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International Criminal Court must not be used for political 'witch hunting,' Annan urges

International Criminal Court must not be used for political 'witch hunting,' Annan urges

Kofi Annan addressing meeting
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today urged countries taking part in the first organizing assembly for an international war crimes court to ensure that the new judicial body "begins life on a secure footing" free of politicization.

As the Assembly of States Parties to the International Criminal Court (ICC) wrapped up its first-ever session, the Secretary-General emphasized the importance of giving the ICC strong financial backing and ensuring that its officials meet the highest professional standards.

"Above all, the independence, impartiality and the integrity of the Court must be preserved," Mr. Annan stressed. "The ICC is not - and must never become - an organ for political witch hunting. Rather, it must serve as a bastion against tyranny and lawlessness, and as a building block in the global architecture of collective security."

The Secretary-General pointed out that the Court's Statute contains safeguards to ensure that justice is done, setting out high standards of human rights, fairness and due process.

Mr. Annan also urged States that have not yet become party to the Statute to join and voiced hope that non-States Parties - including those that have signed the Statute but not yet ratified it - "will give the Court the support it needs to succeed."

Many speakers participating in the closing session drew a strong link between the ICC's credibility and the impartiality of its judges and Prosecutor.

The nomination period for candidates for the Court's 18 judges officially opened yesterday, and will close on 30 November. The election will be held when the Assembly convenes again in February 2003.

Over the course of its session, countries formally adopted a series of legal agreements paving the way for the Court to function, including a first-year budget.