MIL-OSI United Nations: Speakers Stress Need for Impartiality at International Criminal Court, as President Briefs General Assembly on Recent Milestones in Prosecuting Atrocity Crimes

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Source: United Nations 4

Delegates today stressed the importance of the International Criminal Court executing its mandate in an impartial manner, as the Court’s President updated the General Assembly on its caseload and judgements over the past year.

Piotr Hofmański, Court President, presenting the entity’s report of its activities from 1 August 2020 to 31 July 2021, noted that: “During the reporting period, several major milestones were reached.”  The Appeals Chamber upheld a judgement of acquittal of former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo and his former youth minister, Blé Goudé, of crimes against humanity.  It also confirmed the conviction and sentencing of Bosco Ntaganda, the former chief of staff of the National Congress for the Defence of the People, known as the CNDP, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Court’s first trial judgement, relating to the situation in Uganda, was issued against Dominic Ongwen, with the verdict and the sentence of 25 years both under appeal, the Court President said, while proceedings are also underway concerning alleged crimes in Timbuktu, Mali and the conflict between the Anti-Balaka and the Séléka militia groups in the Central African Republic.

 States’ cooperation is a cornerstone of the Court’s operations as it has no enforcement powers of its own, he said, expressing concern that more than 10 arrest warrants issued by the Court remain outstanding, including resolutions imposing an obligation on Sudan and on Libya to cooperate fully with the Court’s investigations and prosecutions.  Noting “more than 70 Member States among those seated in this hall have so far not decided” to join the Rome Statute, he urged them to give it serious consideration.

The representative of the Netherlands, who introduced the draft resolution titled “Report of the International Criminal Court”, voiced concern about the recent developments in Sudan.  She called on all relevant parties to honour their commitments enshrined in the Memorandum of Understanding, signed earlier this year between the Court and the transitional Government of Sudan.

When the floor was opened for discussion, several delegates affirmed the importance of the Court’s continued efforts in the face of challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and external threats.

Sierra Leone’s delegate noted that “the wheels of international justice continue to turn” at the Court, emphasizing the relevance of its mandate and the need for continuing cooperation with the United Nations to address gaps in accountability.

Slovakia’s representative noted that despite the pandemic, approximately 11,000 victims were able to participate in cases before the Court during the reporting period.  Nevertheless, the Court can only fully deliver on its mandate of ending impunity for the perpetrators of the most heinous crimes if it achieves universality, urging those all States that have not ratified the Rome Statute to do so.

However, despite those efforts, and achieving a perfect gender balance of nine female and nine male judges, several delegates expressed concern over a threat to the Court’s impartiality.

China’s delegate emphasized the Court must remain committed to an independent, objective and non-politicized position, resolutely resisting the abominable practices of political manipulation of judicial proceedings.  International criminal justice is under unprecedented threat, he stressed, with an individual country having imposed international sanctions on Court prosecutors in September 2020.  Although lifted, the root causes of those unilateral sanctions have yet to be eliminated.

Liechtenstein’s representative welcomed the lifting of the unprecedented measures that the former United States Administration had imposed against the Court.  Emphasizing the importance of cooperation between States and the Court, he called for more political support to the latter when it comes under attack.  He further drew attention to the Security Council’s receding interest in exercising its referral power, which is “proportionate to its inability to do meaningful work in the area of accountability”.

The representative of Bangladesh cited the instance of the forced displacement of Rohingyas from their ancestral homes in Myanmar, now being considered by the Court.  Citing the investigation by the Court Prosecutor’s Office into the situation of Rohingya minorities, he called on all State Parties, including Myanmar, to cooperate with the investigations, so that the perpetrators of crimes committed against the Rohingya may be brought to justice, and the cycle of violence and impunity in Myanmar can be broken.

A number of other delegates addressed the Court’s persistent liquidity issues, which constrain its efficient and effective operation.

The representative of Germany, the second-largest contributor to the Court’s budget, said the Court fills a critical role in providing a forum for victims to air their grievances and seek redress.  As such, it is important to secure additional voluntary contributions for the Trust Fund for Victims.

