Sixty-third General Assembly
34th & 35th Meetings (AM & PM)
International Court Chief Highlights 'Most Productive Year in Court's History'; Head of Criminal Court Says, 'Like Justice Itself, Court Impartial and Enduring'
In a period of intense activity that saw four substantive judgements handed down in cases of delicate -- but entrenched -- sovereignty, human rights and maritime disputes unsolved at national levels, the International Court of Justice had its "most productive year in history", President Rosalyn Higgins told General Assembly delegates today as she presented the Court's annual report.
Ms. Higgins' presentation kicked off a day-long Assembly session that heard more than 40 speakers take the floor to consider the annual reports of both the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, whose President, Philippe Kirsch, briefed delegates on major developments in the afternoon. Both Courts are headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands.
In her third address to the Assembly, Ms. Higgins said the Court had worked to maximize its throughput, dealing with more than one case at a time, producing timely judgements, and never sacrificing quality. By applying such working methods, it had managed a very full schedule of cases.
In the year to 31 August, she said the Court's involvement in the case of Certain Questions of Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, between Djibouti and France, marked the first time it had pronounced on a dispute brought to it by an application based on Article 38, paragraph 5 of the Rules of the Court. In that dispute to determine whether France had violated its obligations under the 1986 Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, the Court had concluded that France had failed to comply with its international obligation.
Looking ahead, she said the Court's composition would change in February, when new members elected by the Assembly and the Security Council took their places on the Bench. Until that time, the Court would prepare judgements in three cases, including one between Croatia and Serbia, andhold open hearings in March for a navigational rights dispute between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
However, that pace of work could not be sustained without assistance, and she pointed out that only three of nine law clerk posts requested by the Court had been approved. She asked that six law clerk posts be created, and said the Court would seek funds to cover installation of the most up-to-date information technology on the judges' Bench to facilitate data sharing.
"The objective is to make the Great Hall of Justice a courtroom that serves the professional needs of those who use it, Bench and Bar," she stressed. "The principaljudicial organ of the United Nations cannot work as a court with archaic facilities." It was also important that the proposed pension scheme for judges in service, and for retired judges and their dependents, not lead to a decrease in real terms. The Court counted on the Assembly's understanding on those points.
In his remarks, Mr. Kirsch said fifty years after the historic Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals, serious crimes continued to be committed with impunity. Justice was too often "bargained away", and victims endured the double indignation of suffering harm only to be denied recourse to justice. However, the creation of the International Criminal Court reflected States' resolve to fundamentally shift international relations from a "culture of impunity" to one based on respect for justice.
"Like justice itself, the Court is impartial and enduring," he said, adding that it had never chosen to intervene in any situation. It had only complied with its mandate, as requested by the States concerned or by the Security Council.
Highlighting the significance of States' contributions to the Court, evident in their trust that it fairly prosecuted crimes that national courts were unwilling or unable to handle, he said proceedings had been limited by the lack of arrest of seven individuals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and the Darfur region of the Sudan.
The Court's 14 July application to the Pre-Trial Chamber I for an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir was pending before the judges, who would decide whether there were reasonable grounds to believe he had committed crimes within the Court's jurisdiction.
The Court and its system could only work if all actors consistently played their part, he said, urging universal ratification of the Rome Statute. Legal obligations to cooperate with the Court must be met, and additional cooperation was needed, most obviously in States' execution of arrest warrants. Most critically, States, international organizations and civil society must respect the Court's independence. How well the global community succeeded in establishing new politics based on justice "is up to us". The Court would do its part.
Responding to Mr. Kirsch's presentation, the representative of the Sudan was exasperated at the International Criminal Court's issuance of an arrest warrant for the Sudanese President, an action which amounted to "political intrigue", and had led to outrage from regional organizations. The Security Council's "faulty resolution" to defer the situation in Darfur to the Court ran counter to another one on States' obligations. Also, there were daily occurrences of genocide, war crimes and other crimes against humanity throughout the Middle East and Asia, and yet States in those regions were not being prosecuted by the Court. He vehemently opposed such double standards.
In other business today, the Assembly, acting on the recommendation of its General Committee, included on its plenary agenda an item entitled "recognition of sickle-cell anaemia as a public health priority". It added an item on "granting of observer status for the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea" under its organizational, administrative and other matters, and also allocated it to its Sixth Committee (Legal).
In addition, the Assembly decided to consider the "Report of the Human Rights Council" in plenary and in its Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), on the understanding that the Third Committee would act on all the Council's recommendations to the Assembly, while the Assembly would consider the report of the Council on its activities for the year.
Also speaking today on the report of the International Court of Justice was a Senator of the Philippines, and an Expert in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The representatives of Canada (also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand), Peru, India, Egypt, Pakistan, Ghana, Algeria, Romania, Nigeria, Kenya, Swaziland, Japan, Senegal, El Salvador, Singapore, Portugal, Cameroon, Mexico and the Sudan also addressed the Assembly.
Speaking on the report of the International Criminal Court was the Legal Adviser of the Permanent Mission of Ghana, and the Legal Adviser of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico.
Also speaking were the representatives of France (on behalf of the European Union), Trinidad and Tobago (on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), Australia (also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand (CANZ)), Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Peru, Cuba, Argentina, Lesotho, Norway, Ghana, Japan, Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, Mexico, Venezuela and Uganda.
The General Assembly will reconvene Monday, 3 November, at 10 a.m. for a joint debate on the integrated and coordinated implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic and social fields. It is also to consider the report of the Economic and Social Council.
The General Assembly met today to consider the annual reports of the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. It was also expected to take up the second report of its General Committee.
The second report of the General Committee on the adoption of the agenda and allocation of items (document A/63/250/Add.1) states that at its 29 October meeting, the Committee recommended an additional agenda item, put forward by the Congo (document A/63/233) on "recognition of sickle-cell anaemia as a public health priority" be considered directly in plenary meeting.
The Committee also recommended an item submitted by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan (A/63/234) on "granting of observer status for the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea in the General Assembly" be included in the agenda under organizational, administrative and other matters, and further recommended it be allocated to the Sixth Committee (Legal).
In addition, the Committee recommended to the Assembly its agenda item on the "Report of the Human Rights Council" be considered in plenary and in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), on the understanding that the Third Committee would act on all the Council's recommendations to the Assembly, while the Assembly would consider the report of the Council on its activities for the year.
Also before the Assembly is the report of the International Court of Justice (document A/63/4), which contains a summary of the body's work from August 2007 to July 2008, as well as background information on the Court's role in settling, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States.
In the last year, the Court's caseload remained high, with six cases under concurrent deliberation, four judgements handed down and one order on a request for the indication of provisional measures. Cases have come from the world over: three from European States, five from Latin America, two from African States, and two intercontinental. That regional diversity illustrates the Court's universality.
The subject matter of cases being heard is extremely varied, including standard territorial and maritime delimitation disputes, and disputes relating to the treatment of nationals by other State, as well as more "cutting edge" issues, such as allegations of massive human rights violations, including genocide, or the management of shared natural resources.
In order to maintain such high activity, the Court has requested an upgrading of technological support and additional posts in several departments. However, in the case of needed law clerks, only three of the nine requests have been approved. This impacts the Court's ability to offer a judicial process without unacceptable delay. The Court will, in its budget submission for the 2010-2011 biennium, reiterate its request for these posts, as well as other requests for reinforcing Registry staff, among others. In its unique role as the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, the Court warrants the budgetary and financial support necessary to continue, as it has in the past year, the same meticulous and impartial attention to all cases coming before it.
The Assembly also has before it the report of the Secretary-General's Trust Fund to Assist States in the Settlement of Disputes through the International Court of Justice (document A/63/229). Established in 1989 under the Financial Regulations and Rules of the United Nations, the Fund allows any Member State, any other State party to the Statue of the International Court of Justice or any State not party to the Statute to apply for financial assistance.
The report states that, in March 2007, the Secretary-General received an application from Djibouti to defray expenses incurred from proceedings presented before the International Court of Justice that were initiated by Djibouti in the case Certain Questions of Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Djibouti v. France). An initial advance of $136,260 was presented in January 2008. No further requests have been received.
The report goes on to note that the Fund, which was created to facilitate judicial settlements before the Court, has been supported by generous donations from Finland, Mexico, Spain, the United Kingdom and Venezuela. However, donations have exceeded contributions by double, and the Secretary-General requests that Member States give serious consideration to supporting the Fund by substantial means.
Also before the Assembly is the fourth annual report of the International Criminal Court (document A/63/323), which covers the main developments in the Court's activities and other developments relevant to the relationship between the Court and the United Nations. During the 1 August 2007 to 31 July 2008 reporting period, the Prosecutor continued to investigate situations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Uganda; Darfur, the Sudan; and the Central African Republic.
