International Criminal Court on verge of becoming reality, key negotiator says
The first permanent international court designed to investigate and prosecute individuals for war crimes is on the verge of becoming a reality, a key negotiator said today as the UN panel laying the groundwork for the Court's establishment opened its session in New York.
The President of the Preparatory Commission for the International Criminal Court (ICC), Ambassador Philippe Kirsch of Canada, who had helped to steer negotiations leading to the 1998 adoption of the Court's Statute in Rome, announced that a ceremony would be held on Thursday, when the number of countries ratifying the Statute is likely to reach - or top - the necessary 60 for the Court to come into effect. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who will be in Rome at the time of the ceremony, will participate via teleconference.
If the ratifications are deposited as planned, as of 1 July crimes within the Court's jurisdiction - including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity - would become subject to possible international prosecution. States parties to the Rome Statute, along with the Security Council and the Court's Prosecutor, will have the power to bring cases before the ICC, which will have judges from 18 countries and an independent prosecutor.
"Ours is a race against time," Mr. Kirsch told the Commission, which has had the task of negotiating the practical and technical arrangements to allow the Court to function. The group is in the last stages of negotiations on the final remaining issues, such as a first-year budget for the Court and administrative and financial matters related to the initial meeting of the Assembly of States Parties, now expected to take place in The Hague in September 2002. The Commission is also dealing with arrangements for the nomination and election procedure for judges, the prosecutor and the registrar, as well as their remuneration; and a trust fund for victims and witnesses.
The ICC will be set up at a designated site in The Hague, Netherlands, which has initiated an international architectural competition for the design of the Court building. The new 30,000-square-metre building, which will comprise 30,000 square metres, is expected to be completed by 2007. Until then, the Court will be located in premises across the street from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.