The ICC Must Not Be a Political Tool

The historic first Assembly of States Parties of the ICC is being held in New York from September 3 to 10, 2002.

MONTREAL –  Sept. 4, 2002  – The historic first Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court is being held in New York from September 3 to 10, 2002, to adopt the final documents necessary for the effective functioning of the Court and to discuss a procedure for the nomination and elections of judges and a prosecutor.

Rights & Democracy (International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development) has long worked to give voice to a deeply held aspiration of mankind as a whole and of the men and women victims of the most serious, heinous international crimes. What is at stake is the full respect for the whole family of human rights, namely economic, social, cultural, political and civil, and their concrete implementation in the new global system that is changing our world. By combating impunity, the Court can be an effective instrument in the promotion of human rights and democratic values and institutions.

Advocating the creation of an effective International Criminal Court is an integral part of Rights & Democracy’s strategy to combat impunity. This ongoing effort, which began in the early 1990s, emphasizes the importance of knowing the truth about the past and the necessity of fair trials for those accused and redress for victims of atrocious crimes.

Rights & Democracy is an active member of the Steering Committee of the International NGO Coalition for an International Criminal Court (CICC) and a partner of the ICC Technical Assistance Programme (ICC-TAP), which produced a Manual for the Ratification and Implementation of the Rome Statute available in five languages.

Rights & Demcoracy organized five regional and sub-regional training workshops in the Caribbean, the Pacific Islands and Africa for government policy makers and legal officers, members of the media, and civil society organizations. These workshops provide participants with the knowledge and tools to make the necessary changes to their national legal systems in order to become effective parties to the Rome Statute.

The creation of the International Criminal Court is an essential part of an ongoing process to build a common space for all, a common space of justice and fairness. Rights & Democracy congratulates those countries that have ratified the Rome Statute for bringing about its early entry into force. As founding members of the ICC, States Parties have a great responsibility to ensure that the Court be established on the basis of the highest possible legal, political and moral standards. Notwithstanding the impressive momentum for the ICC in recent months, there are many challenges ahead. The States Parties must ensure that the Court begin its work as an impartial, effective and credible institution.

One of these important challenges is the nomination process and election of judges and the ICC prosecutor. The credibility of the nomination and election processes and the quality of the Court’s first judges and prosecutor are crucial to the success of the ICC. The performance of the first judges will have an important effect on the credibility and moral authority of the Court, with the potential either to dispel or increase fears of politicization or ineffectiveness. To be perceived as a fair, independent and effective institution, the ICC needs to be composed of impartial and highly qualified judges. Rights & Democracy attaches the greatest importance to the outcome of the election of the first 18 judges. Therefore, together with other members of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, we urge States Parties to take the necessary steps to adopt transparent national nomination procedures with broad legal and public consultation, to reject traditional politicized vote trading, and to honour mandates for equitable geographical, legal and gender representation.

In our long search for justice and fairness for all, for the full recognition of common, indivisible and universal rights, we have made real progress in the last decades. The hope we hold in common is to see all States become parties to the Rome Statute.

The International Criminal Court is not just another institution. It embodies the higher aspirations of mankind for peace between nations and within each nation, for justice and equality for all human communities and all human beings.

Eliminating impunity is our common goal. It must become a universal goal. The concerns of those who refuse to ratify the Rome Statute have to be answered by the highest standards and the full respect of safeguards that are contained in the International Criminal Court.

Our hopes and goals are very clear. We want this International Criminal Court to be a Universal Criminal Court. The ICC will act only as a court of last resort, taking cases when countries are unable or unwilling to prosecute the cases before their own courts.

Rights & Democracy rejects the arguments of those who try to undermine the integrity of the Rome Statute and their longstanding efforts to secure blanket prosecution immunity for troops in UN peacekeeping missions. We applaud the countries who defended the integrity of the Rome Statute on July 10, 2002, before the UN Security Council open debate on the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the ICC. The negative consequences of UN Security Council Resolution 1422 must be revoked and States Parties must press the Security Council not to renew Resolution 1422 when it is reconsidered by the Council on July 1, 2003.

The ICC must not be a political tool of any particular State. If some States are able to use the ICC for political motives, or if some individuals are beyond the reach of the ICC, the Court will lose its credibility, human rights will continue to be violated, and democratic development will be stifled.

The ICC must be given the tools it needs to be an effective, strong and independent Court capable of bringing the perpetrators of heinous crimes to justice and of providing redress for the victims. We urge the participants of the First Assembly not to let political pressure dictate their choices in the coming months. We need a strong and effective International Criminal Court.