Annan, top UN officials, hail treaty event heralding permanent war crimes court
Saying that a missing link in international justice is now in place, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today joined other top UN officials in hailing a historic treaty event held this morning in New York, where representatives of 10 States deposited their instruments ratifying the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), thus paving the way for the accord's entry into force in less than three months.
"The long-held dream of a permanent international criminal court will now be realized," the Secretary-General told a ceremony in Rome, where the treaty to set up the Court had been negotiated in 1998. "Impunity has been dealt a decisive blow."
"The time is at last coming when humanity no longer has to bear impotent witness to the worst atrocities, because those tempted to commit such crimes will know that justice awaits them," Mr. Annan said in a message broadcast via satellite from the Palazio del Quirinale, where he appeared with Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, the President of Italy.
Today's action brought to 66 the number of ratifications lodged with the UN. This is six more than needed for the treaty to enter into force, which will now happen on 1 July, in accordance with the provisions of the Statute.
In a message welcoming what he said was "a truly meaningful moment," the President of the UN General Assembly, Han Seung-soo of the Republic of Korea, said the scope, scale and nature of atrocities that have been committed in many parts of the world during the last 20 years have "reminded us of the urgency of creating a permanent mechanism to bring to justice the perpetrators of such inhuman crimes as genocide, ethnic cleansing, sexual slavery and maiming."
It was widely recognized that a permanent international criminal court would be more efficient than ad hoc tribunals in taking action against crimes and also in limiting the extent or duration of violence by the nature of its very existence, he noted. "Furthermore, it will provide much stronger deterrence to potential criminals by giving them a clear warning that there will be no place for them to hide," he added.
For her part, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, said that the lessons of the tribunals established for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda had proved particularly important for the substantive development of international criminal law and the protection of human rights.
"The unequivocal message emerging from The Hague and Arusha is that where domestic legal order has broken down, or national authorities are unwilling or unable to punish gross violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law, the international community has an obligation and a responsibility to respond," she said. "With the coming into force of the Rome Statute, the international community will have accepted that responsibility on a permanent basis."