Inter-Governmental Regional Conference on Democracy, Human rights and the Role of the International Criminal Court

Statement by H.E. Conor Murphy, Irish Presidency of the Council of the European Union - Sana'a, 10 – 12 January 2004

Statement by H.E. Conor Murphy, Irish Presidency of the Council of the European Union

Your Excellency Mr President, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am greatly honoured to be addressing you, on behalf of the European Union, at this important Conference. I first wish to thank the Government of Yemen for its generous invitation to the beautiful and historic city of Sanaa, and for the wonderful hospitality it has shown us.

On behalf of the European Union, I would like to commend the Government of Yemen and No Peace Without Justice for their initiative in organising this significant Conference on Democracy, Human Rights and the International Criminal Court. The Governments of Ireland and of the other EU Member States were honoured to be invited here and delighted to be able to provide assistance in setting it up. The three themes chosen by the organisers are each of undoubted importance, yet also highly interdependent. In the knowledge that the discussions over the next two days will provide us participants with several valuable insights into all three areas, I would like to concentrate on the first item to be discussed, the role of the International Criminal Court, as the EU.

s view is that the International Criminal Court is an essential means of protecting human rights, thus contributing to freedom, security, justice and the rule of law.

We are all aware of the great progress made by the international community in developing international human rights and humanitarian law over the past century. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966 provide guarantees of respect for human rights. The four Geneva Conventions of 1949, and their Additional Protocols of 1977, provide for the protection of persons in time of armed conflict. While these international agreements establish clear rules which must be observed, even in times of war, until now they have not been supported by an adequate international enforcement mechanism. The international community made some moves, in the late 1940s, towards the establishment of a judicial organ for the trial of persons charged with genocide. However, it is only in the last decade that the attention of the international community returned to the ideal of a permanent court empowered to deal with the most heinous crimes. Undoubtedly influenced by the unspeakable atrocities committed in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, swift progress was made by the international community on a draft statute of an international criminal court. This culminated in the meeting of the United Nations Diplomatic Conference on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court in Rome from 15 June to 17 July 1998.

The historic Rome Conference saw a unique coming together of States, groups of States, international organisations and civil society, representing all legal systems and regions of the world, all inspired by the idea of a permanent international criminal court, empowered to try the most serious crimes of international concern. During the negotiations in Rome, experts from all regions, including this region and my own, participated actively, and their legal expertise and insights helped to shape the final form of the Rome Statute. It is also appropriate, given that this Conference will consider the role of Civil Society in the promotion of human rights and the International Criminal Court, to acknowledge the essential contribution of NGOs to the work of the Rome Conference.

The culmination of the Rome Conference was, of course, the adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. While the Rome Statute contains many significant and complex innovations, it is worth noting that the first paragraph of its Preamble reiterates this simple point: that all peoples are united by common bonds, their culture placed together in a shared heritage. The Rome Statute establishes the principle that certain crimes, regardless of where they are committed, are of concern to the international community as a whole, and must not go unpunished. It recognises the primary role of national criminal jurisdictions in the investigation, prosecution and punishment of these crimes, but also the need for an international judicial organ empowered to exercise this jurisdiction when national authorities are unable or unwilling genuinely to do so.

As you will all be aware, in the period following its adoption, the Rome Statute has enjoyed remarkable support from the international community. 139 States have signed the Rome Statute. On 1 July 2002, following its sixtieth ratification, the Rome Statute entered into force, and to date 92 States have become party to it. The period following the entry into force of the Rome Statute saw the rapid and effective establishment of the International Criminal Court. The Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute held its first meeting in September 2002, under the valued Presidency of His Royal Highness Prince Zeid of Jordan. In 2003, the 18 judges, the Prosecutor, Deputy Prosecutor and Registrar of the Court were all elected. In September of last year, the Board of Directors of the Trust Fund for the Benefit of Victims of International Crimes and Families of such Victims, including Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan, was elected by acclamation.

The International Criminal Court is now a reality. In the coming months it is likely to commence its work. I wish to reiterate the conviction of the European Union that the Court will prove itself to be an independent and effective institution, and that all persons observing its work will be able to verify that the Rome Statute guarantees the highest criteria of justice and does not lend itself to political manipulation. The International Criminal Court is and will be an essential means of promoting respect for international humanitarian law and human rights, thus contributing to freedom, security, justice and the rule of law, as well as contributing to the preservation of peace and the strengthening of international security. The objectives of the Rome Statute are therefore in conformity with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter.

The principles and objectives of the Rome Statute are also fully in line with those of the European Union, as enshrined in Article 11 of the EU Treaty, and hence are of fundamental importance to, and a priority for, the Union. The EU has been a consistently strong supporter of the ICC, and all its Member States have ratified the Rome Statute. The EU's position on the ICC has found expression in its Common Positions on the ICC, the most recent of which was adopted in June 2003. Under the guidance of the Italian Presidency of the EU, an Action Plan detailing how the Union will follow up on the Common Position has been comprehensively reviewed and strengthened, and a final text of this new Action Plan will be adopted in the coming weeks.

The three pillars of the 2003 Common Position are the achievement of the widest participation in the Rome Statute, the preservation of its integrity and the commitment to fight impunity for the crimes enumerated under it.

The EU remains convinced that the full effectiveness of the ICC will only be realised upon universal accession to the Rome Statute. In the shorter term, the EU also considers that the under representation of certain regions among States Parties to the Rome Statute needs to be addressed. In order to promote the widest possible participation in the Rome Statute, the EU has raised and will continue to raise this issue in negotiations or political dialogues with third States, groups of states or relevant regional organisations, wherever appropriate. In addition, in the belief that all initiatives to enhance the acceptance of the Statute and universal support for it are to be encouraged, the EU continues to promote the dissemination of values, principles and provisions of the Statute and related instruments. To reach that objective, the EU is ready to pursue and intensify its cooperation with other interested States, international institutions, NGOs and other representatives of civil society. The EU is also ready and willing to provide technical and, where appropriate, financial assistance to the legislative work needed for the participation in and implementation of the Statute by third countries.

Another EU objective is to ensure the full integrity of the Rome Statute. The EU Council attached to its Conclusions of 30 September 2002 a set of principles designed to serve as guidelines for Member States when considering the necessity and scope of possible agreements or arrangements concerning the conditions for the surrender of persons to the Court. The EU.

s approach is to continue, as appropriate, to draw the attention of third states to the Council Conclusions and Guiding Principles.

The EU is aware that some states have concerns about the Court. The EU is determined to maintain a broad based dialogue with those states on all aspects of the matter. We are confident that those states share the same fundamental values and place the same major importance on the goals of putting an end to impunity for the most serious crimes of international concern and identifying and trying those responsible for committing them.

Your Excellency, Mr President, I have already acknowledged the huge contribution made to the International Criminal Court by the States of this region. The contribution of jurists from all regions, including notably experts from this region, during the drafting of the Rome Statute means that it can truly be said that its provisions are representative of all major legal systems and traditions of the world. Through the work and commitment of Her Majesty Queen Rania, and His Royal Highness Prince Zeid, of Jordan, both the smooth establishment and the international reputation of the Court have been greatly enhanced. Both Jordan and Djibouti are of course already parties to the Rome Statute and a large number of States from the region which are represented here, including our host country, Yemen, are signatories to the Statute. This significant contribution demonstrates how the region is taking its rightful place among the nations of the world in the fight against impunity, and the protection of human rights, the peace, security and well-being of the world. The European Union looks forward to welcoming further countries from this region as fellow-members of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Thank you Your Excellency Mr President.