December 10, 2019

ICC President addresses United Nations General Assembly and calls for global support

ICC President Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji presents the report of the ICC to the UN General Assembly. ©UN Photo/Mark Garten.

On 4 November 2019, the President of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji, addressed the United Nations (UN) General Assembly to present the Court’s annual report, detailing the Court’s activities, ongoing cases, key judicial decisions and reparations processes. In his address to the UNGA, as well as in all his meetings, President Eboe-Osuji stressed the need for sustained cooperation and global support for the Court. 

In his address, the President first expressed the Court’s appreciation to the UN for the “continued, invaluable support and assistance that the organisation provides to the ICC”. This broad-ranging assistance is “truly critical for the Court’s work,” the President said.

While expressing the Court’s gratitude for the close cooperation received from many States, the President underlined that the lack of successful cooperation “presents a major obstacle to the Court’s ability to carry out its mandate”. He recalled that more than half of the outstanding arrest warrants relate to situations referred to the ICC Prosecutor by the UN Security Council. 

“It remains unacceptable that allegations of criminal conduct of the gravity implicated in these cases are not properly heard before a court of law. It is unacceptable from the point of view of the victims, it is unacceptable from the point of view of the international community, and it is unacceptable from the point of view of the rule of law,” the President stated, urging the Security Council to take concrete measures to ensure compliance with the Court’s requests for cooperation.

Referring to controversies and “direct political threats issued against the Court” in the context of the Afghanistan situation, the President said: “the Court must do its work undeterred by these threats and controversies, whether from civil society members acutely disappointed about judicial decisions they do not like, or from anxious state officials intent on preventing judicial decisions they do not want. The international community and every one of its members must ensure that threats of any kind are not made to the independence that the Court needs to serve its mandate to humanity.”

President Eboe-Osuji reiterated the ICC’s essential values and dividends to the world: “With a permanent international criminal court now in place, even the most powerful men can no longer be certain that they will escape unpunished, if they commit (against their fellow humans) the heinous acts that the Rome Statute forbids.” The President further highlighted the ICC’s correlative value of deterrence. “This is a value that cannot be emphasised strongly enough. There are, indeed, many reasons to insist that the mere existence of this permanent judicial mechanism for accountability does truly serve – at the very least – as an inconvenient obstacle to freewill on the part of those inclined to commit inhumane crimes on a scale that is massive or widespread.”

The President also insisted that “there can be no sustainable development, where conflicts, atrocities and fear reign supreme. […] The effects of conflict impede growth not only in the countries directly embroiled in war; they also impede regional development in addition to the migration problems that they generate.” “All of this is to say that preventing conflicts and the atrocities they breed, and addressing them purposefully and unapologetically through the rule of law, comprise an objective with far-reaching significance for the most critical aspects of human life: including economic development”, he stated.

Finally, the President urged all States that have not yet done so to join the Rome Statute, the Court’s founding treaty: “Each ratification adds another brick to the wall that protects humanity from the gravest crimes imaginable. Each ratification helps reduce the space for impunity,” he said.

During his visit to New York, President Eboe-Osuji is holding meetings with a number of senior United Nations officials, as well as members of the diplomatic community. He will be briefing the New York Working Group of the Bureau of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute, as well as Ambassadors of the Group of Latin America and Caribbean Countries and the Group of African States in New York. At these meetings, the President will engage in discussion on the Court’s activities and challenges as well as ways to enhance the functioning of the Rome Statute system as a whole, including measures recently taken to expedite the Court’s proceedings.

ICC President Speech to the United Nations General Assembly

Annual report of the International Criminal Court to the United Nations General Assembly

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