In the case of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, Trial Chamber I stayed proceedings and ordered the unconditional release of the accused, in light of non-disclosure by the prosecution of potentially exculpatory evidence. Mr. Lubanga remains in custody, pending the outcome of the appeals proceedings. The Court also issued four new arrest warrants: three in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and one in the Central African Republic.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui were surrendered to the Court on 17 October 2007 and 7 February 2008 respectively, both charged with nine counts of war crimes and four counts of crimes against humanity. A decision on the confirmation of the charges was due by 26 September 2008.
In the Central African Republic, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo surrendered to the Court on 3 July 2008, charged with three counts of crimes against humanity and five counts of war crimes. A hearing to confirm those charges is due on 4 November 2008.
On 14 July, the Prosecutor submitted an arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir on counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Seven arrest warrants are still outstanding: four in Uganda, two in Darfur, Sudan, and one in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. All have been outstanding for over a year, as the Court does not have power to arrest persons, and must rely on States and international organizations. The Court continued to strengthen its cooperation with States, the United Nations and other actors with a view to ensuring support in all areas.
The Assembly also has before it the Secretary-General's report on Expenses incurred and reimbursement received by the United Nations in connection with assistance provided to the International Criminal Court (document A/63/471) detailing and itemizing the financial support and services of $989,785, which was provided to the International Criminal Court from the United Nations during the period between October 2004 and August 2008. These funds include reimbursement for conference and related services, field security costs, library services and document digitization.
The report also includes financial documentation to the amount of $102,253 during the period between October 2004 and August 2008 for transportation and services provided by the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the International Criminal Court. The Court has regularly reimbursed the United Nations upon receipt of invoices.
Introduction of the Report of the International Court of Justice
President of the International Court of Justice, ROSALYN HIGGINS, describing the year to 31 July 2008 as a "period of intense judicial activity", said that for the past two years, the Court had worked to maximize its throughput, always dealing with more than one case at a time, producing judgements in a timely fashion, and never sacrificing quality. By applying such work methods, it had managed a very full schedule of cases.
"This year, the Court has had the most productive year in its history," she said, having handed down four substantive judgements and one order on a request for the indication of provisional measures.
During the reporting period, the Court held hearings in four cases, she said: between Malaysia and Singapore; Djibouti and France; Croatia and Serbia; and Mexico and the United States. In August, the Court had received a new case submitted by Georgia, which had also requested provisional measures. The Court's Statute provided for such requests with high priority over all other proceedings, and as such, the Court issued its Order on those measures two weeks ago. That case was among five new cases submitted to the Court in the past year.
She said cases decided in the last year had involved States from every United Nations regional group, and that the Court's universal character had been reflected in the matters addressed: human rights, territorial sovereignty, mutual legal assistance, maritime delimitation and interpretation of an earlier judgement, among them.
Discussing specific judgements, she said the Court, in October 2007, found that islands at the centre of the case entitled Territorial and Maritime Dispute between Nicaragua and Honduras in the Caribbean Sea belonged to Honduras. In December 2007, the Court decided in the case of Territorial and Maritime Dispute ( Nicaragua v. Colombia), that the Treaty signed by the two countries in 1928 settled the sovereignty over the islands of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina. There had been no extant legal dispute on that question, and the Court could not have jurisdiction.
In May 2008, in the case of Sovereignty over Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge, between Malaysia and Singapore, the Court awarded sovereignty over Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh to Singapore. Malaysia should be considered to have retained original title to Middle Rocks, while sovereignty over the South Ledge belonged to the State in whose territorial waters it was located, she added.
In June 2008, the Court delivered a judgement on a "completely different type of case": Certain Questions of Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, between Djibouti and France, the first time it pronounced on a dispute brought to it by an application based on Article 38, paragraph 5 of the Rules of Court, she said. In that dispute to determine whether France had violated its obligations under the 1986 Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, the Court concluded that as France had failed to comply with its international obligation.
In addition to those substantive judgements, the Court had pronounced on two requests for provisional measures, she said, the first of which had been submitted by Mexico against the United States, by which the Court said the United States was to take all measures necessary to ensure that five Mexican nationals were not executed, pending judgement on the "request for interpretation of the 2004 Avena Judgement".
Another 14 August request came in connection with the case on Application of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Georgia v. Russian Federation), she said. The Court issued its Order two weeks ago, requiring both parties to, among other things, "do all in their power to ensure the security of persons, the right of persons to freedom of movement and residence, and the protection of property of displaced persons and of refugees".
Looking ahead, she said the Court's composition would change in February, when new Members elected by the General Assembly and Security Council took their places on the Bench. Until that time, the Court was preparing judgements in the Croatia v. Serbia, Mexico v. United States of America and Romania v. Ukraine cases. It would hold open hearings in March in the Dispute regarding Navigational and Related Rights between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, and later in the year, hear the case on Pulp Mills on the River Uruguay, between Argentina and Uruguay.
She said only three of nine law clerk posts requested had been approved, and reminded delegates that the Court was the only major international tribunal that did not have one law clerk assigned to each judge. The pace of work could not be sustained without such assistance, and she reiterated the request to create six law clerk posts. The Court would also request additional new posts, and seek funds to replace and modernize the conference systems. The requested amount would cover installation of up-to-date information technology on the judges' bench, which would facilitate immediate data sharing.
"The principal judicial organ of the United Nations cannot work as a court with archaic facilities," she said. It was all part and parcel of greater efficiency. In relation to its current docket, the Court had 20 ad hoc judges; over the past six years, the Court had had 40. "They perform admirable service", she said, noting that they now represent 2 per cent of the Court's annual budget.
Recalling the Botswana/Namibia case (1999), in which neither Party had a national on the Bench, she said the Court believed that where two States appeared before it, neither of which had a national on the Bench, that they consider the "Botswana/Namibia" model. The principle of equality among judges was central to the court's functioning as the United Nations' principle judicial organ.
She said it was of great importance that the proposed pension scheme for judges in service, and for retired judges and their dependents, not lead to a decrease in real terms. Despite repeated requests, there was no mechanism in place to effectively adjust for the cost-of-living increases in the value of the United States dollar. The Court continued to count on the Assembly's understanding on those points. In closing, she said the Court greatly valued the trust placed in it by the United Nations.
KEITH MORRILL (Canada), speaking also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand (CANZ), said the group continued to strongly support the International Criminal Court in its role as the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. The diversity in its cases demonstrated its universal character and the unique role it played in international justice. CANZ appreciated that the Court's significant workload required it to juggle urgent requests for indication of provisional measure, while maintaining momentum of other cases, as it considered preliminary matters.
He said that CANZ appreciated the ongoing efforts made by the Court to increase its efficiency and sustain its increased workload. It had a full caseload and had 12 cases formally pending. CANZ recognized that for the Court to continue handling several cases at once, regular replacement and modernization of technological systems and equipment was required.
CANZ welcomed the organ's vital role in the peaceful settlement of international disputes and strengthening the international legal order as mandated by the Charter. Wider acceptance of compulsory jurisdiction enables the Court to fulfil its role more effectively. He urged Member States, whom had not done so, to deposit with the Secretary-General a declaration of acceptance of the Court's compulsory jurisdiction.
MIRIAM DEFENSOR-SANTIAGO, Senator, Philippines, commended the efforts of the International Court of Justice in increasing its efficiency by conducting regular re-examination and review of its proceedings and working methods, which had led to four successful hearings, among other activities. She also commended its speedy reaction to a request from Georgia concerning racial discrimination, as well as the latest General Assembly request for an advisory opinion on Kosovo.
In addition, she noted the Assembly's contributions towards sustaining the Court's efforts to improve its working methods by providing the Court with much-needed additional posts, and favourably responding to its concerns of alleviating possible inequity regarding terms of service of members of the Court. She urged Member States to provide the Court with "the necessary means", so that it could continue its proper, effective, efficient functioning.
The universality of the Court was reflected in the variety of cases now pending before it, which involved European, Latin American and African States. She noted increasing web accessibility to its decisions for the public was noted as a way to strengthen the foundations of the rule of law, increase respect for it, and promote effective implementation of judicial decisions. The need to rely on the rule of law was clear in a complex and increasingly interdependent world. The nature of the Court's cases demonstrated that, though territorial disputes were still its staple, certain consequences of global interdependence, such as complex or cutting edge issues involving massive human rights violations or shared natural resources were now before the body.