Canada’s delegate noted that country has made an early payment of a portion of its 2021 and 2022 assessed contributions.  However, having some States pay their contributions earlier each year — only to offset others that do not pay — is not an acceptable long-term financial solution.  One proposed solution, she noted, is restricting States Parties in arrears from presenting candidates for elected positions to the Court.

At the outset of the meeting, Abdullah Shahid, (Maldives), President of the General Assembly, made opening remarks.

Also speaking today were representatives of Norway (on behalf of the Nordic Countries), Côte d’Ivoire (on behalf of the African States), Italy, Romania, Slovenia, Brazil, Switzerland, Spain, Guatemala, United States, Ecuador and Peru, as well as the representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer.

The Assembly will reconvene on Thursday, 11 November, at 10 a.m. to fill vacancies in its subsidiary bodies, take action on a draft decision relating to crime prevention and criminal justice, and a draft resolution concerning strengthening the United Nations system; and at 3 p.m. to continue consideration of the report of the International Criminal Court.

Opening Remarks

ABDULLAH SHAHID (Maldives), President of the General Assembly, noted that over 22 years ago, the international community united around the Rome Statute, founding the International Criminal Court to prosecute the gravest transgressions of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.  Encouraging States that have yet to ratify the Statute to do so at the earliest, he noted the Court is part of a wider multilateral system promoting the rule of law and securing landmark convictions for serious crimes.

Introduction of Report by President of International Criminal Court

PIOTR HOFMAŃSKI, President of the International Criminal Court, presented the Secretary‑General’s note (document A/76/293) containing the Court’s annual report covering the period from 1 August 2020 to 31 July 2021.  While there are 123 States parties to the Rome Statute, he expressed hope that number will rise, and noted the COVID‑19 pandemic had not forced Court proceedings to come to a halt.  In enforcing criminalization of the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression when national courts are for whatever reason unable or unwilling to do so, the Court has become an integral part of the international structure for upholding the rule of law.  As such, it also plays an important part in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly Sustainable Development Goal 16.

“During the reporting period, several major milestones were reached,” he said.  The Appeals Chamber issued two judgments on the merits, in the cases of Laurent Gbagbo and Blé Goudé, and Bosco Ntaganda, confirming judgments of acquittal and conviction, respectively, as well the sentence in the latter case.  The Court’s first trial judgement relating to the situation in Uganda was issued against Dominic Ongwen, with the verdict and the sentence of 25 years both under appeal.  The Court’s second trial concerning alleged crimes in Timbuktu, Mali has begun, he noted, as well as the first trial concerning the conflict between the Anti-Balaka and the Séléka militia groups in the Central African Republic.

The Court’s first case stemming from the Darfur referral by the Council is also coming to trial.  Pre‑Trial Chambers have also authorized two new investigations, he said, addressing the situations in the State of Palestine and the Philippines, and the Prosecutor has just announced an investigation into the situation in Venezuela.  This brings the number of open situations to 16 ‑ “a striking amount, considering that only nine years ago that number was six,” he remarked.

Emphasizing the crucial role of the Trust Fund for Victims, he said it raises public and private funds for victims of crimes under the Court jurisdiction, and implements reparations ordered against convicted persons, for compensation, rehabilitation, restitution, and symbolic measures.  As the convicted persons have, so far, been indigent, the Trust Fund uses resources from donors to complement the reparation awards.  He also noted the Trust Fund can provide assistance to victims independently of Court decisions, meaning addressing the harm to affected communities need not wait for the end of years‑long judicial processes.  The Trust Fund is busier than ever, implementing reparations in three cases and expanding activities from four to seven countries.

States’ cooperation is a cornerstone of the Court’s operations, he emphasized, as it has no enforcement powers of its own.  He expressed concern that more than 10 arrest warrants issued by the Court remain outstanding, over half stemming from situations referred by the Security Council, including resolutions imposing an obligation on Sudan and on Libya to cooperate fully with the Court’s investigations and prosecutions.  He cited an eventful year institutionally, with six new judges elected to the Court in December 2020, now presenting a perfect balance of nine women and nine men.

