International Criminal Court at ‘critical’ stage, its President tells Assembly

30 October 2008

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is at a “critical” juncture, with its success hinging on such factors as guaranteeing its judicial independence and universal ratification, the Court’s President said in New York today.

“It is still far too early to pass judgment on the success of the Court,” Philippe Kirsch said in his address to the General Assembly, adding that “the early indications are decidedly positive.”

More than 10 years have passed since the adoption of the Rome Statue, which led to the ICC’s founding.

But the ICC President noted that the body’s success depends on several factors, such as “fulfilling properly its own mandate,” including ensuring its impartiality and guaranteeing the rights of the accused and of suspects.

Currently, 108 countries are States Parties to the Rome Statue. For the tribunal – which had four situations before it this year – to “exercise jurisdiction truly globally, universal ratification will be necessary,” he said.

Mr. Kirsch also called for the cooperation of States, international organizations and civil society in executing arrest warrants, protecting witnesses and enforcing sentences.

He stressed that most importantly, these groups must respect the Court’s independence. “Their statements or their silence in certain circumstances can have significant impacts on the effectiveness of the court.”

Also addressing the Assembly today, the head of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) said that the past year has been “the most productive” in the Court’s over 60-year history.

The ICJ has managed a full caseload, as well as being in “a position to respond swiftly to unanticipated requests for the indication of provisional measures,” said President Rosalyn Higgins.

Both Courts are based in The Hague, but the ICC is an independent body, while the ICJ is the UN’s principle judicial organ and deals with inter-State disputes since it does not have criminal jurisdiction to prosecute individuals.

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