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Emphasizing that justice was a fundamental building block of sustainable peace, the General Assembly today adopted a consensus resolution welcoming the report of the International Criminal Court for 2014/2015 and encouraging further dialogue between that institution and the United Nations.
The link between the two entities — governed by the negotiated Relationship Agreement of 2004 — was also the subject of significant discussion among delegations, many of whom expressed disappointment over the “technical rollover” text contained in the resolution.
By the terms of draft resolution A/70/L.47, the Assembly recognized the Court as an independent judicial institution, welcoming the cooperation and assistance provided to it by States parties to the Rome Statute as well as non-States parties, the United Nations and other international and regional organizations. The Assembly also called upon States under an obligation to cooperate to provide cooperation and assistance in the future, with particular regard to arrest and surrender, providing evidence, protecting and relocating victims and witnesses, and enforcing sentences.
The Assembly recalled, by other terms, Article 3 of the Relationship Agreement, by which the Court and the United Nations would cooperate closely, and noted that States parties to the Rome Statute continued exclusively to bear expenses relating to investigations or prosecutions incurred by the Court in connection with situations referred by the Security Council or otherwise.
Introducing that text, the representative of the Netherlands emphasized that universal adherence to the Rome Statute was the only guarantee that perpetrators of the most horrible acts could no longer count on impunity. The text provided political support for the Court’s work and underlined the importance of the relationship between it and the United Nations, he said, adding that it also served to remind States as well as international and regional organizations of the necessity to cooperate in implementation of the Court’s tasks.
Costa Rica’s representative spoke for a number of Member States in describing the Court as the most significant achievement of the international community’s quest to end impunity and ensure justice for victims of grave crimes. While reiterating the importance of continuing to promote its universality, he nevertheless expressed regret that “we were not able to advance the resolution this year”. He emphasized that the Security Council must be “consistent and coherent” in its approach, avoiding exceptions that endangered its own credibility and that of the Court.
In that regard, a number of speakers took issue with the Court’s focus on certain issues to the exclusion of others, with many stressing that its work had become politicized and full of double standards.
Sudan’s representative, stressing that the relationship between the Court and the United Nations must take their mutual independent and separate natures into account, decried the Court’s “absolute focus on Africa” and its targeting of that continent’s leaders. Some Member States had demonstrated obstinacy in addressing Sudan’s proposals in formal discussions earlier this year, he recalled, condemning their attempts to turn the General Assembly into an “Assembly of States parties to the Rome Statute”.
Kenya’s representative declared: “Peace and justice cannot be achieved by a deeply flawed institution that creates false hope among millions of people.” He called for an interpretation and implementation of the Rome Statute that would treat all Member States equally, rather than creating artificial divisions depicting one group as owners and gallant defenders of the Court, and the other as its subjects.
Syria’s representative stressed that the Court’s work must be just and free of selectivity and double standards, noting that, unfortunately, that was not the case. Those interfering in the affairs of other States, destabilizing sovereign nations or working to bring down regimes by supporting terrorism must be brought to justice. The international community must avoid undermining the lofty principle of justice and prevent the Court from being tailored to the wishes of powerful States. Indeed, “justice must not be morphed into a tool used by the powerful against the poor and the weak alone”, he said.
The Russian Federation’s representative expressed regret that amendments proposed by his country as well as other non-States parties to the Rome Statute had been disregarded. Pointing out that the Court had delivered only four verdicts in 15 years, while spending more than $1 billion, he noted that it had worked expeditiously only once, in 2011, when it had conducted a formal investigation of the late Moammar Qadhafi. On the other hand, its Chief Prosecutor had opted not to investigate civilian casualties in Libya attributed to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bombardments or rebel actions.
Meanwhile, other speakers supported the Court, while objecting to the fact that States parties to the Rome Statute continued to bear the burden of financing its work on their own.
