Report of the International Criminal Court
UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Statement by Mr Richard Rowe, Senior Legal Adviser, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Australia would like to thank President Song for his report.
Australia is both shocked and appalled that today, some seventy years after World War II, and twenty years after the tragedies in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, serious international crimes are continuing to be committed, and committed on an alarming scale. Every day we are presented with fresh evidence that children, women and men have been the victims of unimaginable atrocities that deeply shock the conscience of humanity. All too often such crimes are neither investigated nor prosecuted, which sends a dangerous message to would-be perpetrators that their acts will be tolerated.
It was in response to these concerns that the International Criminal Court was established. States have the primary responsibility to prosecute serious international crimes committed in their territory or by their nationals. However, as a Court of last resort, the ICC has a critical role to play in advancing the international community’s fight against impunity. This is why Australia is, and will remain, an unflinching supporter of the ICC, and why we will do everything in our power to help achieve the aims and objectives of the Rome Statute.
We commend all organs of the Court on the contribution they have made so far to the establishment of the Court as a significant part of the international architecture. The international community can take great pride in the progress that has been made since the adoption of the Rome Statute. In particular we welcome the surrender this year of Bosco Ntaganda and the ratifications of the war crimes and crime of aggression amendments by a growing number of States.
We also welcome the ratification of the Statute this year by Côte d’Ivoire and the progress being made towards universalization of the Rome Statute which Australia is actively working on, including in the Pacific region. We encourage States that have not yet done so to ratify the Rome Statute, to join Australia and all States Parties in seeking justice for the victims of serious international crimes.
In providing our unwavering support to the Court we acknowledge the concerns raised regarding the ICC’s approach to a number of matters, including those raised by the African Union (AU) in relation to the cases against Kenya’s President Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto. Australia has welcomed the opportunity to engage in an exchange of views with the AU and with Kenya. We are ready to listen closely to these concerns. We are also confident that we will be able to work together to find a constructive way forward and also look forward to discussions on this issue at the upcoming ICC Assembly of States Parties.
While solutions are being discussed, it is important to recall that all States must fulfill their obligations under international law – whether those obligations derive from being a party to the Rome Statute, or from resolutions of the Security Council.
We also take this opportunity to underscore our view that it is imperative that the Security Council provide ongoing support to the ICC, especially in relation to those situations it has referred to the Court. At the same time, we wish to welcome the Secretary-General’s guidance to the UN Secretariat on contact with persons subject to arrest warrants and call on the UN to implement this policy strictly.
The ICC was born out of the international community’s collective commitment to hold those accused of serious international crimes to account and to bring at least a measure of justice to the victims of these crimes. This is a goal that we surely all share. Australia, for its part, remains committed to working with all States to ensure that we turn this aspiration into a reality.