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Int'l Criminal Court Heading Towards Universality

International Criminal Court heading towards universality, says chief judge

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is now over halfway towards achieving its goal of universal acceptance, the court's President, Judge Philippe Kirsch, told the Assembly of States Parties today, calling for ratifications and accessions by the world's countries to continue.

Judge Kirsch told the Assembly's sixth session, held at United Nations Headquarters in New York, that the Court has made "significant progress" as it nears the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute in July 1998, which led to the tribunal's founding.

"The Court is fully operational," he said. "Investigations and proceedings are ongoing in four situations. Victims are participating in proceedings and the Trust Fund for Victims is functioning.

"Most importantly, it is increasingly recognized that the Court is having the impact for which it was created by the States Parties by contributing to the deterrence of crimes and improving chances for sustainable peace."

Some 105 countries have become States Parties to the ICC, with Japan and Chad the latest to do so, and Judge Kirsch called for the number of accessions and ratifications to keep rising.

"Working together, we can ensure that the Court makes lasting and sustainable contributions to justice, peace and accountability around the world."

He also stressed that the Court, which is based in The Hague in the Netherlands, regards the establishment of permanent premises as a priority, and added that the Court has held fruitful dialogue on this issue with the Dutch Government.

In addition, he called for the world's countries to demonstrate greater support for the ICC, whether in practical cooperation measures such as the arrest of suspects or by advocating publicly on behalf of the Court.

ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo used his address to detail the work of his office, particularly in the cases it is investigating concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR), northern Uganda and the Sudanese region of Darfur.

He urged States Parties to play their part to ensure the arrest of the men who have already been indicted by the Court: Joseph Kony and four other commanders of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda, and two figures from the Darfur conflict.

"In Rome, States created a new system of justice where the worst criminals would not be allowed in the sharing of power any longer [and] where the use of massive violence against civilians would neither be rewarded nor forgotten," he said.

"The Rome system was built upon the lessons learned from the last century when the international community failed, failed to protect entire populations," he added, cautioning that "the lack of arrest can affect the credibility and long-term deterrent impact of the Court."


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