Brazil’s representative voiced regret that, despite clear guidance contained in Article 13 of the Relationship Agreement to the effect that the Organization must bear the costs of investigations and cases relating to referrals by the Security Council, the General Assembly had once again limited itself to merely acknowledging that those expenses would continue to be borne exclusively by States parties to the Rome Statute.
Also speaking were representatives of Nicaragua, Cuba, China, El Salvador, Colombia, Peru and Ukraine.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply was the representative of the Russian Federation.
In other business today, the Assembly decided by acclamation to elect Erik Solheim of Norway as Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for a term of four years, beginning on 15 June 2016 and ending on 14 June 2020.
Acting on the recommendation of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), the Assembly also decided to appoint Simon Hough of the United Kingdom as a member of the Committee on Contributions for a term beginning on 13 May 2016 and ending on 31 December 2017. Mr. Hough filled a vacancy resulting from the resignation of his compatriot, Kunal Khatri, from that body.
The Assembly will reconvene in plenary at a date and time to be announced.
Action on Draft Resolution
KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands), introducing a draft resolution titled “Report of the International Criminal Court” (document A/70/L.47), said El Salvador had become the latest State to accede to the Rome Statute, bringing the number of States parties to 124. Expressing hope that others would follow suit in the near future, he said all those committed to holding perpetrators of international crimes to account should “show no hesitation” and sign on to the Rome Statute. Indeed, universal adherence was the only guarantee that perpetrators of the most horrible acts imaginable could no longer count on impunity.
He went on to state that the situation with respect to outstanding arrest warrants remained worrying, and cautioned that unless States provided the cooperation necessary for the Court’s functioning in accordance with their legal obligations, it would be unable to fulfil its mandate and impunity would continue to flourish. The only way to ensure progress towards the common goal of ending impunity was to work together — all States, the United Nations, regional organizations and civil society.
Describing the principle of complementarity as a hallmark of the Court, he emphasized that national authorities bore the primary responsibility to domesticate their obligations under the Rome Statute. It was also their responsibility to genuinely address cases involving crimes under the Court’s jurisdiction. If national authorities were able to uphold those responsibilities effectively, investigations by the Court would become superfluous, he said, adding that, in view of the Court’s massive workload, all States could do a better job in that respect.
He said the draft resolution continued to serve three main objectives, the first being to provide political support for the Court, its mandate, its aims and its work. The second objective was to underline the importance of the relationship between the Court and the United Nations, based on the Relationship Agreement, and their central role in ending impunity and upholding human rights. Lastly, the draft served to remind States, as well as international and regional organizations, of the necessity to cooperate with the Court as it carried out its tasks.
EVGENY T. ZAGAYNOV (Russian Federation), speaking before action on the draft resolution, said his delegation had called for a pragmatic approach and for a text that had been brought up to date. Regretfully, however, a constructive approach, including amendments proposed by the Russian Federation and other non-States parties to the Rome Statute, had been disregarded. Most of the text’s language had been passed on from year to year and had little to do with the real state of affairs, he said, pointing out that the Court had delivered only four verdicts in 15 years, while spending more than $1 billion. Indeed, it had worked expeditiously only once, in 2011, when it had conducted a formal investigation of Muammar Qadhafi, he recalled. However, the Court’s Chief Prosecutor had opted out of investigating civilian casualties attributed to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bombardments, and had not investigated rebel actions.
He went on to state that, in a procedural sense, cases often fell apart due to the low quality of the evidence, which squandered the Court’s resources. Nevertheless, a number of delegations were still unable to sing anything but praise for the Court, whereas calls for balance and realism were interpreted as a step backwards. Reiterating that the draft resolution before the Assembly was becoming increasingly irrelevant with each passing year, and that it had morphed into a “distortion mirror”, he said that the Russian Federation could, therefore, not support it, and disassociated itself from the consensus in the Assembly.