Continuing, she said armed conflicts in the new millennium had drawn attention to ethnic and religious differences, and now represented new challenges to the international public order, which raised the importance of international humanitarian law. Viewing the recent steady increase of the reliance of States, entities, and even individuals on specialized tribunals and judicial forums to cope with growing demands of interdependence, she stated that the Philippines viewed that development as an increase in the reliance on the rule of law as a "bulwark against brutal force and war", not as a public decline in the Court's confidence. Therefore, the Court was expected to provide the basic framework of case law and norms, harmonious jurisprudence in general international law, and guidance of such specialized tribunals.
She strongly affirmed her country's unqualified support for the Court's work and its "invaluable" role in the promotion of international legal order based on the primacy of the rule of law and peaceful settlement of disputes. She concluded by stating that the Court's increased workload indicates an increasing trust and confidence in its ability to strengthen the rule of law, its own universality and general jurisdiction.
JORGE VOTO-BERNALES (Peru), recalling Article 1 of the United Nations Charter, by which States must settle disputes through peaceful means, said that provision was a general principle of international law. The Court was the only global body of a universal nature. Its judgements ended legal disputes, and its advisory opinions added to the provision of the rule of law. Further, the Court's impartiality gave it legitimacy. Given the sensitive nature of territorial limits and exercise of jurisdictions, States had applied to the Court for final judgements.
He said Peru was committed to the Court's work, as reflected in elements of the Bogotá Pact, whereby States agreed to find peaceful means for settling disputes. Peru unconditionally recognized the Court's jurisdiction. Urging universal acceptance, he appealed to States to accept its compulsory jurisdiction. He reiterated Peru's efforts to fulfil its obligations, and urged others to implement the Court's decisions.
On the Court's heavy workload, he said Peru was a party in one case, and recalled that other requests for provisional measures were pending. In that context, he recognized the "outstanding work" of Court judges, who had shown "great managerial ability". Underscoring the importance of outreach work, he trusted that archived audio-visual material would be on the website.
He said the Court must have the necessary legal support staff, and means to deal with daily documentation, which would allow it to quickly resolve disputes. States must concern themselves with the costs borne by the Court. The establishment of the Trust Fund meant States could avail themselves of financial assistance. He thanked those that had contributed to that Fund.
SANGEETA KUMARI SINGH DEO ( India) said the Court had dealt with a variety of legal issues over the last 60 years, and its judgments had covered disputes from sovereignty over islands to nationality and asylum. With sensitivity to the political realities and sentiments of States, the Court had asserted its judicial functions. It had consistently rejected arguments to deny its jurisdiction on grounds that grave political considerations were involved in a case in which it otherwise found proper jurisdiction for itself.
Thereby, the Court had clearly emphasized the role of international law in regulating inter-State relations, which were necessarily political. The Court's advisory function helped clarify law and remove ambiguities, thus helping the United Nations and its organs carry out the Organization's objectives, she said.
The Court's docket had grown significantly in recent years, and it continued to enjoy universal support and respect. It was now frequently called upon to deal directly with complex substantive issues of international law from around the world. She hoped the Assembly would be able to approve the Court's request for nine law clerk posts. The assistance was critical, given the increasing number of "fact-intensive" cases. Judges of all other Tribunals enjoyed that facility, she added.
As the number of specialised regional and international courts and bodies increased, the challenge was finding a balance between the need for diversity and specialized regimes and solutions, while maintaining an overall framework or "system" of international law that offered a sufficient degree of security and coherence. To that end, she welcomed the initiative taken by the Court to hold regular dialogue between other international judicial bodies and tribunals, with a view towards improving the unity of international law and addressing issues involving overlapping jurisdiction. The Court's phenomenal docket explosion gave testimony to its high standing in the United Nations system and the international community.
MAGED ABDELAZIZ ( Egypt) stressed the need to enhance the abilities of countries, the United Nations and its specialized agencies to request advisory opinions from the Court in important cases, since those decisions developed and codified rules of international law and consolidated the principles of justice and equality on the international level. The opinions also garnered high moral and legal value that would promote international peace and security.
Comprehensive reform of the United Nations should include the Court as one of the principle organs of the Organization. That would ensure the world body's effectiveness and would make it capable of coping with today's demands, particularly in that the rule of law would become dominant in international relations and at the national level, he said.
The outcome of the Assembly's World Summit in 2005 mandated Member States to study means of promoting the Court. Egypt proposed that the Assembly hold an informal debate, under the presidency of the Assembly, with the participation of the Court's President and Registrar, to pinpoint the main problems hindering the Court's optimal operation, and proposals to overcome the problems. Those could occur after finishing the current review by the Court of its proceedings and working methods, as mentioned in paragraph 18 of the Report.
It was essential that the Court provided advisory opinions on controversial issues being raised within the new concepts introduced by the United Nations, whether on human rights, natural resources, or issues being used as an excuse to interfere in the domestic affairs of States in violation of the international law principles or the United Nations Charter, he said.
FARUKH AMIL ( Pakistan) commended the accomplishments of Judge Higgins and the International Court of Justice, whose work, "especially during these times, is essential to challenging the havoc wrought upon human society by the frequent use of force by State and non-State actors". He also noted that 66 of the 192 Member States accepted compulsory jurisdiction of the Court and that Pakistan was one of them.
That the number of cases handled by the Court had increased over the last ten years gave encouragement to the effectiveness to its judicial proceedings. However, he pointedly observed that the problem lay not with the Court's efforts, but with the cooperation and compliance of Member States who were reluctant, due to the weakness of their cases or other political considerations, to accept the body's jurisdiction. Furthermore, the Court's jurisdiction, stated in Article 69 of its Statues, in matters of the General Assembly and the Security Council needed to be honoured, supported and utilized for successful peaceful settlements of disputes and conflict prevention.
Remarking on specific cases, he expressed the view that in the case between Nicaragua and Honduras, the Court's approach to the matter could also be used to settle disputes related to small islands, but not serve as a general precedent in such cases. In the cases between Nicaragua and Columbia, as well Malaysia and Singapore, he noted again the willingness of all parties to settle their dispute through peaceful means. Such cooperation was a great example for the international community, as it contributed to long-term peaceful coexistence through the respect of the rule of law and justice based on an international legal system.
SAYEMAN BULA-BULA, Expert in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, noting that the Court had dealt with 15 cases, said it was unnecessary to dwell on the classic jurisprudence on the Law of the Sea. The Diallo case, a vestige of the past, which archaeologists wished to exhume, involved diplomatic protection. It was time to spare the judges of the case, for, as had been said in 1983, they were "far removed" from the domestic laws involved in that awkward case. He thanked the Court for streamlining its procedures.
An herbicide case between Ecuador and Colombia, and another between Hungary and Slovakia, related to environmental law, which was closely linked to the right to sustainable development, he said. Recalling a 1997 case, which had established a "fruitful precedent", particularly for dealing with climate change, he said the African Charter on Human Rights and Peoples had enshrined the right to development, which, today, was part of international law. The Gabcikovo-Nagymaros case had opened a "new chapter" with its jurisprudence.
He noted a tendency to bring complaints at the criminal level, citing the 11 April 2000 dispute between France and the Congo; and another between Djibouti and France, which was still before the Court. The mutual assistance case ruling two years later, and submitted in January 2006, had not yet dealt with the immunity of organs of a foreign State. The case involving Avena and other Mexican nationals concerned a violation of consular rights, and the Court had ruled that Orders were mandatory and binding. As such, the Party that had not implemented the Order for provisional measures faced legal consequences, which unfortunately had not happened. The Court's credibility was at stake.
On recourse to the use of force, he said that matter had come up in armed activities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That matter had been settled in 2005, with the Court's judgement superseding other rulings dating back to 2003. It was important to read paragraphs 304 and 345, among others, in the Court's findings. Relations were being restored between the two countries involved, and he expected the issue of compensation to be resolved in a just, equitable manner, as described in the 2005 judgement. The Democratic Republic of the Congo would like to share its "wealth of experience" with the international community, as it had been involved in five cases of the Court.
EBENEZER APPREKU ( Ghana) said the growing confidence of the State parties in the Court's Statue had been shown by the number of treaties and other international agreements, including those signed by Ghana, that contained provisions for the settlement of disputes by the Court, if negotiations, mediation, conciliation or arbitration failed. That was true even for States that had not accepted the Court's compulsory jurisdiction.
He said that at the global level, and particularly in Africa, there was a "happy coincidence" in the decreasing number of armed conflicts and the increasing number of disputes brought before the Court for peaceful resolution. A considerable number of the cases involved African States as parties. Ghana noted the regular dialogue between the Court and other international tribunals and the respective ad hoc tribunals for the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone, among others.
