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Burundi & Liberia to Ratify the Int Criminal Court

Burundi and Liberia both Ratify the International Criminal Court Treaty, Bringing ICC States Parties to a Total of 96 Countries

More than Half of Sub-Saharan Africa have Joined the ICC

( New York , September 22, 2004) – Burundi and Liberia , African countries that have suffered devastating civil wars and human rights abuses in recent years, have both ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), becoming the 95th and 96th States Parties to the ICC treaty. This afternoon as part of a four-day UN treaty event, “Focus 2004: Treaties on the Protection of Civilians”, Liberia deposited its instrument of ratification of the Rome Statute. Nicolas Michel, newly-appointed UN Legal Counsel, who accepted Liberia’s ratification at the UN, remarked, “This is a truly meaningful gesture from a State coming out of a very tragic situation, showing their real commitment to build the momentum for international justice.” Burundi ratified the ICC treaty yesterday, stating in its official press release that “this action translates the will of the transitional Government to fight against impunity no matter where crimes are committed or where perpetrators live.”

The NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) today welcomed both countries’ ratifications. “ Burundi and Liberia , which are both situated in major conflict centers in Africa , have taken a major step forward in promoting the rule of law in their countries,” said William Pace, Convenor of the CICC. “As human rights groups in some African conflict areas have been reporting, the very fact that ICC jurisdiction is being accepted by governments is already starting to have a deterrent effect against the commission of heinous crimes on the continent. Despite on-going US attempts to undermine the ICC, these ratifications send a signal that there is a growing global consensus for international justice.”

With these two latest ratifications, more than half of the sub-Saharan African region has now signed on to the ICC. Twenty-six of the forty-eight sub-Saharan African countries – including Liberia ’s neighbors Sierra Leone and Guinea and Burundi ’s neighbors the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Tanzania and Uganda – are now parties to the Court. Commenting on this, Pascal Kambale, Counsel for Human Rights Watch’s International Justice Program, said, “Burundi's ratification of the Rome Statute, which has occurred just weeks after the Gatumba massacre, follows ratifications by the DRC and Uganda, two other countries in the Great Lakes region that have also been plagued by many years of instability and horrible war crimes. With Liberia 's ratification, all of the countries of the conflict-devastated Mano River region of West Africa have now joined the ICC. After spending scarce resources in bloody wars, leaders in these regions are turning to international justice mechanisms to close the pages of a dark era of war crimes."

In June 2004, the International Criminal Court began formal investigations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in July, they commenced investigations in Uganda .

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