Jurisdiction of International Criminal Court begins today 

The treaty creating the International Criminal Court (ICC) entered into force today, beginning the jurisdiction of the world’s first permanent tribunal capable of trying individuals accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity (including torture).

Importantly, and unlike any previous international criminal tribunal, the ICC allows victims to participate in the proceedings and enables them to claim reparation for the harm they suffered. The Non-Governmental Organisation Coalition for the ICC is planning events at United Nations (UN) headquarters and worldwide to celebrate this landmark event.

“The new system of international criminal justice that begins on July 1 will be one of the greatest instruments of peace ever created to confront the dark and violent forces of human nature,” said William Pace, Convenor of the NGO Coalition, of which REDRESS is a member. “All who remain determined to ‘save future generations from the scourge of war’ can celebrate this historic day. Millions of lives will be saved by entry into force of this treaty.”

The ICC is an independent body governed by the countries to have ratified its treaty. More than half of the 139 countries to sign the Court’s treaty have now ratified it; ratifying countries come from all regions of the world. A provisional location for the new ICC has been chosen in the Hague, the Netherlands.

The Court is expected to be ready to begin investigating and hearing cases committed on or after today (the entry into force of the Statute) once its officials are fully instated, likely by summer of 2003.

Today’s entry into force of the Rome Statute of the ICC coincides with the opening day of the tenth and final session of the Preparatory Commission of the ICC – the planning body open to all UN members that has been meeting since the adoption of the Court’s treaty on July 17, 1998. A special plenary will be held to open the session when statements will be made by many countries outlining their position on the ICC. The Coalition expects many countries to outline their hopes for the ICC in the opening plenary on Monday, July 1st. A statement is also expected on behalf of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Tomorrow marks the deadline for countries to ratify of the Court’s treaty, which must be met if they wish to participate with full voting rights in the first meeting of the Assembly of States Parties – the body that will oversee the work of the Court. This Assembly of States Parties meeting is scheduled to take place at UN headquarters from September 3rd – 10th 2002.

A number of crucial decisions will be made at this meeting, including finalising the procedures for the nomination and election of judges and the Prosecutor to the Court and adopting the work of the Preparatory Commission. The formal call for nominations will be made in September and elections are expected to take place in January of 2003.

REDRESS hopes that this will be will be the start of a new phase to combat impunity for serious international crimes and provide victims with a fully effective right to reparation.

REDRESS calls on the international community to support this Court and to encourage other States to adopt its Statute.