Such cooperation ensured the promotion of universality in regional and geographical terms, as well as the universality of jurisprudence, he said. Ghana encouraged increased dialogue between the Court and the newly created regional and subregional courts in Africa to strengthen capacity-building and deepen the rule of law at the regional and subregional levels.
The need for adequate funding for the Court had become more urgent, given that many cases that had direct or indirect bearing on the three pillars of the United Nations agenda: peace and security, human rights, and development. Ghana also welcomed the Court's efforts to ensure financial accountability by using a reporting mechanism under which the Registrar reported more frequently to the Budget and Finance Committee of the Court. He also recognized the contribution of the Secretary-General's Trust Fund, which helped increase the access of less endowed States to the Court.
Noting the more than 60 years of cases considered by the Court, including on the right of navigation, immunity, and Law of the Sea, MOURAD BENMEHIDI (Algeria) said that judgments in those proceedings had contributed to the codification of international law. The volume of cases also displayed the international community's confidence in the Court's jurisprudence, impartiality, and independence. He also welcomed the Court's judgements, notably in the field of territorial navigation concerning Nicaragua, and in a request from Mexico for provisional measures.
However, he regretted that the Court, as the principle judicial body of the United Nations, suffered from a lack of resources, and that its requests to address relevant issues had only been partially satisfied. The Assembly must, therefore, make available the human and financial means the Court needed for its work. He went on to express appreciation for the Court's regular strategic planning meetings, as such dynamism had allowed it to clear its backlog of cases. Observation and implementation of the judgments were of capital importance for the parties concerned and the entire international community, he added.
She also highlighted the importance of the Court's Advisory Opinions, and urged all Member States to consider and continue requesting such decisions. Indeed, the Court's Advisory Opinions should not "remain a dead letter". For example, he highlighted advisory opinions concerning the separation wall being constructed by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories, and the recent General Assembly request for an advisory opinion on Kosovo's February 2008 declaration of independence, all of which add to the jurisprudence of the Court.
SIMONA MICULESCU ( Romania) said her country attached great importance to the Court's crucial role in promoting the rule of law in international relations, as proven by Romania's decision to seize the Court with the issue of solving the maritime delimitation concerning the continental shelf, and the exclusive zones between Romania and Ukraine in the Black Sea. The decision was a clear recognition by Romania of the Court's professionalism and an expression of full confidence of the United Nation's main legal body's impartiality.
In that regard, Romania was extremely satisfied with the speed the Court handled the matter and was highly appreciative of all its services, she said, adding that Romania was confident the Court would reach an equitable solution, in respect of the delimitation of the maritime spaces of the two countries, through the correct application of the relevant international law, and pledged Romania's commitment to comply with the body's decision. She was also pleased to note Ukraine's commitment to abide by the judgement, adding that the pledges by the two countries were proof of maturity and also of the friendly relations that both countries enjoyed.
Looking to the future and the challenges before the Court, she said it was clear the Court would have to deal with more complex cases regarding matters of great importance to States directly concerned, as well as to the international community. That showed the international community's increasing confidence in the impartiality and the high quality of the Court's work, as well as the role the Court was called to play in maintaining international peace and security.
GORDON H. BRISTOL ( Nigeria) noted that the past year has been the most productive in the Court's history, resulting in four substantive judgments and two orders, hearings on four cases, and three judgments currently deliberated, with five new cases having been added. Additionally, the Court had been given jurisdiction in approximately 300 bilateral and multilateral treaties in resolving their application or interpretation. It also had been involved in cases of massive human rights violations, including genocide, and shared natural resource management. Its increasing caseload, therefore, called for allocation of adequate and fitting resources, he said.
He went on to note the Court's adoption of procedural innovations and initiatives for better efficiency and for the elimination of its backlog of cases, which included simplification of Court deliberations, improvement in working methods, periodic Practice Directions, and the launch of its new website. He also recognized the Court's invaluable contributions to the progressive development of international law, and commended its regular and "refreshing" exchanges between other international courts and tribunals. Such dialogue contributed to coherent decision-making and prevented the fragmentation of international law.
In August of 2008, Nigeria had completed "painstakingly" taken steps to implement the International Court of Justice judgment received in 2002, he stated, as a clear demonstration of the country's deep commitment to international peace and security. He urged fellow Member States to take their disputes to the Court to ensure their peaceful resolution, and to expand the Court's future contributions to the development and dissemination of international law.
ZACHARY D. MUBURI-MUITA ( Kenya) said the past judicial year had been very active for the Court, having been seized of six cases, which it addressed expeditiously. The diversity of cases before the Court illustrated its universality, and that it contributed immensely to the maintenance of global peace and security. He urged States that had not yet done so to accept the Court's compulsory jurisdiction, in accordance with article 26 of the Court's Statute.
In addition, he encouraged States, in exercise of their sovereignty, to freely submit cases to the Court. Similarly, other United Nations organs authorized by the Assembly could seek advisory opinions, to "clear any doubt" they might have on any matter. In that regard, he said increasing compliance with the Court's decisions contributed to the credibility of international law.
Continuing, he said Kenya appreciated the Court's work, and, given the significance of the rule of law in international relations, he encouraged it to continue disseminating its information to relevant institutions and States. Official visits to the Court by Heads of State reflected the recognition conferred on it. He encouraged such visits, notably as they would enhance its image as the central organ for disputes.
In the report before the Assembly, he had noted the Court's need for modern facilities, and pension claim for judges. Those two issues, in addition to staffing in the Department of Legal Matters, deserved States' positive consideration. In closing, he said, "peace and justice are inextricable", adding that the former could only be sustained if the latter was properly put in place.
JOEL M. NHLEKO ( Swaziland) supported the Member States' use of the Court and the right of United Nations institutions to seek advisory opinions on questions relating to their functions. He stressed the "utmost importance" for States to comply with the Court's decisions. When joining the Organization in 1968, Swaziland had declared its readiness to accept the Court's compulsory jurisdiction. He urged States that had not done so to consider accepting the Court's jurisdiction in accordance with its Statute.
Even with its financial difficulties, the Court had continued to "soldier on" and had determinedly dealt with an increased workload with maximum efficiency, he said, adding that his delegation was pleased the Court had cleared its backlog of cases. In an effort to increase and expedite the availability of Court documents, and to reduce communications costs, the Court had launched a new website that made it possible to access the Court's entire jurisprudence since 1946. That project ensured wider global awareness of its activities. He appealed to the Organization to provide the Court with the necessary tools for its service to humanity.
The role of the International Court of Justice as the principle judicial organ of the United Nations could not be overstated, NORIHIRO OKUDA (Japan) said, especially in the firm establishment of international law and order. The Court's role and its decisions were truly indispensable in the present international climate where armed conflicts and acts of terrorism continued. Further, awareness was increasing among nations for international society to recognize the value of international law, as well as the value in maintaining its primacy.
Japan appreciated the Court's strenuous efforts and work over the past year in the "exhaustively deliberated" decisions. He encouraged the Court to provide a forward-looking view of the international community, not just a profound knowledge of international law, especially in light of rapid global changes and the increasing variety of international disputes.
Voicing continued full support of the International Court of Justice's work, he noted that Japan had accepted the body's compulsory jurisdiction, and he urged fellow Member States to do so also, in order to facilitate the establishment of the rule of law in the international community.
PAUL BADJI ( Senegal) said the Court was the principle link in the international legal system, and its daily work helped promote international justice and develop international law, as it strengthened the ideals of peace and justice. Senegal was deeply interested in the Court's many activities. The increasing number of cases brought before the Court indicated the widespread acceptance of the rule of law and States' growing interest in ensuring peaceful settlement of disputes.
The Court was the Organization's principle judicial organ, and it was being received with growing confidence, as States increasingly turned to it. The Court helped ensure peaceful relations between States and maintained international peace and security. Moreover, its judgments and decisions served as jurisprudence, and its legal decisions helped enrich, codify and unify international law, he said.
Senegal strongly supported the Court and advocated requisite material and human resources, so it could carry out its work. The beneficial effects of peaceful settlements of disputes were wide-ranging. He supported the Trust Fund to assist States as they brought cases to the Court. He agreed with the Secretary-General's appeal to States to make regular contributions to that Fund.
CARLOS ENRIQUE GARCÍA-GONZÁLEZ ( El Salvador) said increased confidence in the Court had been seen in the growing number of disputes being brought before it. He welcomed the varied nature of those disputes -- ranging from maritime delimitations and treatment of nationals, to human rights and shared natural resources -- matters which were complex and involved several phases.
He said El Salvador acknowledged the "outstanding" legal value of the Court's judgements, which had led to the establishment of guidelines, and the progressive development of the rule of law. He also welcomed the establishment of the Court's new website, which extended its global reach. In closing, he recalled that the Assembly and the Security Council would elect judges to the Court, and he invited those who would be elected to ensure commitment displayed by the Court to date.