However, he noted “more than 70 Member States among those seated in this hall have so far not decided” to join the Rome Statute, urging them to give it serious consideration.  Empirical research shows that joining the Rome Statute adds to the deterrence of the gravest crimes under international law, a powerful expression of solidarity with the victims.  Citing the common misperception that joining the Rome Statute allows the Court to look into events of the past, he stressed that it has no retroactive effect.  The Court also cannot hold States responsible, as it is not a human rights court and can only prosecute natural persons for their individual criminal responsibility.  “To any country that may have doubts about joining, I would like to say: ‘let’s talk’,” he added.

Introduction of Draft Resolution

YOKA BRANDT (Netherlands), associating herself with the European Union, stressed that her country plans to step up its efforts to gain universal support for the International Criminal Court’s mandate and the principles that underpin the Rome Statute.  The Netherlands will also continue to support and strengthen the Court, as accountability and the fight against impunity are top priorities of her country’s foreign policy.  Noting that the Court is currently undergoing a transition period that will shape the functioning of the Court in the years to come, she said it saw a major change of leadership with the election of six new judges, a new President and a new Prosecutor.  Sanctions previously imposed by the United States on the Court’s Prosecutor have now been lifted, and the Court’s review process is well on its way.  Voicing deep concern about recent developments in Sudan, she called on all relevant parties to honour their commitments enshrined in the Memorandum of Understanding signed earlier in 2021 between the transitional Government of Sudan and the Court.  She also called upon the Security Council – which initially referred that situation ‑ to strengthen its cooperation with the Court.

She went on to introduce the draft resolution before the Assembly, titled “Report of the International Criminal Court” (document A/76/L.7), noting that it acknowledges the role of the Court in a multilateral system that aims to end impunity, promote the rule of law, encourage respect for human rights and achieve sustainable peace of nations.

Statements

SIMONA POPAN, European Union, in the bloc’s capacity as observer, encouraged the Court to assess and take possible further action on the recommendations of the Independent Expert Review.  It is crucial for the Court to promote a healthy working culture that ensures gender balance, inclusion, multilingualism, diversity in legal systems and geographical representation. Noting that the Court can bring perpetrators of atrocity crimes to justice, she described it as a last resort that cannot replace national courts, whose capacity should be improved.  States bear the primary responsibility of investigating and prosecuting serious international crimes, she stressed, noting the Court may only step in where States are unwilling or unable to do so.  Urging States to cooperate with it, she also called on the Security Council to make use of its right of referral, as appropriate, to promote accountability in countries where the most serious crimes may have been committed.  She further called on States to pay their assessed contributions on time and in full, according to their obligations under the Rome Statute, and pledged to protect the Court from attacks intended to destabilize its judicial activity and undermine its legitimacy.

MIRJAM BIERLING (Norway), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, described the Court a central institution for international accountability and the pursuit of justice, which, regrettably, continues to face political opposition and attempts to prevent it from delivering on its mandate.  Reconfirming the Nordic countries’ unwavering support for the Court ‑ an independent and impartial judicial institution – she also stressed their commitment to continue defending it from any attempts to interfere with its work.  Encouraging the Court as well as States to implement recommendations prepared by the Independent Expert Review in an efficient and results‑oriented manner, she said the Nordic countries continue to support and work for universal membership to the Rome Statute.  Highlighting the importance of cooperation between the Court and States, she also commended the ongoing cooperation between the United Nations and the Court.

She went on to note that enhanced cooperation between the Court and the Security Council is still needed.  In that context, she noted with concern that the Security Council, in the two situations it has referred to the Court, has not acted on a number of findings of non‑cooperation communicated to it by the Court. She therefore called on all States Parties to provide the assistance necessary for the arrest and surrender of individuals sought by the Court, and urged the Security Council to develop a more coherent approach to the referral of situations.  Failure to do so contributes to impunity, which makes conflicts thrive, she warned.

