15 October – United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said a symposium on international law meeting today in Beijing would help spread understanding of the work of the much-misunderstood International Criminal Court (ICC), the first permanent tribunal to try war crimes.
“(The) first steps in the life of the Court must now be built upon to establish a viable, responsible and universally supported institution,” he said in a message to the symposium.
“The continued promotion of awareness of the Statute and the Court is vital to that endeavour, since the provisions of the Statute are complex, its aims are often misunderstood, its scope is frequently misrepresented, and its impact on domestic law is difficult for many to comprehend. Your symposium is an opportunity to share knowledge and experience on these and other issues.”
The adoption of the Rome Statute in 1998 – which paved the way for the ICC – marked a major step towards ending “the culture of impunity” that had too often prevailed in the world, he said.
“The Court is an instrument of justice, not expediency,” Mr Annan said. “It can and must serve as a bulwark against evil. At the same time, it is for the Court, now on the verge of beginning its work, to act responsibly and deliberately. In doing so, I believe it will assuage the concerns that linger in parts of the international community, thus opening the door to universal participation.”
Of the UN General Assembly’s 191 members, 120 voted to establish the Court, which is located in The Hague.