KOK LI PENG ( Singapore) attached great importance to international law, and had worked with like-minded States to strengthen the rule of law. Her Government believed in peaceful dispute settlement, and, when States could not resolve differences through consultations, referring a dispute to a binding third-party procedure: either arbitration or adjudication.
The Court was important in enunciating principles of international law that guided inter-State relations, she continued, noting its critical role in upholding the rule of law around the world. There were numerous specialized courts in the United Nations system, but the Court was the principle judicial organ -- "the first amongst equals" –- and it had discharged its duties with impeccable expertise.
She described the Court's judgement on 23 May, in the case concerning Sovereignty over Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge, in which it found, among other things, that sovereignty over Pedra Branca belonged to Singapore. That judgement had marked an end to a long-standing dispute between Malaysia and Singapore. From the start of the case, both countries had agreed to abide by the Court's judgement, and, as such, a joint commitment had been repeatedly confirmed. To ensure implementation of the judgement, the countries set up a joint technical committee to resolve issues arising from the decision.
Singapore had always marvelled at how Court completed so much with its funds, she said, applauding efforts to modernize its systems. Singapore was sympathetic to its need for manpower, and she urged support for the Court by all States, and continued allocation of resources from the regular United Nations budget.
LUIS SERRADAS TAVARES ( Portugal) said it should be remembered that the Court was the only international judicial body of a universal character with general jurisdiction. As the principle judicial body of the United Nations, the Court held important responsibilities in the international community. It played a fundamental role in the judicial settlement of disputes between States and the strengthening of the international rule of law.
The increasing workload of the Court had confirmed its relevant role in the international legal system. Its work, which emanated from around the world and enveloped many issues, was growing in factual and legal complexity. The Court was impressively meeting these greater demands, but it was important for Member States to acknowledge the Court's needs for adequate resources, he said.
The Court's crucial role in the international legal system was being increasingly recognized and accepted, he continued. As of 31 July 2008, the 192 United Nations Member States were parties to the Statute of the Court and 66 had recognized its compulsory jurisdiction. In addition, about 300 bilateral and multilateral treaties gave the Court jurisdiction in the resolution of disputes stemming from their application or interpretation. He encouraged all States that had not yet done so to consider accepting the Court's compulsory jurisdiction.
TOMMO MONTHE ( Cameroon) said the role entrusted to the Court was "irreplaceable" in promoting the rule of law and finding peaceful solutions to disputes. In the ongoing search for a society in which law prevailed, the Court was the best means for ensuring a brighter future. Convinced of the importance of law in inter-State relations, his Government supported the Court as the United Nations principle judicial organ.
Indeed, the Court could be consulted on any legal issue before the Assembly and the Security Council, he said. Despite the complexity and large number of cases before it, the Court had never been so successful, having handed down four judgements in its current reporting period. Cases had come from all corners of the globe. The vitality in its handling of them derived from the high moral integrity of those who worked at the Hague-based body. In that context, he ensured Cameroon's support for the Court.
Since its founding, the Court had handed down 92 judgements, one-fifth of those in the last 10 years, he said. Cameroon believed in the rule of law, and trust in the Court should be reflected in universal acceptance of its compulsory jurisdiction. On the Court's resources, he urged responding favourably for its requests for resources, and he would closely follow that matter in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary). Cameroon was committed to the Court, and had brought a matter to its attention, which had opened a new era of peace between Cameroon and Nigeria.
JOEL HERNANDEZ GARCIA ( Mexico) noted the positive impacts of amendments to the Court's rules of procedure and working methods, as evidenced by its ability to avoid delays in its considerations, despite the constant growth of its caseload. However, he called for an increase in human resources, particularly in specialized judicial support for judges, so that they could devote more time to considerations and deliberations. He also called for assistance towards the creation of a Documentary Division.
Further proof of the universal character of the Court lay in the controversies currently under its consideration, with five of its fifteen current cases involving Latin American States, along with two others which had ties to that region. Of note were cases involving the establishment of the sovereignty of the Islands of Cayo Bobel, Cayo Port Royal and Cayo Sur, as well as Honduras, and the dismissal of the use of equidistant lines for delimitation of maritime zones between States, he said.
In Mexico's case before the Court regarding Avena and other Mexican nationals, Mexico had requested interpretation of a Court decision and the stopping of execution orders, which indicated the country's trust in the United Nations main judicial body as the suitable forum for peaceful dispute settlement. The scope of topics covered in the Court's cases was expansive, with most concerning territorial and maritime delimitation disputes. Others were related to treatment given to nationals of other States, gross violation of human rights such as genocide, and the management of natural resources. In closing, he called for all the Court's decisions to be translated into the official United Nations languages.
MOUSTAFA EL-SHAREEF ( Sudan) said the International Court of Justice was among the "strongest" courts of justice, and an honest guardian of the rule of law, rather than the rule of hegemony and violence. The multiplicity of legal disputes submitted to the Court, notably those between European Union States, as well as other maritime disputes, was the basis of the Court's universality. He noted the growing number of cases, and that the Court had reached decisions on many of them. That had deepened trust in the Court's ability to discharge the United Nations most urgent task: peaceful dispute settlement under the umbrella of international law.
Stressing the need to abide by the Court's decisions, he noticed that some parties had not heeded its Advisory Opinions, which hampered promotion of rule of law. He praised the Court for disseminating information about its work, which had helped to strengthen relations with other legal entities. Thanking all the Court's judges who worked with a high level of professionalism and transparency, he reiterated Sudan's support for the Court in a way that would allow it to achieve justice and the rule of law.
Introduction of the Report of the International Criminal Court
Presenting the annual report of the International Criminal Court, President PHILIPPE KIRSCH updated the Assembly on developments over the past year, explaining that four situations were before the Court: three referred by States parties to the Rome Statute -- the Court's founding document -- and one by the Security Council.
Turning first to the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said preparations continued for the trial of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, who was accused of enlisting children under age 15 to participate in hostilities. The Appeals Chamber on 21 October reversed a Trial Chamber decision to release Mr. Lubanga, ruling that the Chamber had not considered all relevant factors. In separate proceedings, the Prosecutor had worked with the providers of potentially exculpatory evidence to lift confidentiality restrictions, which had prevented him from disclosing materials to the defence. The decision on Mr. Lubanga's release and the Prosecutor's new application were now before the Trial Chamber.
In the same situation, the Democratic Republic of the Congo had surrendered Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui to the Court on 7 February; his case subsequently had joined that of Germain Katanga, who had been surrendered in October 2007, and preparations were underway for their trial.
Turning to the situation in the Central African Republic, he said Belgium had surrendered, on 3 July, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, who was suspected of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity; the date for his hearing in Pre-Trial Chamber III was to be determined.
In other cases, proceedings continued, but were limited by the lack of arrest of seven individuals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and in Darfur, Sudan. The Court had issued requests for arrest and surrender to States on whose territories those individuals might be found. The Court's 14 July application to Pre-Trial Chamber I for an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was pending before the judges, who would decide whether there were reasonable grounds to believe he had committed crimes within the Court's jurisdiction. In addition, the Prosecutor indicated he was looking into situations concerning Colombia, Georgia, Afghanistan, Côte d'Ivoire and Kenya.
As to where the Court stood today, Mr. Kirch said fifty years after the historic Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals, serious crimes continued to be committed with impunity. Justice was too often "bargained away", and victims endured the double indignation of having suffered harm and been denied recourse to justice. However, the Court's creation reflected States' resolve to fundamentally shift international relations from a "culture of impunity" to an approach based on respect for justice.
"Like justice itself, the Court is impartial and enduring," he said. As an independent institution, it stood as a bulwark against the temptation to bargain away justice, created by States to complement national jurisdictions.
The significance of States' contributions to the Court had been evident in that they had entrusted the Court to prosecute crimes fairly, where national courts were unwilling or unable to do so. "The Court has never yet chosen itself to intervene in any situation, in any region, in any country," he said. It had only complied with its judicial mandate as requested by the States concerned or by the Security Council.
Cooperation among States, international organizations and civil society was essential to the Court's functioning, notably in ensuring respect for its judicial mandate, he said.
As to the Court's future, he said the Court was at a critical stage. Though it was far too early to pass judgement on its success, early indications were "decidedly positive". Long-term success would depend on it fulfilling its mandate.
Given that, he said the Court would do its part to ensure judicial impartiality: investigate crimes, in line with the principle of complementarity; guarantee the rights of accused; develop a body of jurisprudence; protect victims and witnesses; and in all proceedings, strive for the highest standards of efficiency and transparency.
