The establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is the most significant feat in international law in decades, Liechtenstein told the General Assembly’s annual high-level debate today, noting that the body’s legacy will be measured by its moves to address the issue of impunity.
“We must work in practice to give [the ICC] the necessary political support,” said Rita Kieber-Beck, the small European nation’s Foreign Minister. “The success of the ICC will be the yardstick in the fight against impunity.”
She drew attention to the Genocide Convention, adopted by the Assembly six decades ago and which the ICC has jurisdiction over.
“The Convention was born out of the desire to prevent recurrence of genocide, yet it failed to achieve this purpose on several occasions thereafter,” Ms. Kieber-Beck said. “The rallying cry ‘Never again!’ can only be used so often before it loses credibility.”
The Foreign Minister said efforts must continue to be made to ensure that the concept of the “responsibility to protect” is better understood and applied in practice.
It “is a narrow concept that is limited to clearly defined cases of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity,” she said, adding that “it is based on the sovereign responsibility of States to protect their own populations as well as the United Nations Charter.”
Also addressing the final day of the Assembly’s debate, New Zealand’s Permanent Representative Rosemary Banks stated that the creation of the ICC is “one of the most significant advances in recent times.”
But she underlined that the ICC “has now reached a crucial stage in its development – and it has become clear that the establishment of a global justice system brings with it many challenges.”
States must rise to challenges because not to do so “would be a betrayal of the victims of egregious crimes,” Ms. Banks said, adding that New Zealand calls on States to take measures to guarantee the ICC’s independence and success.
Adding his voice to the chorus of support for the Court, Peter Maurer, Permanent Representative of Switzerland, said that justice is needed for a durable peace. “Or, in other words, peace and impunity are incompatible in the long run,” he said to the Assembly.
The arrests of former Liberian President Charles Taylor and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić have demonstrated the benefits of an international system to bring criminals to justice, Mr. Maurer said.
“Alleged war criminals must not be allowed to remain at large without being brought before a court,” he told delegates. “They must answer for their acts in a fair trial. This is the preventive effect of the international criminal justice system, an effect that should not be underestimated.