EVA ISABELLE ELIETTE NIAMKE (Côte d’Ivoire), speaking on behalf of the African States Parties to the Rome Statute, said the principle of complementarity lies at the heart of the Rome Statute system.  Expressing support for the ongoing efforts of the Assembly of States Parties to promote that system, she said enhancing complementarity by strengthening national judicial systems is key to achieving accountability, as the primary responsibility for investigating and prosecuting crimes under the Rome Statute rests with States.  The Court ‑ a mechanism of last resort – only steps in when States are unwilling or unable to genuinely conduct national proceedings.  She stressed, therefore, that building States’ capacity to investigate and prosecute atrocity crimes is crucial.

Noting that the African States Parties constitute the largest regional group within the Assembly of States Parties, she said the bloc is committed to achieving the universality of the Rome Statute and believes that increasing the number of States Parties thereto will ensure access to justice for victims from all geographic regions.  As such, she called on all States that have not yet ratified the Rome Statute to consider doing so.  Universal ratification ‑ and the incorporation of the Statute’s norms into domestic law ‑ must be a reality if victims around the world are to have a chance to obtain justice.  She added that the African States Parties support the review of the Court and the Rome Statute system, including addressing the issue of politicization of the Court.

MAURIZIO MASSARI (Italy), associating himself with the European Union, said the most effective and structural answer to the many challenges the international community is facing today – including conflicts in which violence against the civilian populations is committed on a large scale ‑ lies in a reformed and enhanced multilateralism.  Only a rules-based international system, centred on universal values, fundamental rights and inclusiveness will be conducive to long‑lasting solutions.  Describing the Court as a crucial tool to achieve those goals, he said a focus on victims is an essential element of international criminal justice.  For those reasons, Italy has decided to contribute to the Court’s Trust Fund for Victims.  It is also closely following the ongoing reform process, with the view that particular attention should be paid to the implementation of recommendations aimed at improving the effectiveness of investigations and decision‑making.  In particular, he noted with concern the serious challenges the Court continues to face in relation to its requests for cooperation, including the execution of its outstanding arrest warrants.

ALIS LUNGU (Romania), associating herself with the European Union, urged the Court’s supporters to rally around it and work towards its strengthening.  She pointed to the ongoing review of the Rome Statute system as an important opportunity to address both the Court’s internal and external challenges.  She called on the Assembly of States Parties to take wise decisions about the Court’s governance and oversight, with due regard for the principles of judicial and prosecutorial independence.  The legitimacy of the Court also depends on two other important elements ‑ namely, safeguarding the high quality, independence and impartiality of the Court’s activities, and the dissemination of correct information about its mandate and treaty‑based limitations.  In that regard, she pointed to the need to put in place conditions for the vetting of candidates for the positions of judges and prosecutor, as well as to elaborate a Court‑wide communications strategy which ensures better use of the limited resources.  She further joined calls for the inclusion of the crimes and principles of the Rome Statute into national laws, while detailing her country’s efforts to initiate a national law on judicial cooperation with the Court.

MICHAEL IMRAN KANU (Sierra Leone), associating himself with the African States Parties to the Rome Statute, welcomed the fact that “the wheels of international justice continue to turn” at the Court, despite it facing challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and external threats.  The relevance of the Court’s mandate cannot be overstated, and the need for continuing cooperation by and with the United Nations to address gaps in accountability cannot be overemphasized.  He detailed several notable judicial developments, including that Dominic Ongwen was found guilty of 61 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in northern Uganda between 2002 and 2005.  Turning to the review mechanism established by the Assembly of States Parties, he commended its work and the results achieved thus far, and called on States Parties and all stakeholders to continue their support for and constructive engagement with the process.  He also praised the Court’s Trust Fund for Victims, which enables increased participation for victims in trial sessions, as well as the payment of reparations.