However, the Court -– and its system –- had been created by States to help achieve certain objectives mentioned in the Rome Statute. That system could only work if all actors consistently played their part. The extent of ratification of the Rome Statute would affect the Court's ability to exercise its jurisdiction; universal ratification was needed, he said. Legal obligations to cooperate with the Court must be met, and additional cooperation was needed, most obviously in States' execution of arrest warrants. He invited States that had not yet done so to conclude agreements on the protection of witnesses and enforcement of sentences.
Most critically, States, international organizations and civil society must respect, and ensure respect for, the Court's independence, he said. Two groundbreaking legal texts –- the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights -– were embodied in the Court's activities. That the Court was needed testified to how often such principles had been violated. How well the global community succeeded in establishing new politics based on justice "is up to us". The Court would do its part to that end.
"Substantial progress" was made by the International Criminal Court, said JEAN-MAURICE RIPERT (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union, in investigations and prosecutions in four ongoing proceedings, particularly those regarding the Democratic Republic of the Congo , the Central African Republic and Sudan. The Court has been asked to rule on procedural issues which were critical in future trials, especially in the participation of victims or rights of defence, which were key to its present case against Thomas Lubanga Dyilo.
The Court's membership had increased to 108 State parties, with the addition of Suriname and the Cook Islands, and all those members, primarily those from the European Union, had continued their active support of the Court in the successful pursuit of universality under the Rome Statute. Effective cooperation with the Court and support of all State parties was essential in accomplishment of the Court's mission, as was evidenced by those arrested thus far.
Therefore, the European Union expressed full support of the Court in the quick execution of arrest warrants, especially in Darfur and Uganda. He urged the Sudanese Government to fully cooperate with the Court in its non-negotiable obligation to implement that body's decision. He went on to encourage implementation of the principle of "complementarity" established by the Rome Statute, in efforts against impunity and for the achievement of the Court's objectives.
Concerning the use of "universal jurisdiction", he noted that the Court was an international body, with its legitimacy and prerogatives drawn from an international treaty. Improvements in relations between the European Union and the Court had been made in the signing of a cooperation agreement in 2006, followed by a formalization of agreements regarding classified information.
He went on to welcome the election of new judges and clerks. Turning to the victims involved in cases, he said the Court's advocacy and communication efforts with them was welcomed, and, particularly in cases involving the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda, it was essential to involve civil society to reach those affected. He hoped the activities of the Victims Fund would soon be clearly visible to all, as a reminder that the Rome Statute was created for crime victims within the Court's jurisdiction. In closing, he said the Court, as a fundamental tool to combat impunity for the most serious crimes "undermining the very essence of humanity" and for prevention and deterrence of violence.
GAIL P. GUY (Trinidad and Tobago), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which were States parties to the Rome Statute, noted that 2008 marked the tenth anniversary of the Statute's adoption. In a relatively short period, 108 Member States had become parties to the Statute and conferred to the Court the jurisdiction to prosecute those crimes referred to in Article 5 of the Statute. Over the past 10 years, the Court had shown it was an independent, impartial tribunal. Its achievements on issues emanating from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, the Sudan and the Central African Republic had shown it was at the centre of the international criminal justice system.
The Court continued to demonstrate fairness and impartiality, while scrupulously observing the fundamental tenets of due process. States needed to respect their treaty obligations and cooperate with the court, in order to benefit all who advocated for justice, and, especially, to bring relief to hapless crime victims. The effective and timely cooperation of States parties was essential for the execution of arrest warrants, the surrender of accused persons and the protection and relocation of witnesses, she said. Cooperation would also ensure that the rights of victims to participate in the trials of alleged offenders would not be compromised. He called on States parties, especially situation countries, to cooperate fully with the Court, so as to promote international peace and justice and an end to impunity.
The Rome Statue contemplated an International Criminal Court that had complementary jurisdiction with national courts, and States parties had an obligation to implement legislation in their domestic legal systems that gave full effect to their obligations. The Statute's preamble contemplated cooperation between the Court and the United Nations, and there had been increased cooperation, notable in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, between both bodies in the past year, she said.
She said CARICOM reiterated its commitment to the principles and objectives enshrined in the Rome Statue. The existence of a permanent international criminal tribunal was an important pillar for the maintenance and promotion of the rule of law at the national and international levels. The imminent closure of the ad hoc tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, created by the Security Council, made the Court an essential element in the international criminal justice system.
Speaking also on behalf of CANZ, ROBERT HILL ( Australia) lauded the surrendering of Germain Katanga, Mathieu Chui and Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo to the Court, as examples of successful international cooperation. However, for the Court to overcome the challenges of being reliant on cooperation and support from others so that it could fully realize its mandate, Member States needed to commit to enhanced and expanded support, as well as resources to and cooperation with the Court.
In that regard, CANZ called upon, among others, the Government of Sudan, to act on the arrest warrants for Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs, Ahmad Harun, as well as militia leader, Ali Kushayb, and deliver them to the Court for trial. That would strengthen the rule of law and support international criminal justice.
On the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statues, there were now 108 States party ratifications and accessions, and that occasion presented a chance to reflect on the Court's achievements, as well as to recommit support to that body. Over the last year, he said Australia and New Zealand had worked regionally with Pacific Island States to encourage their ratification and implementation of the Statutes.
Further, since 2000, Canada's Global Peace and Security Fund provided more than $10 million to support events and projects that supported ratification and implementation of the Statute, the operations and the education outreach of the Court and other international criminal tribunals, including the publication of the third edition of the Manual for the Ratification and Implementation of the Rome Statute, he said.
Offering CANZ's deep appreciation and well wishes for the departing Judge Kirsch, he concluded by stating that any use of Article 16 to defer cases needed to be engaged only in exceptional circumstances. The Court had reached, in its sixth year, a crucial stage of development to being an effective global justice system, and CANZ was committed to continuing its unwavering support to this end.
PETER MAURER ( Switzerland) said while the Statute provided the Court with the legal means to fulfil its tasks, it did not grant it the competence to implement its decisions, thereby making it heavily reliant on the cooperation of States to accomplish its tasks.
In that context, he welcomed the cooperation of certain States, which made possible, in particular, the transfer of three defendants during the year under review, in connection with the situations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic. However, he was concerned that, at the moment, no less than seven arrest warrants were still pending execution, and stressed that it was the responsibility of States to support the Court and to cooperate fully with it. Without such cooperation, "the Court will simply not be able to carry out its mandate".
Switzerland also considered the protection of witnesses a central element in the good governance of international criminal justice, and to that end, commended the measures that had been taken, and the new methods of protection that had been put in place in cooperation with national and local authorities to strengthen witness protection. He welcomed, also, the continuing collaboration between the United Nations and the Court, stating that such cooperation was essential for the facilitation of the Court's operations on the ground.
Continuing, he pointed out that, over the past year, some criticism of the Court had been voiced in connection with the institution of proceedings and with requests for arrest warrants. He considered such reaction as usable proof and illustration of the fact that the Court today was well established and anchored in the international system and its activities were having a tangible impact. He reiterated his country's conviction that justice and peace were mutually reinforcing and fundamentally complementary.
STEFAN BARRIGA ( Liechtenstein) said his country was satisfied that the Court had made progress in its judicial work, and he particularly welcomed the additional arrests stemming from situations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic. During the reporting period, the number of suspects in the Court's custody had increased from one to four, and up to three trials were expected to take place in 2009. Yet, Liechtenstein was gravely concerned that seven arrest warrants were awaiting execution, some of them outstanding for more than three years.
The Court had shown the signs of a healthy judicial institution, with a clear balance between all organs of the Court and decisions delivered by judges acting in chambers. Over the past few months, its activities had received extraordinary attention in the public sphere, especially for the Prosecutor's application for a warrant of arrest against the President of the Sudan, currently under consideration by a Pre-Trial Chamber. Liechtenstein fully respected the independence of the Court and would not comment on the specifics of cases before it.
Regarding the issue of the Court's jurisdiction, States Parties were obligated to cooperate fully with investigations. That obligation did not emanate solely from the Rome Statute, but from Security Council resolutions, such as resolution 1593 (2005), referring the situation in Darfur to the Court. The obligation to cooperate was firmly rooted in the United Nations Charter and was, in principle, not any different from the obligation to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. He called on all States to abide by their obligations under international law to cooperate fully with the Court.
Finally, he welcomed the new State Parties, calling recent ratification of the Rome Statute another step closer to universality. Every ratification of the Statue constituted another step towards a more effective rule of law at the international level.
