|Crime of Aggression|
Derechos | Equipo Nizkor
Address by Benjamin B. Ferencz to the Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court
Benjamin B. Ferencz (Rome, 16 June 1998)
I have to come to Rome to speak for those who cannot speak - the silent victims of monstrous deeds. The only authorization I have comes from my heart.
Over fifty years ago, I stood in a courtroom at Nuremberg and accused twenty-two high-ranking German Storm Troopers of deliberately murdering more than a million men, women and children. The defenseless victims were slaughtered because they did not share the race or creed of their executioners. I asked the tribunal to affirm the legal right of every human being to live in peace and dignity. It was a plea of humanity to law - a plea that needs repeating.
Unanimous affirmation of the Nuremberg principles by the United Nations in 1947 implied a promise that "never again" would aggression, war crimes, and crimes against humanity go unpunished. War crimes trials after World War II came to grips with the past. We have yet to come to grips with the future.
I have come to Rome to plead for a more humane world order. Nuremberg was the beginning of a process. Failure to build on its precedents has cost the world dearly. Once the political will was aroused, the Security Council was able-in 1993 and 1994-to establish competent criminal courts quickly to bring perpetrators of genocide and crimes against humanity in former Yugoslavia and Rwanda to trial. But limited ad hoc courts created after the event is hardly the best way to ensure universal justice. A permanent court is needed for permanent deterrence. The time for decisive compromise has come. Now the challenge is in your hands. Outmoded traditions of State sovereignty must not derail the forward movement. National power and privilege must take account of international needs. We all share one interdependent planet, linked by new networks of instant communication. No nation and no person can feel secure until all are secure. The silent voices of "We the Peoples" - who are the true sovereigns of today - cry out for enforceable law to protect the universal human interest. You have it in your power to make the dream of a more human world order under law come true.
I have come to Rome to speak for peace. Ever since the judgment at Nuremberg, it has been undeniable that aggressive war is not a national right but an international crime. War is the soil from which the worst human rights violations invariably grow. The UN Charter prescribes that only the Security Council can determine when aggression by a state has occurred but it makes no provision for criminal trials. No criminal statute can expand or diminish the Council's vested power.
Only an independent court can decide justly whether any individual is innocent or guilty. Excluding aggression from international judicial scrutiny is to grant immunity to those responsible for "the supreme international crime" - omission encourages war rather than peace.
Carefully selected judges and prosecutors, subject to supervision, public scrutiny and budgetary controls, provide adequate guarantees that they will not betray their trust. They must be given the authority and the tools to do their difficult job. The certainty of punishment can be a powerful deterrent. To condemn crime yet provide no institution able to convict the guilty is to mock the victims and encourage dangerous unrest. Human rights must prevail over human wrongs. International law must prevail over international crime.
I have come to Rome to encourage your noble efforts. A great deal more needs to be done before the causes of international crimes are removed. But one thing is sure - without clear international laws, courts and effective enforcement there can be no deterrence, no justice and no world peace. Justice, reconciliation and rehabilitation are needed to bind up the wounds of humankind.
Hope is the engine that drives human endeavor. It generates the energy needed to achieve the difficult goals that lie ahead. Never lose faith that the dreams of today for a more lawful world can become the reality of tomorrow. Never stop trying to make this a more humane universe. If we care enough and dare enough, an international criminal court - the missing link in the world legal order - is within our grasp. The place to act is here and time to act is now!
Crime of Aggression
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