BOŠTJAN MALOVRH (Slovenia), associating himself with the European Union, pointed to a significant increase and progress in overall activities of the Court. Among other things, it has issued landmark decisions (including in the Ongwen and Ntaganda cases) that pave the way for further development in the field of international criminal law.  In addition, the Court actively engaged in the review process and began the implementation of its recommendations.  However, an overall increase in the Court’s judicial activities is not the central goal to be pursued, as they are a response to crimes committed and only complement national proceedings.  Stressing that States and national courts bear the primary responsibility for prosecuting the perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression, he said the Court must step in when they are not fulfilling those obligations.  He called on all States to cooperate fully with the Court, also by executing arrest warrants and concluding different cooperation agreements.  To enhance international cooperation for the purpose of effective national prosecution of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, Slovenia actively engages in the initiative to conclude a new multilateral treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance, he noted, inviting States to join the initiative.

MICHAL MLYNÁR (Slovakia) stressed that the existence of a permanent international judicial organ, with jurisdiction over the most heinous crimes under international law, reflects the firm conviction of the international community that accountability must be an integral component of all policies and, more specifically, conflict resolution.  Notwithstanding the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 11,000 victims were able to participate in cases before the Court during the reporting period.  Emphasizing that the Court can only fully deliver on its mandate of ending impunity for the perpetrators of the most heinous crimes if it achieves universality, he called on States to consistently engage in open and patient dialogue, to continue strengthening international criminal justice and to prevent impunity, while also urging those that have not ratified the Rome Statute to do so.  In view of the possibility of referrals, according to Article 13 of the Rome Statute, he encouraged the Security Council to use that unique tool when international crimes are committed and national authorities are not in a position to investigate them.

RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) said all States Parties have the responsibility to continuously work for the improvement of the Rome Statute system, addressing challenges and extending its support when needed. One important challenge relates to universality, which is instrumental in overcoming perceptions of selectivity in the application of international criminal justice.  A second challenge relates to the relationship between the Court and the United Nations.  Reiterating his country’s longstanding concern about the financing of Security Council referrals, he said greater involvement of the United Nations should be accompanied by its greater responsibility to provide resources for the Court.  In that regard, he called for the implementation of Article 13 of the Relationship Agreement and of Article 115(b) of the Rome Statute, allowing costs from Security Council referrals to be met, at least partially, by funds provided by the United Nations.  Voicing support for the review process, he nevertheless cautioned against pursuing recommendations that aim to amend the Rome Statute system or implementing recommendations that do not enjoy broad support.

GEORG CHRISTIAN KLUSSMANN (Germany), associating himself with the European Union, said that while it is a relatively young institution, the Court is an integral part of today’s international order.  It has established a solid foundation with its unique independence and impartiality, and outside interference or pressure has no place in its work.  Germany is the second-largest contributor to the Court’s budget and many other States provide substantial contributions.  Yet, the Court is facing financial challenges.  As it fills a critical role in providing a forum for victims to air their grievances and seek redress, it is important to secure additional voluntary contributions for the Trust Fund for Victims.  Sources of reliable financial support are essential, he said, noting that they will safeguard the Court’s judicial independence and the integrity of the Rome Statute.  Calling for States’ full political support, cooperation and assistance, he said the Court’s mission and the United Nations mandate complement each other, as both institutions work towards a rules-based global order and an end to impunity.

NASIR UDDIN (Bangladesh), noting that a conflict in his country’s region has forced over a million civilians to take shelter in Bangladesh, said the forced displacement of Rohingyas from their ancestral homes in Myanmar is now being considered by the International Criminal Court.  The investigation by the Court Prosecutor’s Office into the situation of Rohingya minorities is an important confidence‑building measure for the safe and voluntary return of the Rohingya, who remain concerned about their safety in Myanmar in the absence of any accountability.  In that vein, he called on State Parties ‑ including Myanmar ‑ to cooperate with the Court’s investigations, so that the perpetrators of crimes committed against the Rohingya may be brought to justice and the cycle of violence and impunity in Myanmar can be broken.  Welcoming the Court’s review process, he said Bangladesh, as one of the three ad hoc national focal points of the review mechanism, stands committed to that process.

