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

Speech of Kerstin Muller, State Minister, Germany - Sana'a, 10 – 12 January 2004

Speech of Kerstin Muller, State Minister, Germany
 
All too long and all too often the international community said nothing when law was replaced by force. What was left were gaping wounds and bitterness as a legacy of genocide or crimes against humanity. Unpunished, they often became the breeding ground for new tensions or even renewed hostilities.

"Human Rights, Democracy and the Role of the International Criminal Court"
in Sana'a, 10.-12. January 2004
 
Let me at the outset express my sincere gratitude to the host government for the invitation to this important conference and the generous hospitality we have enjoyed so far. Germany is delighted to see the impressive number of high ranking delegations which have responded to this invitation. This can be attributed not only to the beauty of the historic city of Sana´a and the friendliness of its citizens. It reflects as well the significance of this conference taking place at the right moment and in a prominent region with a longlasting legal tradition. Therefore, the Governement of Yemen supported by "No Peace without Justice" deserves to be commended for the initiative to organize this conference. Germany is pleased to contribute to this event.
All too long and all too often the international community said nothing when law was replaced by force. What was left were gaping wounds and bitterness as a legacy of genocide or crimes against humanity. Unpunished, they often became the breeding ground for new tensions or even renewed hostilities. Deep-seated distrust and all too often embittered hatred triggered spirals of violence with a multitude of victims. This dimmed the prospect of moving on from the deeply distressing events towards a shared, peaceful future.
The International Criminal Court represents our joint aim to reverse this process. Force must yield to law. Where injustice has gained a foothold, the perpetrators have to answer for their deeds. To this end, the International Criminal Court makes a major contribution to peace and stability. This is the issue I would like to explore in my comments.
As you know, Germany was highly committed to the International Criminal Court project from day one. We support the International Criminal Court also given our own experiences with National Socialist injustice and the atonement process, launched by the Nuremberg Trials. We also understand this experience as a mandate to support the International Criminal Court at global level. Germany believes it is crucial to come to terms with past injustice if there is to be lasting and just peace. The UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has a similar view. At the ceremony to swear in the judges of the International Criminal Court in June 2003 he said, "There are times when we are told that justice must be set aside in the interest of peace. It is true that justice can only be dispensed when the peaceful order of society is secure. But we have come to understand that the reverse is also true: without justice, there can be no lasting peace."
The International Criminal Court makes a twofold contribution to peace and stability. Firstly, an effective, functioning international criminal jurisdiction deters potential offenders by its very existence.
Yet the significance of the International Criminal Court goes much further. The existence of the International Criminal Court means that states have to adapt their national legislation because of the principle of complementarity. This means the International Criminal Court only steps in if a State Party is not willing or not able to prosecute the most serious crimes itself. On that basis, the perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide can no longer go unpunished. The Court thus becomes a universal organization that promotes and guarantees the rule of law and the fight against impunity all over the world.
Assessments of the implementation of the Rome Statute in other regions, for example in Latin America, have shown that the implementation of the Statute triggers a comprehensive process to reform national criminal systems. The national legal system is extended so that war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide are also punishable under national law in countries where this was not, or only in part, possible.
In the United Nations framework we have always made clear that we see the International Criminal Court as an essential complement to the work of the world organization. Both the United Nations and the International Criminal Court aim to promote justice and peace. The practical work of the United Nations shows ever more clearly that we cannot have one without the other. In post-conflict situations, the United Nations regularly includes issues of justice and reconciliation in the plans it presents.
The awareness of the link between justice and peace is increasing constantly - the growing number of States Parties to the Rome Statute is incontestable proof. This is a trend which benefits all our efforts to promote good governance without which stable and sustainable development is unthinkable. Let us build a close network of States Parties so that we can nip war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in the bud. We are committed to the integrity of the Rome Statute and the Charter of the United Nations. We support the States Parties who encounter difficulties in pursuing this goal.
These abstract questions take on more concrete form if we turn to the crimes committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Mr Luis Moreno Ocampo, has declared his will to examine the crimes committed in the east of this country. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a State Party of the Court.
I would be pleased if national criminal proceedings were soon launched to examine the dreadful crimes against humanity. If there is no national investigation of the crimes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or if it is unsatisfactory, the Chief Prosecutor will launch criminal proceedings against the main perpetrators of the crimes on his own initiative. The international community would thus be fulfilling its obligation to assume responsibility where states are no longer or not yet able to sufficiently prosecute the worst crimes, for example, those committed in Ituri. In any case, those responsible for the dreadful atrocities can no longer expect to go unpunished.
To end the long period of impunity, States Parties to the Rome Statute will help the Congolese judicial and investigative authorities as they prosecute international crimes at all levels. There are many reasons to suggest the cases are best tried close to the scene itself. Witnesses and other evidence are more readily available so that costs can be kept to a minimum and the process accelerated. Particularly for the victims it is important that they follow the proceedings and see the results at close quarters, which would not be possible in The Hague. We are thus in favour of an approach which satisfies the need for the rule of law and international human rights standards close to the scene of the crime and which foregoes the death penalty.
Law and justice are inseparable. Victims all over the world have a right to see atonement for the worst crimes. Thus the Rome Statute is geared to universality and is to embrace all regions of the world. This is true particularly of the Arab region with its unique legal traditions. These can make an important contribution to attaining our shared goal of preventing impunity for the worst crimes of violence. With the implementation of the Rome Statute, we are consolidating and strengthening the structure that offers a safe haven for democracy, human rights and the rule of law. To close, allow me to make an offer.
We, the German Government, are ready to provide information on the International Criminal Court and on our experience of implementing its Statute. Our legal experts will be pleased to assist you and your staff with advice and practical help. Not least the Arabic translation of the German Code of Crimes against International Law and an English translation of the German law on cooperation with the International Criminal Court could be of help here.
I would like to thank our hosts for holding the Conference "Democracy, Human Rights and the Role of the ICC " and wish you every success. I trust that the arguments in favour of supporting the Court can even convince governments that have so far been sceptical and hope that as many states as possible become States Parties to the Rome Statute.
Thank you very much.
10.01.2004