"The Commission supports the decision taken ... at Elsinore to develop an EU response on Art.98 that accommodates US concerns without undermining the Rome Statute".

Speech by The Rt Hon Chris Patten, EU External Relations Commissioner.

I am very pleased to speak to you today about the European Commission's continuing support for the Rome Statute and for an effective International Criminal Court. I believe, as you do, that the creation of the ICC represents a critical milestone in the evolution of international human rights law.

No longer will tyrants gain impunity for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity -- including widespread murder of civilians, torture and mass rape -- by hiding behind the cloak of national sovereignty. No longer will the international community have to create international criminal tribunals after the fact - after the crimes that we all deplore have already been committed.

In the twenty-first century, potential tyrants and mass murderers will know in advance that the international community is prepared to hold them accountable for massive violations of human life and dignity. It is our belief and our hope that this awareness will help reduce the frequency and the severity of such crimes. But when it does not, and the relevant national legal authorities are unwilling or unable to act, the international community will have in place a complementary system of criminal justice that is fair, transparent and effective.

The European Union fully supports the ICC. The principles of the Rome Statute, as well as those governing the functioning of the Court, are fully in line with the principles and objectives of the Union. The consolidation of the rule of law and respect for human rights, as well as the preservation of peace and the strengthening of international security, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations and as provided for in Article 11 of the EU Treaty, are of fundamental importance to the Union.

The European Commission has long been committed to the success of the ICC. Between 1995 and 2001, our European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights financed nearly 7 million in projects to support the broadest possible ratification and implementation of the Rome Statute. For 2002-2003, we have earmarked an additional 6 million for this purpose. The Commission has also been a consistent supporter of the Common EU Position on the ICC, adopted in June 2001 and revised in June 2002, as well as the Action Plan adopted in May 2002.

Of course, there is still real work to be done before the ICC can function as intended. One challenge is to increase the number and broaden the geographical scope of States that have signed and ratified the Rome Statute. As of today, 139 States have signed the Statute, and 80 have ratified it. These numbers are impressive, but need to be increased. We note a particular gap among Asian States. The Commission will continue making every effort to encourage third countries that have not yet done so to sign and/or ratify the Statute. We will also work with States that have ratified the Statute to ensure the timely adoption of national implementing legislation necessary to cooperate with the Court and to exercise national criminal jurisdiction over crimes covered by the Statute.

At the moment, of course, the most controversial issue is that of bilateral agreements under Art.98 of the Rome Statute. The Commission supports the decision taken by the foreign ministers at Elsinore to develop an EU response on Art.98 that accommodates US concerns without undermining the Rome Statute.

As soon as the details of the EU position on Art.98 are completed, hopefully by the end of this month, we will work with the candidate and EEA States to maintain a united front on the ICC. With regard to the longer-term, the Commission also supports an on-going dialogue between the EU and the US on the future of the ICC. An open EU-US dialogue on these matters is critical to the ultimate effectiveness of the ICC.

Another challenge is to ensure that the nomination and election of the ICC's judges and chief prosecutor be fair, transparent and fully consistent with the criteria set out in the Rome Statute. Fairness, transparency, and consistency are important to ensure the legitimacy of this new institution in the eyes of the world. EU Member States should ensure that their handling of this process sets a positive example for the world. Parliaments, professional associations, and non-governmental organizations around the world can also contribute to this process by recommending potential candidates for consideration by States parties and by evaluating the qualifications of all candidates.

Allow me to close by saying how much I and the entire Commission appreciate the European Parliament's tireless advocacy on behalf of a strong and effective ICC. We look forward to continuing this positive relationship on behalf of the ICC well beyond the Court's first operational session next autumn.

Source: European Commission Official Website.
Speech by The Rt Hon Chris Patten, CH - Plenary Session European Parliament - Strasbourg, 25 September 2002 - SPEECH/02/431

International Criminal Court

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This document has been published on 27Sep02 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights