Magazine article UNESCO Courier

A Decisive Victory

Magazine article UNESCO Courier

A Decisive Victory

Article excerpt

In July, 120 countries voted to establish the International Criminal Court (ICC), which will judge crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes. William R. Pace led the coalition of non-governmental organizations that campaigned for its creation

* What came out of the Rome conference?

William Pace: The ICCTreaty represents one of the most monumental advances in the rule of law in international affairs since the adoption of the Charter founding the United Nations. In addition, the Rome ICC treaty will be seen as a watershed moment in the post-Cold-War world, for it is a great step forward for international democracy.

The 800 organizations of the NGO Coalition for an International Criminal Court will begin campaigning immediately for 60 state ratifications of the ICCTreaty by 31 October 2001, thus permitting the statute to create the court to enter into force by the start of the twenty-first century, on 31 December 2001.

* Who will bring cases to the ICe and how will the prosecutor initiate investigations?

W. P.: Investigations can be initiated by state party complaints, by referrals from the Security Council, and by the ICC prosecutor, who would be able to initiate a criminal investigation subject to appropriate judicial scrutiny. Testaments from victims could be the source of information from non-state sources for the prosecutor. Historic precedents in the rights of victims to participate, be protected, and seek reparations have been achieved in the ICC statute.

* Who will appoint the ICC judges and under what criteria wilt they be selected?

W. P.: The ICC statute provides that the conference of states parties to the ICC treaty will be responsible for the appointment of the judges. High standards of legal qualifications, representation of the world's major legal systems, and equitable geographical representation are all mandated in the treaty.

* There is a possibility that countries which have signed the treaty can refuse to accept the war crimes clause for seven years. Do you think this is a serious limitation to the treaty?

W. P.: I believe very few countries will opt out for the seven years. In the long run - no - this is not a serious limitation to the treaty - presuming this exception is not changed or extended by the Conference of States Parties to the statute.

* What role can NGOs and pro-ICC human rights groups play in their own countries and in nations which have not signed the treaty?

W. P.: Our roles will be to continue to fight for peace and international justice. Our focus at the national level will be to work more closely with parliamentarians, national bar associations and others to advance the ratification process. Over time as the ICC comes into being our efforts will be to support the court and to monitor violations of international humanitarian law wherever they occur, to provide information, research and assistance to victims, and to demand that national courts and the ICC investigate and prosecute those who commit crimes against humanity.

* During the negotiations, some countries expressed apprehensions that the ICC may undermine national sovereignty. What do you think about this?

W. P.: A fundamental principle enshrined in the ICC statute is complementarity. The new court will not replace, but will complement national courts and legal systems which will remain primarily responsible. Also, extraordinary judicial and procedural safeguards - more than NGOs would have liked - have been built into the statute. They protect national sovereignty and guarantee against any kind of frivolous prosecution.

* Do you think the United States, which voted against the treaty, will try to sabotage it?

W. P.: It is a great danger and it would be a great tragedy if the United States were to adopt policies and laws to sabotage the ICC. Most experts and diplomats hope that the US will support the ICC once US leaders better understand the adopted statute, see what a great new instrument of international justice the ICC will be for the Security Council and the world community, and realize how nations with functioning civil and military legal systems which investigate alleged crimes against humanity committed by their nationals have nothing to fear from the ICC. …

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