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ICC To Consider Action In Congo

ICC To Consider Action In Congo

International Criminal Court Prosecutor to "Follow Closely" the Situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo Of 499 Communications, One Situation to be Examined for Possible Further Action

(New York, July 16, 2003) - Today in The Hague, International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo gave his first public analysis of the nearly 500 communications that the Court has received since the Rome Statute of the ICC entered into force on July 1, 2002. Dr. Moreno Ocampo provided information about the country origin and types of communications received, and basic information about the court's jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. He also identified the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the north-eastern province of Ituri in particular, as a situation referred to the ICC that his office would "follow closely."

"Since 1 July, 2002, more than 5,000 people died in Ituri as a direct consequence of crimes that could constitute genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity," Dr. Moreno Ocampo is reported to have said at today's briefing. The Prosecutor announced that he will begin with a preliminary examination and will seek additional information from international organizations, including the UN, states, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and others, before launching a formal investigation.

"The Prosecutor clearly demonstrated today to those seeking justice that the Court is ready to act, and, to those who have expressed concerns, that he will respect the jurisdictional limits of the Rome Statute. Further, the Prosecutor recognized that it is vital to have the support of the international community and international organizations," said William Pace, convenor of a global network of more than 2,000 civil society organizations allied through the Coalition for the ICC. "Many of our members believe that the atrocities being committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo reflect a prime example of a situation in which the ICC will need the support of the international community and the UN in pursuing justice and restoring the rule of law," he said.

A case may be brought to the ICC through a referral by the UN Security Council or an ICC State Party, or at the initiation of the Prosecutor, based on communications from NGOs and other sources, including the world's media. Based on the concept of complementarity, the Court's jurisdiction is only applicable when States are unable or unwilling to act. With the exception of a referral by the UN Security Council, an alleged crime must have been committed on the territory or by a national of an ICC State Party in order for the Court to act. A full investigation into any situation requires the authorization of the Pre-Trial Chamber of judges before it can be launched by the Court. The Democratic Republic of Congo became an ICC State Party on April 11, 2001, and the government is still considering national implementing legislation.

Of the 499 situations communicated to the Court since July of 2002, 75 reports alleged atrocities and two-thirds of the reports were submitted by various actors within six countries: Germany, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Spain. Reports were submitted by individuals and NGOs located in a total of 66 countries, 27 of which are not ICC States Parties. To date, no situations have been referred by the UN Security Council or by a State.

The Prosecutor specifically rejected investigating situations outside the temporal, thematic or territorial limits of the Court's jurisdiction, including communications on alleged aggression in Iraq. With only a handful of staff, the Prosecutor has announced that an examination into the Democratic Republic of Congo will be the only situation that his office will examine for the time being. He anticipates having 51 staff by year end, and his office is reviewing applications for these new positions. A Deputy Prosecutor is expected be elected by the 91 member Assembly of States Parties shortly.

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