Though the International Criminal Court had made significant progress, LUIS ENRIQUE CHAVEZ ( Peru) noted that its States parties and the United Nations still "have a long way to travel". Universality was necessary, especially in ratifying the Rome Statute, since many States had not yet done so. States parties should comply with the Statute, through the enforcement of warrants, the detainment and delivery to Court of those accused, and in the protection of witnesses. He also expressed concern for those individuals wanted for arrest who had not been delivered or detained, and he urged States parties to take immediate action in that regard, as there would be no lasting peace or security while perpetrators of crimes envisaged impunity.
Peru, for its part, had already implemented a section of its judicial procedural code in accordance with the Rome Statute. Increased cooperation between the Court and the United Nations enabled the Court to accomplish valuable work, especially in the fields where the United Nations had a presence, and in the raising of awareness and dissemination of the Court's work. Help from all organs of the United Nations was necessary, as well as from State parties and the Security Council. Moreover, more assistance was needed for the "proper premises" to carry out International Criminal Court activities in the best conditions possible, he said.
With some 3,443 communications received, and situations referred to it by both States and the Security Council, the Court was worthy of praise from the international community. In terms of defining the crime of aggression as a pending task under the Rome Statute, he expressed hope that the upcoming seventh Meeting of the States Parties on the Statute would lead to its better definition.
MANUEL DE JESÚS PÍREZ PÉREZ ( Cuba) said the Court's lack of independence was concerning, considering the way in which its relations with the Security Council had been defined. Article 16 of the Statue gave the Council the power to suspend the Court's investigations or indictments. Article 5 purported to regulate, in the future, the Court's jurisdiction to the ruling that the Security Council could make on the existence of an act of aggression committed by a State. Those two elements questioned the true efficiency and independence of the Court.
He said basic expectations set at the beginning of the process, such as the elaboration of a definition of the crime of aggression had not yet been met. He hoped the Special Working Group on the Crime of Aggression, open to all Member States could carry out its work satisfactorily and as soon possible. For Cuba, a small country blockaded economically and financially, and enduring countless aggressions by the greatest Power ever, it was difficult to make a decision to adhere to the Rome Statue, without a clear and precise definition of the crime of aggression.
FREDRICO BARTFELD ( Argentina) said he was happy to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute and recognized the Court's acknowledgment within the framework of international law since that time. True national reconciliation was not possible in countries in conflict or during the subsequent peacebuilding process if universal values were not respected. All perpetrators of crimes against humanity, the crime of genocide and war crimes, should be taken to justice without any distinction.
This year, 108 States had become Parties to the Rome Statute and 63 States had become Parties or Signatories of the Agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the Court. There had been certain advances in the area of cooperation, demonstrated by the example of support that the Court had received from United Nations missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic, he said.
Since the Court did not have a police body, cooperation among States, the United Nations, regional organizations and other agents was essential to fulfil the objectives expressed by States Parties in the Preamble of the Rome Statue. In that regard, at the end of 2006 Argentina had implemented, in its domestic legislation, the disposition of the Rome Statute and relations of cooperation between Argentina and the Court. It had also ratified the Agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the Court so it could complete its tasks without impediment in Argentine territory.
KAUTU MICHAEL MOELETSI ( Lesotho) noted the accomplishments of the International Criminal Court, despite the shortcomings of having limited powers in some instances. That had highlighted the success and the importance of the cooperation of the United Nations and its Member States as an essential component in the Court's achievements. Furthermore, it was clear that the establishment of the Court was, in recent years, one of the most significant challenges to impunity for serious international crimes, and the champion of the rule of law and international justice.
However, an issue that concerned his delegation was that of the abuse of the principle of "universal jurisdiction", a principle that he felt some countries were inclined to use as a way to target certain African leaders, or as a way to meet political ends of individuals or countries, thus endangering international order and security. In order for the Court to be immune from any external influences and to be able to address severe situations impartially, that principle needed to be applied objectively against individuals who had committed grave offences such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
He emphasized that the Court had been created by the United Nations and needed the support and trust of the entire membership of the Organization to maintain its impartiality and independence. He concluded, as many others had, with thanks and appreciation for Judge Kirsch's accomplishments during his tenure at the Court.
MONA JUUL ( Norway) said the relationship between the Court and the United Nations was of great importance. In the United Nations' quest to promote peace and justice based on human rights -- distinct but closely related goals -– the Court was an effective tool for ending impunity and promoting the rule of law. Norway welcomed the strengthening of that relationship, and urged all States to support the Court.
The Court's success should never be evaluated solely on the basis of the number of cases before it, she explained. Rather, the Rome Statute should be measured by the overall decrease in impunity for such crimes. When national systems were unwilling or unable to bring perpetrators to justice, the principle of complementarity provided a safety net.
In that context, Norway was gravely concerned by the seven outstanding arrest warrants in the situations in Darfur, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo; four of those warrants had been outstanding for over three years, and she urged all States involved to make those warrants effective. On the situation in Darfur, she urged Sudan to cooperate fully with the Court and comply with its legal obligations without further delay.
She was pleased that, with the entry into force of the Rome Statute for Suriname and the Cook Islands on 1 October, there were now 108 States Parties to the Statute. She urged more States to become signatories to the Agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the Court. Norway expected States to comply with legal obligations under the Statute, and urged more States to enter into agreements with the Court. She pointed out that the Court was providing a courtroom and detention services, among other assistance, to the Special Court for Sierra Leone in the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor.
In closing, she said the Court should enjoy the broadest possible support from States. Norway shared the universal values attached to the protection of human dignity, which itself was enhanced by taking action against the most serious crimes affecting the global community.
EBENEZER APPREKU ( Ghana) said the Rome Statute, properly understood, aimed at reinforcing the ongoing effort to resolve prevailing tensions -- and often conflicting tendencies -- between the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of States and the undertaking by Member States to honour the obligations they had assumed under the United Nations Charter. It also included the respect for their obligations to respect human rights.
He said that by the same token, that also meant ensuring that individuals who committed genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing could not justify such heinous acts abusing State sovereignty as a sword for impunity, "and turn around to hide behind State sovereignty as a shield for immunity". In keeping with that positive attitude, the African Union had taken the lead in some respects, by enshrining in its Constitutive Act, the right of Member States to intervene in cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. In Africa, it was called the "doctrine of non-indifference", as opposed to "non-interference", he added.
Continuing, he said both the principle of "responsibility to protect", which African countries had been instrumental in achieving a consensus in having it included in the 2005 World Summit outcome document, and Africa's doctrine of non-interference, required further clarification to ensure certainty and predictability as to the circumstances that could be engaged with less controversy.
He noted that cooperation between the United Nations and the International Criminal Court continued satisfactorily during the review period and welcomed the entry into force of the Headquarters Agreement between the Court and the host State, the Netherlands. That agreement had further facilitated the Court's smooth operations in The Hague, and had brought more clarity and certainty on issues which were not adequately covered by the interim arrangements.
He went on to note that the Court had not yet completed the full cycle from the trial phase to appeal in any of the situations currently before it, and he hoped that by the time the review conference took place in 2010, sufficient jurisprudence would have been developed to facilitate a more meaningful review of the Rome Statute.
Calling this a crucial period for the International Criminal Court to define its role in the international community, NORIHIKO OKUDA (Japan) noted that the importance of cooperation of the States Parties had been reaffirmed strongly since the Court's inception in 2002. He also noted that steady progress had been made in cases enjoying full cooperation, and serious challenges faced by those that had not received such support.
He called for full compliance with the Rome Statute's provisions, in order to establish the credibility and reputation of the Court. The principle of complementarity was important to the Court's role in situations involving national criminal jurisdiction, he said, stressing that States Parties must do their utmost to exercise their national jurisdiction before referring a situation to the Court.
Though the Security Council was also allowed to refer a situation to the Court, such a decision entailed heavy responsibility, namely the Council's continued close cooperation with the Court for implementation of a resulting decision. Additionally, all Member States were legally bound to such a Council decision, and their full cooperation with the Court in investigations and prosecutions was required. For its part, the Court was responsible for providing full explanation of its actions, in order to enjoy full support of Member States. Concluding, he encouraged Member States to ratify the Rome Statute, in order to ensure a more universal membership and to enhance the role of the ICC in the international community.
KABIR AHMED (Nigeria), expressing his country's deep commitment to the Court, welcomed the increasing number of States that had become Parties to the Rome Statute, noting that with more than two-thirds of the United Nations membership having signed or ratified that treaty, there was clear movement towards the Court's universality. That welcome development was worthy of further support by those States who were yet to sign or ratify the Rome Statute.
While noting the Court's efforts to improve geographical representation, gender balance and the representation of the different legal systems of the world in its recruitment activities, he underscored the need for that body to achieve the target of wide geographical representation and gender balance, especially in regard to the African region, which even though it provided most, if not all, of the situations before the Court, was still underrepresented. He believed the needed balance would be attained without compromising the quality of staff selected.
