Press Releases

    12 April 2002


    GENEVA, 11 April (UN Information Service) -- Following is a statement issued by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson on the occasion of the deposit of the sixtieth instrument of ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court:

    On 17 July 1998, the international community achieved a historic milestone when 120 States voted to adopt the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Today, 11 April 2002, with the deposit of the sixtieth instrument of ratification of the Statute, we have reached another milestone. An international criminal court will become a reality. A universal penal framework to end impunity for the most heinous crimes under international law perpetrated by both State and non-State actors has been adopted.

    A decade ago, the establishment of an international criminal tribunal was deemed neither possible nor desirable. In the intervening period, however, the international community has learnt useful lessons from the tribunals established for the Former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda. These tribunals have proved particularly important for the substantive development of international criminal law, in general, and the protection of human rights, in particular. The statutes governing these tribunals, and the jurisprudence that has emerged in the course of their application, have contributed to the development of the rules of international humanitarian law governing non-international armed conflicts; the definitions of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity; and the individual responsibility and accountability of non-State actors for such crimes.

    The unequivocal message emerging from the Hague and Arusha is that where domestic legal order has broken down, or national authorities are unwilling or unable to punish gross violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law, the international community has an obligation and a responsibility to respond. With the coming into force of the Rome Statute, the international community will have accepted that responsibility on a permanent basis.

    I join those who have characterized the creation of the ICC as representing a significant step in the development of the principle of universal jurisdiction for serious international crimes. Beyond this, the ICC will stand out as unique among international institutions, being the result of extraordinary partnership between diverse stakeholders: governments, regional and global international organiza- tions, the ad hoc international criminal tribunals, individual national and international experts, and the global NGO community. As we mark this occasion, I call upon all these actors to continue their efforts to ensure that the mechanisms and structures required for the effective and smooth functioning of the Court are firmly put in place from the outset. It is essential that the Court is endowed with the necessary authority and legitimacy for it to function with credibility as the guarantor of international criminal justice.

    The cornerstone of the Rome Statute is the principle of complementarity, meaning that States retain the primary right, opportunity and obligation to prosecute and punish individuals for serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. I would appeal to all States that have ratified the Statute to enact the necessary national implementing legislation. Experience has

    demonstrated that the existence of national laws and procedures to facilitate cooperation will be a crucial element in the ability of the ICC to carry out its functions.

    I hope also that the coming into force of the ICC will encourage States to fulfil their primary obligations more diligently and to initiate investigations and prosecutions of international crimes within their own domestic judicial systems when warranted.

    The importance of the Rome Statute’s provisions for the victims of human rights abuses, for human rights defenders and humanitarian workers who sometimes find themselves in the frontline of State-sponsored rights abuses, cannot be over-emphasized. In dealing with such issues, the ICC will develop much needed guidance for national authorities and domestic jurisdictions in the application of international human rights and international humanitarian law, and it will set enduring standards in the area of international criminal justice.

    I welcome today’s historic development and the potential for human rights protection it promises. I commend all those Governments who have ratified this ground-breaking treaty for their commitment to the quest for global justice. At the same time, I urge all those States that have not yet done so to sign and ratify the Rome Statue as a matter of priority. The struggle against impunity can only be undertaken and won if it is joined by all members of the community of nations.

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