Canadian Organizations Help Build Global Court


The International Criminal Court Technical Assistance Project (ICCTAP) today concluded its fifth successful regional meeting with an agreement to push for the adoption and ratification of the Rome Statute by West African States.

ABIDJAN (Ivory Coast) – FEBRUARY 1, 2002 – The International Criminal Court Technical Assistance Project (ICCTAP) today concluded its fifth successful regional meeting with an agreement to push for the adoption and ratification of the Rome Statute for an International Criminal Court (ICC) by West African States.

More than 90 delegates representing governments, media and civil society organizations from 15 West African states attended the three-day meeting in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, to focus on questions relating to the future implementation of the Statute and domestic legislation.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) will be a permanent judicial body to bring to justice individuals, including political and military leaders, accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The ICC is widely heralded as a cornerstone of an evolving system of international justice. Its jurisdiction will apply to crimes occurring in both international and internal conflicts. It will provide a mechanism to try the future Hitlers, Pinochets and Pol Pots of the world.

The ICCTAP is a Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)-sponsored initiative of four Canadian organizations: the Vancouver-based International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy (ICCLR), Montreal-based Rights & Democracy (International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development), the Institute for Media, Policy and Civil Society (IMPACS) of Vancouver, and the Canadian NGO Network for an International Criminal Court (CNICC) which is hosted by the World Federalists of Canada in Ottawa.

The Abidjan meeting was also co-sponsored by the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

On January 22, the West African country of Bénin became the 49th state to ratify the Rome Statute for an ICC. (Estonia followed on January 30, 2002 and became the 50th state to ratify.)

Bénin’s recent move means that five West African states have now ratified (Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Sénégal and Sierra Leone) while only one of the nine remaining states (Togo) has not signed the treaty.

Adama Dieng, Registrar of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), reminded the participants that the ratification by African states was crucial in order to shape and influence the future court. The State parties who have ratified will attend the Assembly and will have a say on the nomination process of judges.

ICCLR Executive Director, Frances Gordon, described the meeting as  “inspiring”. She said that “although this region has seen violations of international humanitarian law over the years, I have noted the spirit of tolerance, the courtesy and the quality of the interaction between the government, the NGO’s and the media. It is encouraging to work with such a committed group, whose sole goal is the establishment of the ICC.”

Ivory Coast’s Justice minister, Siéné Oulaï, pledged his country’s support for the ICC and promised to host a conference in 2004 to review progress in the region.

The treaty will enter into force after the 60th ratification, expected later this year. The framework of the Court will then be put into place and the Court’s senior officials elected during an approximate 12-month time period between the entry into force of the Rome Statute and the actual functioning of the ICC.