LIU YANG (China) said the Court should conduct its activities in strict observance of the Rome Statue and conform to the fundamental principles of international law.  Emphasizing that the Court must observe national judicial sovereignty of States, he said it must remain committed to an independent, objective and non-politicized position, seeing the true intentions of fabrications and frivolous litigations, and resolutely resisting the abominable practices of political manipulation of judicial proceedings.  International criminal justice is under unprecedented threat, he stressed, with an individual country having imposed sanctions on Court prosecutors in September 2020.  Although lifted, the root causes of those unilateral sanctions have yet to be eliminated, and that State has repeatedly placed its own domestic laws over and above international law, with a “cherry-picking” approach.  Noting the Court is hearing inter-State proceedings on unilateral sanctions, he affirmed that China expects the international community to make a greater effort to end judicial bullying.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said the Rome Statute applies to all individuals, irrespective of their official capacity.  Noting that Court’s work is based on the principles of impartiality and judicial and prosecutorial independence, he welcomed the lifting of the unprecedented measures that the former United States Administration had imposed against the Court.  Stressing the importance of cooperation between States and the Court, he called for more political support to the latter, especially when it comes under attack.  Turning to the relationship between the United Nations and the Court, he drew attention to the lack of meaningful dialogue between the Security Council and the Court as well as to the Council’s receding interest in exercising its referral power, which is “proportionate to its inability to do meaningful work in the area of accountability”.  He further noted that Council of Advisers ‑ created by Liechtenstein along with ten other State Parties to the Rome Statute ‑ produced an in‑depth examination of the Statute’s provisions and unanimously concluded that its provisions also apply to cyberwarfare.

PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) noted that States are primarily responsible for investigating and prosecuting the most serious crimes, but often fail to properly examine such acts at the national level.  The Court’s role is complementary to that of national criminal jurisdiction, but it can only intervene if States are unable or unwilling to do so themselves.  By fulfilling its mandate, the Court contributes to lasting peace and reconciliation, she said, calling on all States to fulfil their obligations under the Rome Statute.  Also noting that the Assembly of States Parties has adopted several amendments aiming to strengthen the Rome Statute in recent years, she urged all signatories to ratify those amendments to enhance criminal justice at both the national and international levels.  All States Parties are responsible for helping to strengthen the Court in fighting against impunity for the most serious crimes, bringing justice to victims and contributing to lasting peace, she added.

MARÍA BASSOLS DELGADO (Spain), associating herself with the European Union, said the Office of the Prosecutor needs clear criteria for selecting cases in order to maximize the results of its work and avoid any criticism of partiality.  The specification of those criteria and their application must be done very carefully, she emphasized.  Moreover, the decision of the Office of the Prosecutor to address a given situation can have a deterrent and preventive effect and be crucial in scenarios where a State is at a turning point and there is a high risk of conduct being committed that the Court aims to prevent.  Furthermore, it is not up to the Office of the Prosecutor to apply the Rome Statute alone, but rather to rely on the prosecution and criminal prosecution authorities of the States Parties, she pointed out, adding that a “cooperative complementarity” that allows for the exchange of information, the gathering and preservation of evidence and the carrying out of searches and arrests by national authorities would be beneficial.  She went on to highlight the work of the Trust Fund for Victims, saying the specific actions of the Fund can promote States’ internal systems for providing reparations to the victims of qualified crimes, including terrorism.

LUIS ANTONIO LAM PADILLA (Guatemala), recalling that his delegation is one of the main co-sponsors of the draft resolution currently before the Assembly, said the principle of complementarity and strong international institutions are essential to ensuring accountability.  In addition, cooperation between the Court and the United Nations — especially the Security Council — is needed.  Noting that the commitment of States Parties is also essential to increasing the Court’s capacity, he added that the fight against impunity requires adequate resourcing for the Court.  Meanwhile, all perpetrators must be brought to justice on an equal basis, he said, calling for redoubled efforts to create a universal regime.  By adopting the draft resolution, the Assembly will contribute to providing the consistent support required by the Court to carry out its mandate, he said.