IDREES MOHAMMED ALI MOHAMMED SAEED (Sudan) also spoke before the action, recalling that the United Nations Charter called for respect for State sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as non-interference in domestic affairs. All Member States agreed on the need to combat impunity and achieve justice, but the politicization of global justice in order to achieve narrow goals was at odds with the Charter and constituted a violation of the principles of international law. Emphasizing that relationship between the United Nations and the Court must take their mutually independent and separate nature into account, he condemned worrying attempts by some States to turn the Assembly into a “General Assembly of States parties to the Rome Statute”.
He went on to stress: “The [International Criminal Court] is not a United Nations subsidiary body,” noting that the very same States were attempting to advance a broadened interpretation of the Court’s statute. In formal discussions earlier in the year, some States had demonstrated obstinacy in dealing with issues and proposals raised by Sudan, and its proposals had been rejected without explanation, he recalled. Meanwhile, the Court’s practice demonstrated that it was a tool of international conflict with an “absolute focus” on Africa, targeting that continent’s leaders. Questioning why the Court still failed to address other crimes committed around the world, he stressed the need for a common African position against its selective practices. Disassociating his delegation from the consensus, he voiced concern over the “nefarious impact” of voluntary financial contributions on the Court’s work and budget, adding: “We know who is funding the Court.”
The Assembly then adopted draft resolution A/70/L.47 without a vote.
ALINA JULIA ARGÜELLO GONZÁLEZ (Nicaragua), speaking after that action, said the Court’s overall goals were undermined by those who wished to see their interests prevail over the principles of non-interference and non-intervention. Condemning double standards, she emphasized that while her country was not a signatory to the Rome Statute, its participation — and that of other non-States parties — was critical.
MACHARIA KAMAU (Kenya), emphasizing the independent and separate nature of the relationship between the Court and the United Nations, said the text just adopted should neither be used to convert the General Assembly into an Assembly of parties to the Rome Statute nor to balkanize the United Nations membership into diametrically opposed groups on Statute-related matters. Pointing out that treaties were only binding in principle on State parties, he said Kenya was frustrated by the process and outcome of negotiations in 2016, noting that the technical rollover was due largely to the lack of flexibility on the part of some Member States, and to the rejection of other views, even those clearly informed by treaty law and practice.
Describing another Member State’s proposal on the obligations of non-States parties as consistent with the interpretation and application of international law, he said it should have been accepted without any challenge. “Might does not make right,” he noted, stressing that the Rome Statute must unshackle itself from the group of powerful States that sought to skew the interpretation and implementation of international law and practise when and where it suited them. They had hijacked the Court’s operational mandate, creating a distorted institution, he said adding that Kenya sought a resolution that was consistent with international law and that truly addressed the financing of referrals by the Security Council.
The Assembly should not be prevented from exercising its mandate on the matter, he continued. Going forward, Member States should consider changing their focus to best reflect realities on the ground. Kenya called for an interpretation and implementation of the Rome Statute that would treat all Member States equally instead of creating artificial divisions that depicted one group as owners and gallant defenders of the Court, and the other as its subjects. “This artificial dichotomy has not achieved much, and there is need to see a radical change of heart and mind, and reformation to ensure a level playing field for all States,” he said, adding that “the survival of the [International Criminal Court] very well depends on our forward movement in this regard”. To that end, African States had tried with little success to engage constructively with the Court, but had met stiff resistance under the guise of protecting its independence. A complete overhaul of the negotiation process was needed, expressing hope for agreement on a text of improved quality and relevance. “Peace and justice cannot be achieved by a deeply flawed institution that creates false hope among millions of people,” he said.
TANIERIS DIÉGUEZ LA O (Cuba) emphasized the need for the resolution to bear in mind the opinions and concerns of all Member States.
LI YONGSHENG (China) expressed hope that the Court would perform its functions justly while avoiding politicization and selectivity, stressing the need for that institution and the United Nations to respect each other’s mandates. The full rights of non-States parties must be respected under international law, he said.
