December 16, 2017

Statement by Amb. Nicholas Emiliou – Report of the International Court

Report of the International Criminal Court (1 August 2015 – 31 July 2016)

United Nations, 31 October 2016

At the outset we would like to express our warm appreciation to President Fernandez de Gurmendi for her comprehensive presentation of this report, covering the period from 1 August 2015 to 31 July 2016 (A/71/342). My delegation wishes to align itself with the statement delivered by the European Union and would like to deliver additional remarks in its national capacity, with a focus on the goal of universality of the Rome Statute.

It is our firm belief that the Court significantly contributes to the overall goal of the UN to work towards a more just and peaceful world, serving in this way the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. As reflected in the Report, the Court had another very full year in terms of judicial proceedings, investigations, preliminary examinations and institutional developments. The Court, continuing at a high pace,, is currently seized of 23 cases and 10 situations, in different parts of the world and a wider number of crimes under the Rome Statute.

On 27 September the Court delivered its judgment in the Al Mahdi case. The Trial Chamber unanimously found Mr. Al Mahdi guilty as a co-perpetrator of the war crime consisting in intentionally directing attacks against religious and historic buildings in Timbuktu, Mali, in June and July 2012. This is the first time the Court has dealt with the intentional destruction of cultural property in the context of conflict, defined under Article 8 of the Rome Statute, as a war crime. In its reasoning the Court of course reflected some of the longest standing and most firmly established principles governing the conduct of hostilities and echoed in substance, the Hague Regulations annexed to the 1907 Hague Convention, the 1954 Hague Convention for the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict, and the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions. The cooperation and support of states and organizations, such as UNESCO, has been crucial in bringing the Al Mahdi case before the ICC. The destruction of cultural heritage in any country constitutes a collective loss for humanity. The recent ICC judgement, therefore, underlines that the international community remains vigilant in holding accountable those responsible for such war crimes.

This brings me to the point that cooperation is the cornerstone of the Court’s effective functioning. We are pleased to note that during the reporting period, the UN continued to work closely with the Court to further strengthen their cooperation and to ensure the effective implementation of the Relationship Agreement. We moreover, support the further strengthening of this relationship by means of practical steps, such as those contained in previous Reports of the Court to the Assembly of States Parties on the status of on-going cooperation between the International Criminal Court and the United Nations.

Additionally, cooperation with States parties and non-parties remains a key element in the wider effort.

While in the case of A1 Mahdi the Court was able to address the destruction of cultural property in Mali, in other instances it has not been able to deal with similar situations that may have taken place or are still taking place.

While the Court has a global mandate, it does not have universal participation. It can be recognized that the universal ratification of the Rome Statute remains the only realistic way of effectively addressing jurisdictional gaps and thereby current challenges and shortcomings, and is crucial to the application of the principle of equality before law and for the effective deterrence of the most serious crimes under international law.

We warmly welcome the accession of the El Salvador to the Rome Statute, and seize this opportunity to call upon all States Not Parties to ratify the Rome Statute. The wide number of ratifications shows a commitment by a majority of countries to ensure accountability for international crimes. The Republic of Cyprus, along with Denmark, as co-focal points for Universality and full implementation of the Rome Statute, continued during the reporting period to promote the collective goal of achieving universal adherence to the Statute through various events and initiatives. We are currently preparing a social media campaign to promote the Rome Statute.

Mr. President,

Let us at this important juncture, not forget that before its creation the ICC was thought by many to be a mission impossible. Ever since and as outlined by the Al Mahdi case, it has been tangibly contributing to the advancement of international justice.

Yet right now the Court faces its biggest challenge so far. At this critical juncture, and as the Court remains the indispensible court of last resort, it is on us, member states more so, to work tirelessly to maintain its deserved global recognition, to further strengthen and support it.

We regret the decision of South Africa, one of first signatories to the Statute, and of Burundi to withdraw from the Rome Statute system. We are also deeply concerned with the stated intention of Gambia to withdraw. Although withdrawing from the Statute is a sovereign act, we strongly call on all three countries to reconsider and to share their concerns before the Assembly of States Parties, in accordance with the Statute. We indeed call on all countries which have concerns to utilize the Assembly of States Parties as the appropriate forum for dialogue, while respecting the independence and impartiality of the Court. We, together, have a common interest in fighting impunity concerning grave crimes against humanity.

We are of the view that to abandon the Court is to assist in thwarting the reach of international justice. We all have a duty to our past, our present and our future, as well as to the victims of the heinous international crimes, to protect and support the court overcome the present challenges.

Within this context, my delegation would like to seize the opportunity of this meeting, to reiterate its commitment and unfailing support to the Court, a support that has been afforded to the court since its inception and to also extend an open invitation, while declaring our readiness to engage in a constructive dialogue with all those who have concerns.

Mr. President,

We conclude by mentioning another milestone development with respect to international criminal law: that during the reporting period the threshold of 30 ratifications of the Kampala Amendments to the Rome Statute on the crime of aggression was reached – at this point 32 states have ratified the said amendment. Given this development, State Parties will after 1 January 2017 be able to take a decision to activate the jurisdiction of the ICC over the specific crime, in this way completing the coherence of the Rome Statute as conceived in 1998. We look forward to even more ratifications in the coming months.

We hope and act on all fronts, so that we will be able to consolidate and reinforce international criminal justice, rather than deconstruct the Rome Statute system.

I thank you for your attention.