Group photo of delegates attending the Commonwealth Meeting on the ICC, Marlborough House, London, UK
6 October 2010
President of the ‘court of last resort’ stresses the need to help small states with ratification process
Commonwealth countries which have signed up to the Rome Statute – the founding Treaty that brought the International Criminal Court (ICC) into being in 1998 – should highlight its benefits to those countries which have not ratified, according to the Court’s President.
“Joining the ICC sends out a clear signal of a country’s commitment to the rule of law, peace and the struggle against impunity, not only at home, but around the world,” Judge Sang-Hyun Song told government ministers, academics and senior civil society representatives attending a Commonwealth Meeting on the ICC, taking place in London from 5 to 7 October.
For media enquiries, please contact Tom Baird on firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 207 747 6136
The ICC’s President added that for some small states, which make up over half of the Commonwealth’s membership, the ratification process is daunting because of the limited capacities of their governments.
Judge Song said he would like to see both the Commonwealth Secretariat and Commonwealth States Parties (countries which have both ratified and implemented the Statute) continue to help countries that may be in need of technical assistance in order to facilitate their ratification to the statute.
Promoting ratification and implementation
The ICC is the first permanent treaty-based international criminal court, established to prosecute perpetrators of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. The Court’s jurisdiction and how it operates are governed by the Rome Statute, which entered into force in 2002.
To date 113 countries have signed up to the Statute, including 33 Commonwealth countries. Two ratifications in recent months came from Seychelles and St Lucia, both members of the Commonwealth.
The main purpose of the three-day meeting at the Commonwealth Secretariat’s headquarters in London is to promote the ratification and implementation of the Statute and to identify ways of moving forward towards achieving universality of the Treaty as well as building domestic capacity to effectively conduct investigations and prosecutions of ICC crimes.
As well as encouraging states parties to draw attention to the court’s benefits to non-states parties, the ICC’s President outlined other steps he would like to see taken in the near future. These include:
- Commonwealth States Parties making sure they have national procedures in place to allow for effective co-operation with the ICC.
- Commonwealth States Parties ensuring they have the necessary legal and other means to investigate, prosecute and try the crimes under the Rome Statute.
- Commonwealth countries that are not States Parties to consider ratification with an open mind. Judge Song encouraged these countries to seek additional information about the ICC if necessary, adding that he is always available to assist in this regard.
Commitment to the Court
This meeting in London follows a conference which took place in June, where more than 2,000 delegates from all over the world spilled into Uganda’s capital Kampala to review progress made by the ICC, also known as ‘the court of last resort’.
Writing in The Lawyer, the leading industry website dedicated to legal news and insight, Akbar Khan, the Secretariat’s principal legal adviser, observed that at this Review Conference there was a positive commitment from countries to the Court.
“Leaders from every corner of the globe committed themselves to do better in support of the ‘court of last resort’ they had set up to prosecute perpetrators of crimes of concern to the international community where a state is ‘unable or unwilling to do so,’” he wrote.
Mr Khan stressed that with a limited budget, “the ICC will never be able to prosecute more than a handful of senior perpetrators. Mid to low-level perpetrators must be prosecuted at the national level or impunity will flourish.”
He added that it is the role of international organisations such as the Commonwealth Secretariat, as well as civil society actors and bilateral donors to help countries promote the rule of law at the national level.
“Patience must be shown,” Mr Khan concluded. “Building effective national legal systems to prosecute complex crimes takes time and money. Despite this, we must not be thwarted in our collective resolve to secure justice for victims.”
Who knows? The ICC may be the place for the rebirth of the CW and its fundamental values.