I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. The Candidate Countries Croatia*, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Iceland, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia align themselves with this statement.
This year, once again, the European Union reaffirms its unwavering commitment to fight impunity for the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole. Together, over ten years ago now, we took a momentous step forward when we adopted the Rome Statute, creating for the first time in history a permanent international court to ensure that perpetrators of Crimes of Genocide, Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes are held accountable.
The European Union therefore warmly welcomes this fifth annual report of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which clearly demonstrates that we have been successful in creating such a court. We are still in an early phase in the Courts life but the tremendous progress already achieved in such short time is a testimony of the hard work of its officials and staff. We wish to commend and thank them for their efforts.
Chile and the Czech Republic have during this past year brought the number of States Parties to the Rome Statute to 110. However, in order to truly reach our common goal of ensuring that perpetrators of heinous crimes are always, without exception, brought to justice, we must continue to work for universal acceptance of the Statute and the Court.
Until we reach this goal the distribution of justice might at times seem to be uneven, maybe even unfair, but our response to this challenge can not be less justice, backing away from the great achievements already made. Instead we must continue down the path we have chosen and intensify our efforts for more justice.
The same answer is applicable when faced with another recurring challenge. When the two, equally desirable, goals of peace and justice are pitched against one another. Certainly we can find several examples of peace processes made more complex through the introduction of accountability. Nevertheless, it is our responsibility to address both. Not only because peace and justice are mutually reinforcing, as accountability is a cornerstone in restoring the Rule of Law in post conflict countries, but also because victims of armed conflict should never be put in the position of having to choose between peace or justice for crimes committed against them and their families. It is our responsibility to offer them both. The only choices we should have, are those of timing and method.
Besides our clear responsibility of providing victims with justice, we should remember the long term effects of the Court, which will be greater respect for international law, especially international criminal law, international humanitarian law, human rights and the rule of law. Ultimately contributing to international peace and justice in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.
The Court can, however, not endure without co-operation of States. In this context the European Union is deeply concerned over that several warrants of arrest have still not been executed. We urge all States to co-operate with the Court and underline that lack of co-operation by those States under a legal obligation to do so is unacceptable.
The ICC is a court of last resort. The primary responsibility for bringing offenders to justice lies where it should, with States themselves. In a perfect world we would therefore never have to resort to such a Court. However, the reality is that there are times where individual States are not able or not willing to investigate and prosecute offences. The underlying reasons can be of various sorts. What is important is that we in these cases have reached agreement that the international level should come to the victims assistance.
In accordance with the basic principles of the rule of law, decisions concerning the admissibility of the case at the ICC must only be based on legal considerations. The Court’s independence is therefore vital and important to safeguard.
The European Union is highly appreciative of the support given by the United Nations. The UN is a critical partner to the ICC as it is often in a unique position for providing the Court with logistical and security support in the field.
In regards of co-operation with international organisations more could be achieved, additional mechanisms for deepened co-operation with regional organisations could be established. The European Union for its part was pleased to be able to sign an agreement of cooperation and assistance with the ICC in 2006, allowing, inter alia, for regular exchange of information and documentation of mutual interest. The EU encourages other relevant international organisations, including the African Union, to formalise their co-operation with the Court.
We are now close to the Review Conference of the Rome Statute next year in Kampala. At that time we will probably be addressing a number of amendments besides those we are obliged to address in accordance with the Statute. We will also have an opportunity of taking stock of where international criminal justice is today, an exercise to determine where the ICC, together with the other international criminal courts and tribunals, are likely to have a defining role.
In this context, the European Union would like to extend its gratitude to Uganda for the readiness to host the Conference, indicating the commitment that Uganda has to the ICC. Being one of the three African countries that have voluntarily referred a situation to the ICC, Uganda also has a unique position of showing other States how workable implementing legislation is introduced and how a State can effectively co-operate with the Court.
The International Criminal Court is a fundamental tool in preventing and deterring those crimes that undermine the very essence of humanity. The European Union is and will remain firmly committed to the Rome Statute and to the International Criminal Court.
* Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.