KOUSSAY ABDULJABBAR ALDAHHAK (Syria) said his country had contributed to the original negotiations on the Rome Statute and had been among its first signatories. The Court’s work should be just and far from selectivity and double standards, but unfortunately, that was not the case. Those interfering in the affairs of other States, destabilizing sovereign nations or working to bring down regimes by supporting terrorism musts be brought to justice, he said, emphasizing that the international community must avoid undermining the lofty principle of justice and prevent the Court from being tailored to the wishes of powerful States. Indeed, “justice must not be morphed into a tool used by the powerful against the poor and the weak alone”. Voicing support for the statement by the representative of Sudan, he said that Syria rejected the resolution.
JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCIA (Costa Rica), speaking on behalf of a number of States, said the Court was the most significant achievement of the international community in its quest to end impunity and ensure justice for victims of grave crimes. Reiterating the importance of continuing to promote the Court’s universality, he nevertheless expressed regret that “we were not able to advance the resolution this year”. Cooperation between the United Nations and the Court must be strengthened, he said, noting that the latter required adequate financial resources. It was therefore worrying that the Court continued to undertake referrals from the Security Council without support from the United Nations budget. In that regard, the Council should be “consistent and coherent” in its approach, avoiding exceptions that endangered its own credibility and that of the Court, he emphasized.
RUBÉN IGNACIO ZAMORA RIVAS (El Salvador), recalling that his country had deposited its instrument of accession to the Rome Statute in March, said the Court must improve and make progress. While the international justice system had made great achievements, more remained to be done, and the Court’s path was beset with both challenges and opportunities.
PATRICK LUNA (Brazil), noting that his delegation was a co-sponsor of the resolution, nevertheless said that it would have welcomed a more ambitious text rather than a technical update of the one adopted in 2015. The distance between the text and the challenges facing the relationship between the United Nations and the Court was not decreasing, and it was to be hoped that the trend could be reversed during the Assembly’s next session. Despite the clear guidance contained in Article 13 of the Relationship Agreement, to the effect that the United Nations must bear the costs of investigations and cases relating to referrals by the Security Council, the Assembly had once again limited itself to merely acknowledging the fact that those expenses would continue to be borne exclusively by States parties to the Rome Statute. Indeed, at a time when the Court faced an unprecedented workload, it was regrettable that the resolution did not call on Member States to address that issue, he noted, underlining the importance of bearing in mind that the Assembly bore exclusive responsibility for considering and approving the Organization’s budget, as laid out in Article 17 of the Charter.
MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ BLANCO (Colombia) emphasized that his country was faithful to its commitments as a signatory to the Rome Statute. Noting that almost 14 years had gone by since that instrument’s entry into force, he said the Court had been both consolidated and strengthened. It was important to support the Rome Statute through strict respect for its provisions, he said, adding that all States had an obligation to ensure peace in their respective national territories.
ANGEL HORNA (Peru) reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the work undertaken by the Court, which was in the best position to ensure that the world’s worst crimes did not go unpunished. He noted the persistent problems linked to the Court’s financing, noting that its funding was the sole responsibility of States parties rather than all United Nations Member States, as established in the Relationship Agreement. The Court needed greater support and a higher level of cooperation, he said, reiterating that they must come from all Member States.
ANDRIY TSYMBALIUK (Ukraine) said the Court was the cornerstone of the international justice system, adding that his country had long demonstrated its support for it. Ukraine had set ratification of the Rome Statute as one of its key priorities and was in the final stages. In light of current challenges, Ukraine fully supported the Court’s global jurisdiction, he said, noting that his country had been a victim of aggression by the Russian Federation, which had occupied Crimea, Sevastopol and the Donbas region since 2014. In response, Ukraine had lodged a declaration under the Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute, granting the Court jurisdiction over war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated in those territories.
Right of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the Russian Federation said that the host of anti-Russian statements made by Ukraine’s delegate had nothing to do with the subject of today’s meeting.