ICC's support of victim's rights is a key element in the Statute. The EU is committed to ensuring that criminal justice also includes victims, not only with regard to their right to participate in the proceedings, but also with regard to restoring their faith in justice, through reparations. The EU believes that the groundbreaking ICC provisions on victims reparations are important elements to promote national reconciliation among traumatized victims of the most severe crimes. Noting that several states made pledges to the Victims Trust Fund, the EU hopes that they will be followed by others. The EU would like to thank the Directors of the Victims' Trust Fund - (Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan, Madame Simone Veil, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mr. Tadeusz Mazowiecki and Mr. Oscar Arias Sánchez) - for their worldwide efforts to make the fund effective. The EU welcomes the positive outcome of the ASP meeting, enabling both the Court as well as the Victims' Trust Fund to coherently further develop their respective roles concerning victims.
As I said, the Court is now entering a critical phase. The Court will have to prove to be an effective institution. It will also have to convince those who still doubt its autonomy and impartiality. Universal adherence to the Rome Statute is essential for the legitimacy and full effectiveness of the ICC. The EU is firmly committed to continue its efforts to attain the goal of universal jurisdiction of the Court by encouraging ratification. Hopefully, there will be 100 ratifications by the end of the year. In order to reach this objective the EU is ready to pursue and to intensify its co-operation with other interested states, international institutions, NGOs and other representatives of the civil society.
The EU, in line with its Action Plan and Common Position stands ready to help those states which might need assistance in this respect. The EU has relentlessly defended the integrity of the Rome Statute and will continue to do so.
Allow me, now that I have the floor, to react to the Chairman on a national basis. The Netherlands has been requested by the Bureau to co-ordinate a resolution on the ICC to reflect the current state of the debate on the issue and to see whether such resolution can be agreed upon by consensus. Informal consultations on this issue are ongoing and my delegation will come back to the issue in the course of this session of the Sixth Committee.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
* Croatia continues to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process