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EU at the UN

The EU's commitment to effective multilateralism, with the UN at its core, is a central element of its external action. As a UN observer with enhanced status, the EU delegation coordinates with its 28 Member States to speak with one voice. The EU also works closely with the UN secretariat and its agencies, funds & programmes, partnering on a range of global issues and challenges.

Mr. Chairman,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.

The Acceding Country Croatia[*], the Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro* and Iceland[†], the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Albania, and the EFTA country Norway, a member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, align themselves with this declaration.

We wish to reiterate our very strong support for international criminal justice, which is key to ending impunity, to assist with building peace and reconciliation, and to bringing justice to, and rehabilitation for, victims of mass atrocities. It is a welcome fact that we have entered, to quote Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, an “age of accountability”. Those who commit the most serious crimes of international concern must know that they will be held accountable for their actions. Accountability and full cooperation with the ICC are principles to which all the EU Member States are fully committed. They also represent commitments that we expect from all those who want to join the EU family. We would like to insist on this also in the light of some of the assertions made earlier today.

The Security Council led the way in advancing the role of the United Nations in the area of international criminal justice, by establishing two groundbreaking ad hoc Criminal Tribunals for the purpose of prosecuting persons responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law in Rwanda and in the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990’ies.

International criminal tribunals have made a considerable progress in the development of the international criminal jurisprudence. The case-law from ICTY and ICTR has contributed greatly to the development of international criminal law in areas such as individual criminal responsibility and crimes of sexual violence. We pay tribute to their achievements and contribution to the fight against impunity.

The landscape of international criminal justice has changed dramatically in a short period of time with the creation of tribunals in Sierra Leone, Cambodia, Lebanon, East Timor, Bosnia and Kosovo, and international criminal tribunals (ICTY, ICTR and ICC). In the last decades we have also witnessed a sharp increase in the number of criminal cases prosecuted before domestic courts and international criminal tribunals.

The main objective of a reconciliation process, including through international criminal justice, is to return society to a normal course of life, often in a context of devastated institutions, exhausted resources, diminished security and a traumatised and divided population. In these circumstances, national judicial institutions are not always able to address some or all international crimes that were committed. Both resolutions 808 and 955 of the Security Council establishing respectively the ICTY and the ICTR state that the establishment of an international tribunal would contribute “to the restoration and maintenance of peace”. Letting such crimes go unpunished would go against that aim and therefore against the objective of reconciliation.

The ad hoc tribunals helped pave the way for the creation of the International Criminal Court in 2002, which is the pinnacle of our efforts to promote international criminal justice. The Rome Statute of the ICC was adopted on 17 July 1998 to establish a permanent, non-partisan judicial instrument to “promote the rule of law and ensure that the gravest crimes do not go unpunished”. Today, 122 States are Parties to the Rome Statute and have committed themselves to cooperating with the Court. Also non States Parties are cooperating with the Court, as illustrated by the recent surrender of Bosco Ntaganda to the Court. As noted by the Security Council on 22 March, this arrest will contribute to the restoration of peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The ICC represents an outstanding achievement in terms of promoting an end to impunity. There is a consensus today that there can be no impunity for the most serious crimes under international law. The Rome Statute’s core message of fighting impunity is embraced universally.

Article 1 of the Rome Statute places the primary responsibility to prevent and prosecute crimes on States by providing that the Court is “complementary to national criminal jurisdictions.” The Rome Statute embodies a system where national and international courts work together in an interdependent manner. The ICC encourages national prosecutions and favours legal reforms at national level as well as cooperation between States.

Furthermore, the ICC constitutes a major achievement for victims of international crimes, who have the right to participate in the judicial process and may be rewarded reparations. In particular, the Trust Fund for Victims can provide physical and psychosocial rehabilitation or material support to victims of crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC. In the Lubanga Case, the ICC established landmark jurisprudence in the field of better respect for the rights of the children.

The Security Council fulfils an important role with regard to the ICC. It is therefore important that these two institutions continue their dialogue on a regular basis. The open debate in the Security Council on 17 October 2012 was a welcome initiative in this regard. We also welcome the call of the Security Council on Member States to cooperate with the ICC and other tribunals. We strongly support the Council’s commitment to an effective follow up of Council decisions in this regard. We believe that Security Council resolution 2085 (2012) on Mali and resolution 2098 (2013) on DRC calling for AFISMA and authorizing MONUSCO to support the ICC’s efforts are important examples of the Council’s commitment. We call on the Security Council to continue to find ways and means to further support international criminal justice efforts within its mandate, inter alia, by holding regular debates on cooperation with the ICC; referring situations to the ICC when appropriate; and by ensuring proper follow up mechanisms.

A main challenge to international criminal justice continues to be that of universality of the Rome Statute and we need to continue to work tirelessly to make the Rome Statute truly universal.

Another fundamental challenge remains that of ensuring consistent cooperation with the Court and in particular how to react timeously, collectively and consistently to instances of non-cooperation of States which are in violation of their legal obligations with regard to the ICC. In this connection, the EU and its Member States recall the need to always carefully consider any contacts with persons against whom charges have been confirmed by the ICC, and to avoid non-essential contacts with individuals subject to arrest warrants issued by the ICC. This 67th General Assembly addressed those challenges in its first resolution, resolution 67/1, which “emphasized the importance of cooperation with the Court”.

The more we overcome those challenges, the more international criminal justice will reinforce the prospects for reconciliation. International criminal justice and reconciliation go hand in hand, and ignoring justice simply puts peace and reconciliation in a fragile situation. We know, in the light of historical events, that when peace is achieved by ignoring justice, it is not sustainable. As ICC Prosecutor Bensouda recently wrote: “The road to peace should be seen as running via justice, and thus peace and justice can be pursued simultaneously”. And the Secretary-General of the United Nations recently said that the ICC “is our chance and our means to advance justice, reduce suffering and prevent international crimes.” We fully agree with these statements. There can be no lasting peace without justice and due attention to victims.

ICC also has an important preventive role, as stipulated in the preamble of the Rome Statute. By putting an end to the impunity it deters persons or groups from committing criminal activities.

Today’s event will also comprise, later this afternoon, other exchanges of views in the form of panels. We would normally expect such panel discussions to include a range of views addressing international criminal justice in a balanced manner. It is not clear to us that will be the case today. It is essential, however, that all the views expressed respect fully the principle, central to the rule of law, of independence and impartiality of Courts, Tribunals and their judges. We owe it to the victims, and in this spirit, we are disappointed that not all statements in this morning’s session upheld this principle.

Mr Chairman,

In conclusion, we take this opportunity to reiterate our appreciation for the achievements of the various Courts and Tribunals and for the remarkable work they have done in helping to establish the age of accountability. The European Union and its Member States will continue to strongly support both the principle and system of international criminal justice and its integral role in the reconciliation process, and we call on all states to do the same.

I thank you.


[*] Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

[†]Iceland continues to be a member of the EFTA and of the European Economic Area


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