Nigeria considered victims as a critical component of the justice system and believed that for them to have the necessary closure, efforts had to be made to bring about healing. With that in mind, he was delighted that the Court had so far received applications from 960 victims for participation in the trials and that 168 of them were already participating.
Regarding the situation in the Darfur region of the Sudan, which he said had generated a lot of interest in the international community, especially since the Prosecutor's report to the Security Council, he noted that since that report, there had also been a request for a deferral duly brought under Article 16 of the Rome Statute of the Court. "We believe that the request, which is a legally backed process, and which does not imply a conflict between peace and justice, should be allowed to run its course," he said, adding that he was also confident that the international community would not allow a politicization of the process.
ZACHARY MUBURI-MUITA ( Kenya) called the work of the International Criminal Court a significant advancement in international law, and recognized its efforts to end impunity through the prevention of the most serious crimes, while creating a lasting respect for international law. However, he called for an enforcement mechanism for the Court, and called for State parties to reaffirm their obligations under the Rome Statute. He also acknowledged ongoing cooperation between the Court and United Nations, and the Court's unquestioned commitment to justice.
He went on to welcome the report as a useful framework to assess the implementation of the Court's decisions and rising challenges, along with the work amongst the Member States, the United Nations and the Security Council. The success of the Court was treaty-based, he said, adding that it relied on the compliance of State parties. The growing universality of the Court and its global judicial character was evidenced by its growth from 105 to 108 members. Though the definition of the crime of aggression was still pending, and its elaboration would impact the first review of the Rome Statute, he noted that those were not insurmountable challenges, and indeed, should be viewed as opportunities.
Kenya, for its part, was on track to carry out its obligations under the Rome Treaty, with the establishment of a Witness Protection Act and Programme, the launching of which was a landmark in the country's internal justice system. He expressed full support for diplomatic relations amongst other judicial bodies, and for the promotion of the Court's outreach programme. At the same time, he called for enhancement of dialogue to realize a plan of action for increasing the Court's universality.
PAUL BADJI ( Senegal) said his country had been the first to ratify the Rome Statute and the first to sign the international appeal to set up the Court. He was gratified by today's opportunity to reaffirm Senegal's attachment to the Court. It was difficult to gauge the real impact of the Court, but in light of the report, one could state the Court had revived the glimmer of hope its creation had given victims. It was one of the most valuable vehicles in the fight against perpetrators of crimes, and it had deterred potential perpetrators of crimes.
Continuing, he said there was now a system in which victims could participate. The progress should not prevent people from understanding the complexities and the massive challenges needed to create an international criminal justice system that could meet people's aspirations. The global community needed an international, independent and representative court that functioned efficiently and brought to justice individuals who committed these crimes. It needed to provide the victims of such crimes reparation and compensation. It needed to protect the rights of accused individuals. To be successful, the Court had to be an effective and transparent institution. He called on the international community to give the Court its support, so it could accomplish it noble mission.
JOEL HERNANDEZ ( Mexico) said the universality of the Rome Statute was expressed through the Court's achievements, even in light of the challenges and difficulties it faced in becoming an efficient and transparent model of justice and fulfilling its mandate.
He went on to note that though the difficulty of initiating judicial proceedings was not lost on his Government, Mexico was nevertheless concerned that two and a half years after surrender of the first accused by the Court, a trial had not been able to commence. It was up to States to cooperate and fulfil their obligation to the Court, by rapidly responding to its requests to execute the orders issued, particularly the arrest warrants issued under the Court's jurisdiction. And it was equally important for the Court to prepare and integrate the cases –- at every stage –- in the most diligent fashion possible.
He then expressed concern about the seven arrest orders that had not been executed, and the lack of assistance from local authorities to the Prosecutor's Office in situation States. With the 200,000 civilian casualties, more than 2 million persons displaced and the loss of 38 of international humanitarian personnel, the Government of Sudan's lack of cooperation was also of grave concern to the international community, he declared.
"Peace and justice are inseparable components of every endeavour to bring an end to any armed conflict," he noted, and called on the international community to reinforce its support to the Court and "assure the end of impunity above any political agreement". He also stressed the need for a budget that allowed the Court to carry out its duties and, believing there were ways in which the Court would be fully cost-effective, he promised to actively participate in the review and improvement of the Court's financial needs.
He concluded by lauding the 160 Member States that, 10 years ago, successfully overcame serious difficulties and differences to create the Rome Statute, and noted that, with the inclusion of Madagascar, Suriname and the Cook Islands, 108 countries had since confirmed their commitments to ensuring that the most heinous crimes be held accountable before the Court and that justice prevailed.
ABDALMAHMOOD MOHAMAD ( Sudan) expressed exasperation at the Court's activities, namely the issuance by the Chief Prosecutor of an arrest warrant for the President of the Sudan, an action constituted "political intrigue" aimed at his country's dignity and nationhood. That action had led to outrage and criticism from regional organizations, which had asked the Court's Prosecutor to amend his decision in order to guarantee peace and security throughout the region.
Recalling that the Sudan was not party to the Rome Statute, which under the sovereign right of international law and other legal conventions clearly stipulated the important principle that States were not bound by commitments not undertaken of their own free will, he declared that attempts to impose obligations on non-parties violated all norms and rules of international law. He went on to assert that the Court should not be a political tool, which could lead to the loss of its credibility and impartiality. A Security Council resolution had stipulated that non-members, after the entry into force of the Rome Statute, were not bound by it, as non-parties to the Court were similarly not bound by its decisions.
The Security Council's "faulty" resolution to defer the situation in Darfur to the Court ran counter to another resolution concerning the obligations of Member States, which had stated that non-members did not have to submit to the Court's decision. He went on to say the Council's action was an example of the principle of "might makes right". Moreover, there were daily acts of genocide, war crimes and other crimes against humanity occurring throughout the Middle East and Asia, and yet States in that region were not being prosecuted by the Court.
Voicing vehement opposition to the "selective approach" and "double standards" of the Court, he noted that that was the reason why the African Union Summit adopted a historic decision in expressing its concerns on the matter.
Though the names of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Sudan and the Central African Republic had been brought up, Iraq and Afghanistan's situations were not discussed. He urged that the Rome Statute not be made to run counter to existing international law. He regretted that certain immunities -– including that of a President of a State -- established by the Statute had been disregarded. He charged that such a violation of immunities undermined the principles of legitimacy and legality, and expressed confidence that the international community would back the Sudan's peace initiatives and share its belief that "peace is the best guarantee of international justice".
GLENNA CABELLO DE DABOIN ( Venezuela) said her country had played an active role in creating the Court, and had assisted in its development. Venezuela believed that the most serious crimes against humanity should not go unpunished and they represented a threat to the international community. It was important that States adopted national action plans to strengthen international cooperation in that respect and assured that such crimes were subject to justice. Venezuela was the first country in Ibero-America to ratify the Rome Statue and wanted to defend the integrity of the instrument and deter actions taken against it.
Venezuela had placed special emphasis on preserving the independence and autonomy of the Court and its Statute in the negotiations surrounding the crime of aggression. It opposed those who sought to undermine the Court. The competency of the Court was well established. With regard to crimes of aggression, they must be condemned in all their forms. She called on those States which had not yet done so to ratify the Rome Statute. The application of justice and peace were inseparable and one should not be sacrificed for the other. Justice was essential for the development of society, including international society.
FRANCIS K. BUTARIGA ( Uganda) called on Member States with the means to do so to reinforce efforts to end the Lord's Resistance Army's (LRA) affront on the resolve of the international community to bring to justice the perpetrators of the most serious crimes. One such way would be to revise the mandate of United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), and make it robust so as to include apprehension of the LRA leadership.
He believed that unless the culprits were brought to justice, the LRA would continue to cause mayhem in the region, adding, "The LRA is a cancer which needs to be eradicated urgently before it can spread any further." He emphasized that Uganda failed to understand the reluctance of those with the means to assist with getting rid of "this ugly spot from our midst", pointing out that what had started as a northern Uganda problem had slowly but predictably sucked in other surrounding States until it had gained the notoriety of a "regional disaster".
Therefore, for the sake of the victims -- the abducted children, those who had been forced into sex slavery -- and for the sake of the hundreds of children who were forced to kill members of their families, as an initiation into the LRA, Uganda called for cooperation in ending that travesty. Further, he called on the United Nations and its Member States to support the Court so that its credibility was not doubted. He urged the Court to remain independent so that it was not viewed with suspicion, or as an institution designed to settle political scores.
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