Remarks by Sang-Hyun Song

Article excerpt

Thank you very much. Excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen, I would like to start by thanking the American Society of International Law for this valuable opportunity to speak at the Annual Meeting of one of the preeminent legal organizations in the world. Of the four courts represented in this panel, the ICC is the youngest one, but over the last 10 years, the ICC has grown from a court on paper into a fully functioning international judicial institution.

I will just make some points without any particular order with respect to the development or progress we have made over the last 10 years. The most significant development in relation to the Assembly of States Parties' legislative role thus far took place in 2010 when the states parties agreed on amendments to the Rome Statute regarding the crime of aggression. However, these amendments will enter into force in 2017 at the earliest. In the meantime, the ICC is exercising its jurisdiction with respect to three other categories of international crimes, as you know: genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

Last year, eight new suspects appeared before our judges--more than in all previous years combined. On the other hand, 10 persons sought by the International Criminal Court remain at large. Two weeks ago, the ICC issued its first judgment convicting Thomas Lubanga Dyilo for conscripting and enlisting children under 15 years of age and using them to participate actively in hostilities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Lubanga's guilty verdict is a landmark moment in the short history of the ICC.

For the first time in the history of humanity, countries have come together and established a permanent means of holding serious human right abusers accountable while providing a fair system of justice, even for the most heinous crimes. I guess this is how we build a safer, more secure world. I think the Lubanga decision is also a significant marker for the development of international law. It has laid the groundwork for the kind of trial that many other notorious perpetrators of war crimes involving child soldiers would perhaps deserve.

We showed, and you witnessed, the ICC mature from a fledgling institution to one which delivers results, holds mass killers accountable, and helps bring justice to their victims. The precedents set in this particular case will affect how the ICC administers justice in the future. Increasingly, the world is turning its eyes to the ICC whenever reports of atrocities committed with impunity emerge from any part of the world. The unanimous decision of the United Nations Security Council to refer the Libya situation to the ICC with the affirmative votes of the United States, China, Russia, and India was one of the strongest indicators of this growing international confidence in the ICC's role. Thus far, we have 120 states parties, and more will soon join us, but what I frequently find in my discussions with senior government officials from various countries is that lack of information and misconceptions are frequently the major obstacles to joining the ICC system.

As I did this morning when I had a small-scale discussion with a few members of the U.S. Congress, two of the key points I always stress are (1) the principle of complementarity, meaning that national jurisdictions always have the primary responsibilities to investigate and prosecute Rome Statute crimes; and (2) the Rome Statute requirements that shall always subject every initiative taken by the prosecutor of the ICC to strict judicial scrutiny. I guess I am trying to dispel some suspicions that are widely shared by certain countries or people by pointing these two particular features of the Rome Statute out to them. …