– Check against delivery –
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
This year the UN turns 75. Yet, multilateralism and the rules-based international order, and with it the criminal justice system, are under duress.
At a time when the world is fighting the pandemic, crimes against humanity and war crimes continue to occur. The unhindered functioning of the ICC and its deterring effect becomes in this context all the more important. Despite serious challenges and external pressure, the ICC has made important progress in several judicial proceedings, ongoing investigations and preliminary examinations. The ICC continued to receive a significant number of communications submitted under Article 15 of the Rome Statute. This is an indication that, for many victims, the Court is the last hope for delivering justice and for repairing harm suffered.
The Court must work independently and free from outside interference. The European Union and its Member States object to all measures that interfere with the exercise of the Court’s judicial functions that hamper its investigations. Attacks on the Court’s independence are attacks on the multilateral rules-based system. We are deeply concerned by the repeated threats and measures taken against the Court and its officials. We will continue to defend them from any external interference.
With the ongoing Review Process, the election of the next Prosecutor, and of six new judges, the ICC is currently at a crucial juncture. The Court and the States Parties must follow up on the report of the Independent Experts Review. This is crucial to ensuring good governance and effectiveness of the Court and thus advancing our common goal of strengthening the Court and the Rome Statute system. As elections of judges are approaching, we underline the importance of electing those with highest competence and moral character, of ensuring gender equality and geographical representation, as well as of a fair representation of the principal legal systems of the world.
We welcome the States’ assistance provided to the Court. The arrest, surrender and transfer last June of Mr. Ali Kushayb, suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Darfur (Sudan), is a clear case in point. We congratulate the authorities of the Central African Republic, France, Chad, as well as the leaders of MINUSCA and the authorities of the host State of the ICC, the Netherlands, for their support in that matter.
This shows how important States’ cooperation is for the effectiveness of the Court. We call on all States to ensure full cooperation with the Court, particularly with regard to the execution of outstanding arrest warrants.
The referral by the Security Council of a situation to the Court can equally help promote accountability in countries where serious international crimes may have been committed. We call on the Security Council to make use of its right of referral where such crimes have been committed.
The ICC is a court of last resort which complements, and does not replace, national courts. It is primarily for national courts to investigate and prosecute serious international crimes. In that regard, the UN legal and judicial reform programmes could help build national capacity and contribute to the promotion of the rule of law at national and international level.
The universal adoption of the Rome Statute remains our long-term goal. We will renew our efforts to encourage the widest possible participation in the Rome Statute and to preserve its integrity.
In closing, we re-affirm our unwavering support to the ICC, which is a key component in the fight against impunity worldwide. Impunity is the ultimate refuge for criminals and can never be an option.
I thank you, Mr. President.
* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.