November 24th, 2006 10:24 EST
Annan hails progress made by International Criminal Court
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has established itself at the heart of “a truly international system of criminal justice” within just a few years of coming into existence, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today.
In a message to participants gathered in The Hague for the fifth session of the Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC, Mr. Annan the Court “has come far in a short time” since the Statute was adopted at a major diplomatic conference in the Italian capital in 1998.
“Few could have expected that by 2006, a fully operational entity would have initiated its first trials, an Office of the Prosecutor would be prosecuting or investigating multiple situations, there would be a Security Council referral, and the Court would have issued its first warrants of arrest,” he said.
The Security Council last year referred the situation in Sudan’s conflict-torn Darfur region to the Court, which is also pursuing cases in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic.
“The Court has established itself as the centrepiece of a truly international system of criminal justice. And it has become both the embodiment of, and the driving force behind, a profound evolution of international norms and law,” said the Secretary-General.
This year Chad, the Comoros, Montenegro and Saint Kitts and Nevis have ratified the Rome Statute, taking the total number of ratifications now to 104 – a sign, Mr. Annan said, that “the Court is moving closer to its ultimate goal of universal jurisdiction.”
The statute became a binding treaty in April 2002 when the number of countries which had ratified it reached 60.
In his message Mr. Annan also hailed the increased cooperation between the United Nations and the ICC, citing the way in which their Relationship Agreement is being implemented through many supplementary arrangements.
“The fact that the first ever witness before the Chambers of the Court in pre-trial proceedings is a UN official again reflects our strong commitment to ending impunity and aiding the ICC’s work,” he added.
The Assembly of States Parties is the ICC’s management oversight and legislative body, comprised of representatives of nations which have ratified or acceded to the Rome Statute. Its fifth session, which began yesterday, runs until next Friday. The crime of aggression and the court’s budget for next year are among the topics on the agenda.