BEATRICE MAILLE (Canada) said 2021 has been a year of significant transition at the Court’s top levels, with the election of six new judges, a new President and a new Prosecutor.  Multilateral cooperation and cooperation between the Court and the Security Council is vital.  Noting the Security Council’s prerogative to refer situations to the Court, she urged it to refer the ongoing situations in Myanmar and Syria.  Noting the importance of the Trust Fund for Victims and outlining Canada’s contributions to it, she turned to the Court’s persistent liquidity issues, which constrain its efficient and effective operation.  Canada has made an early payment of a portion of its 2021 and 2022 assessed contributions.  However, having some States pay their contributions earlier each year ‑ only to offset others that do not pay – is not an acceptable long‑term solution.  She also spotlighted a recommendation from the Independent Expert Review, which encourages the States Parties to explore additional ways to encourage the payment of contributions on time and in full, noting that one proposed solution is restricting States Parties in arrears from presenting candidates for elected positions to the Court.

RICHARD M. MILLS, JR. (United States) commending the Court for several achievements in some of the longest-running situations involving national Governments, he pointed to the case against Dominic Ongwen, the Lord’s Resistance Army’s leader, for war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as the case against the rebel leader, Bosco Ntaganda, for committing crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  He further applauded the progress that has been made to advance accountability in the Central African Republic, including the commencement of trials of Alfred Yekatom and Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona for atrocity crimes.  Noting that the United States continues to robustly support countries in their own domestic efforts to ensure accountability, he commended the Court’s reform that will help achieve its core mission of serving as a court of last resort.  Noting his country’s long-standing objection to the Court’s efforts to assert jurisdiction over personnel of non-States Parties without a Security Council referral or the consent of a State, he acknowledged the role the Court can play in cases when domestic systems are unable or unwilling to genuinely pursue justice.

CRISTIAN ESPINOSA CAÑIZARES (Ecuador) called on all States to commit to full cooperation with the Court and thereby guarantee justice for the victims of the most serious crimes, noting it is the Court of last instance, intervening only when States are unwilling or unable to fully carry out national proceedings.  He therefore rejected any unilateral action against the Court or its authorities.  He noted the Court’s caseload of 30 cases since its inception against 46 accused, with 14 cases still in progress, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.  In 2008, his Government incorporated penalties in its domestic legislation against genocide, crimes against humanity and forced disappearance, with none being open to amnesty or a statute of limitations under the country’s legal system.  Citing the need for greater financing and resources to support victims through the Trust Fund, he noted the independent expert review of the Court and the Rome Statute system must not create undue burdens upon the Court, in view of budgetary issues.

JOSÉ MANUEL RODRÍGUEZ CUADROS (Peru) noted that, during the reporting period, new decisions have been reached, 14 new cases have been opened and 11,000 victims took part in cases.  The Court should give special attention to the protection of victims’ rights, he said, noting the Court’s actions on situations in Uganda, Darfur, Burundi, Georgia, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Venezuela and the Philippines.  He stressed the importance of the decisions reached by Pre-Trial Chamber I, which has determined that Palestine is a State party to the Statute and the Court, and therefore, has territorial jurisdiction with regards to the situation of the State of Palestine.  Peru agrees with what the Court indicated in its annual report: national authorities, in accordance with international law, have the main responsibility of investigating and bringing to trial those responsible for the crimes indicated in the Rome Statute.  For this reason, it is indispensable that States commit to include, in their national legislation, crimes against humanity and the principles of the Rome Statute.  Calling for a rules-based international order, he stressed that access to justice and accountability is fundamental for international peace and security.  Peru supports all initiatives to guarantee that violators of human rights and international humanitarian law be held responsible for their actions and subjected to corresponding punishment.

For information media. Not an official record.

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