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A Page In The History Of Humankind Is Being Turned

11 April 2002

35th Meeting (AM)
International Criminal Court Will Enter Into Force On 1 July 2002,
As 10 States Deposit Ratification Instruments At Headquarters

Sixty-six Countries Have Now Ratified Treaty -– 60 Were Required;
UN Legal Counsel Says ‘A Page in the History of Humankind Is Being Turned’

A prolonged standing ovation closed the solemn ceremony this morning, after 10 countries had simultaneously deposited their instruments of ratification of the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC) and, by doing so, triggered its entry into force.

“A page in the history of humankind is being turned”, United Nations Legal Counsel Hans Corell said, after representatives of the following countries filed past the podium to deposit the signed instruments that signified their ratification: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ireland, Jordan, Mongolia, Niger, Romania and Slovakia.
With those ratifications, Mr. Corell said, the number now stood at 66. Sixty was needed for the treaty to enter into force. On behalf of the Secretary-General, he welcomed the presence of the representatives of States and civil society who had worked for many years on this issue. The Rome Statute -- as the treaty is commonly known -- would be in effect as of 1 July 2002, he announced.

In a plenary meeting of the Preparatory Commission for the ICC, which followed the ceremony, the President of Trinidad and Tobago, Arthur Robinson, called the date a great day for humanity, especially for victims of crimes against humanity, who had previously had no redress for their hurt, and for the possible victims of the future who would have faced the prospect of no justice for their grievances. He reminded participants that the genesis of today’s momentous achievement was a motion in the United Nations made by a small country – Trinidad and Tobago. He thanked all those individuals, organizations and States whose support kept the effort alive despite the hostility directed at the proposal.

Philippe Kirsch (Canada), the Chairman of the Commission, said today’s historic event was not only the result of a process stretching back over 10 years, but also the realization of the dream of a system of international justice for all, which would end the era of impunity. Now that the Court was a certainty, however, it had to be made as strong and effective as possible. That meant finishing all tasks before the Preparatory Commission on time to allow the early establishment of the Court, and turning the focus on ratification towards universal participation in the Statute.

Many of those who deposited their ratifications in the ceremony also spoke in the meeting.

“For those of us who had the privilege of participating in this exercise, no matter what else we do in life, nothing will be quite as important or as significant for humanity as all of this”, the representative of Jordan, the first Arab country to ratify the treaty, said. There was no doubting that considerable challenges lay ahead and that critics would continue to hover and wage their war of doubt and cynicism. There were many people, he said, who did not accept or did not want to accept that the world had changed and from this moment on would never be the same again. “Eventually, the realization will dawn on all”, he said.

Others spoke of the special significance of the Court for their countries. The delegate from Bosnia and Herzegovina said the Court stood as a visible deterrence against the kind of atrocities his country had suffered. Only through justice could victims find peace and proceed without hate and resentment. The representative of the Constituent Assembly of East Timor also cited justice as an integral part of the healing process not only for his country, but in all post-conflict situations.

Peru’s speaker, citing the case of its former President Fujimori, said the world had entered a new phase where national borders would not shelter impunity, but rather become bridges to justice. In that same vein, the representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said criminal justice would no longer be a one-way street working only for the powerful in this world.

The representative of Tunisia, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, spoke of the Court in the context of the conflict in the Middle East. Palestinians were suffering from all the crimes under the Court’s jurisdiction -- genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity – and, so far, the perpetrator had been able to act in a state of impunity. Without justice, there could be no development, no peace, no security, she said.

All speakers stressed that attention must now turn to pursuing universality of the treaty. The representative of the Netherlands, which will host the Court at The Hague, called upon non-governmental organizations to mobilize public opinion on behalf of the Court, and the representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said his country intended to host a subregional seminar to spread knowledge of the Court. Italy also was organizing a celebratory and promotional meeting in Rome on 17 July, the fourth anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute, its delegate said.

Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Spain (on behalf of the European Union), Ecuador, New Zealand, Argentina, Russian Federation, Romania, Mongolia, Malawi (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community), Ireland and Germany.

A representative of the Coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations for the ICC also addressed the Commission, saying the treaty’s entry into force was a victory not only for its advocates, but also for the victims of the most heinous crimes against humanity. It was also a victory for the new diplomacy model in developing international law, she added.

The Preparatory Commission for the International Criminal Court will meet next at 10 a.m. on Monday, 15 April.


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