25th Plenary Meeting of General Assembly 74th Session

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04-Nov-2019 02:48:25
Universal ratification of Rome Statute crucial to reduce impunity for atrocity crimes, International Criminal Court President tells General Assembly at 25th and 26th plenary meetings.

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The International Criminal Court exerts the needed pressure against those who “think little of plunging their own people and others into egotistical armed conflicts,” the Court’s President told the General Assembly today as he urged Member States to ratify the Rome Statute to reduce the space for impunity.

“Each ratification adds another brick to the wall that protects humanity from the gravest crimes imaginable,” said Chile Eboe‑Osuji as he introduced the Court’s annual report. The document — which the Assembly would later in the meeting welcome through its adoption of a draft resolution without a vote — summarizes the institution’s activities, accomplishments and challenges from 1 August 2018 to 31 July 2019.

More than 70 Member States are still not party to the Rome Statute, Mr. Eboe‑Osuji pointed out, expressing concern that victims of atrocities committed in territories of non-States parties are “left to languish outside the zone of justice.”

He urged the Security Council to do more to ensure that Libya and Sudan address the Court’s requests relating to the arrest and transfer of suspects who remain at large and provided an update on the Court’s myriad cases. For instance, during the reporting period, Bosco Ntaganda was found guilty on 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity were also confirmed against Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Mohamed Ag Mahmoud in relation to alleged acts committed in Mali.

The Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber is currently deliberating to render its decision on the confirmation of charges concerning armed violence in the Central African Republic. Further, the Appeals Chamber determined that international law did not recognize any immunity for Omar al-Bashir concerning the failure of the Government of Jordan to execute the arrest warrant issued against the former Sudanese leader. The Court’s Prosecutor also requested judicial authorization to commence an investigation into alleged crimes against the Rohingya people from Myanmar — which is not a State party to the Rome Statute. The matter is currently pending.

On reparative justice work, he said that more than 10,000 victims have been admitted to participate in the Court’s proceedings, representing a major paradigm shift from the ad hoc tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, which were focused almost exclusively on punitive justice. He also strongly urged Member States to make voluntary contributions to the Trust Fund for Victims.

Tijjani Muhammad Bande (Nigeria), President of the General Assembly, called on Member States to seize the opportunity of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations to reflect on what has been achieved and the work that remains in ensuring justice for all. The Court’s mandate is fully in line with the Assembly’s goal of promoting peace and sustainable development, he added.

In the ensuing discussion, Member States expressed support for the Court’s work, calling for strengthening partnerships between the mechanism and the United Nations. Several speakers reiterated the need to find ways to have predictable financing so the Court can properly investigate all the cases brought before it.

Chile’s delegate said her country has the fullest respect for the impartiality of the Court, adding that the judicial institution is exercising its jurisdiction in “sensitive times” and requires the support of the wider international community.

Switzerland’s representative highlighted his country’s proposal — supported by several speakers — to deem the intentional starvation of civilians during armed conflicts not of an international character as a war crime under the Rome Statute. “The amendment would close a legal gap and is urgently needed since nowadays almost all conflicts are internal in nature,” he emphasized.

Some speakers, however, expressed some concerns over the Court’s powers, which the representative of China said should be exercised with prudence. The Pre-Trial Chamber unduly expanded its jurisdiction to the point of blurring the boundaries between States parties and non-States parties, he added, emphasizing that the Court does not appear to have explicit and uniform criteria as to whether to authorize the Prosecutor to investigate a given situation.

Libya’s delegate said that delays in delivering suspects to the Court does not mean that Libya is not cooperating with the international community. Libya wants to stop armed groups and terrorists within its territory, and it is anxious to punish guilty people, but it also must defend its sovereignty, he stressed.

The representative from the Philippines disassociated from the resolution and recalled that her country withdrew from the Rome Statute in March. “Many conveniently forget that the Rome Statute is anchored on the principle of complementarity, not substitution,” she observed.

Myanmar’s delegate said the Court’s opening of a case against his country is illegitimate, adding that the Prosecutor is attempting to override national sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in the affairs of States. Myanmar is not engaged in religious persecution nor deporting a group of people out of the country, he said.

Also speaking today were representatives of the Netherlands, Sweden (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Poland, Slovakia, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Australia, Guatemala, Slovenia, New Zealand, Ukraine, Canada, Cuba, Spain, Romania, Ecuador, Republic of Korea, Costa Rica, Liechtenstein, El Salvador, Cyprus, Georgia, Italy, Venezuela, Ireland, Sierra Leone, Estonia, Bolivia, Greece, Nigeria, Syria, Bangladesh, Peru, United States and Russian Federation, as well as the European Union and State of Palestine.

The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 6 November, to discuss the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba.

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