Minister Erjavec and ICC President Song support the strengthening of the Court's jurisdiction
Ljubljana, 15 and 16 May 2014 – On 15 and 16 May 2014, representatives of States of the Eastern European Group (EEG) and interested observer States gathered in Brdo pri Kranju, Slovenia, to discuss the Kampala Amendments to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) with a special focus on the crime of aggression. With a view to promoting the universality of the Rome Statute, the event also looked into the achievements and challenges of the ICC. The seminar was organised by the Slovenian Foreign Ministry in cooperation with Liechtenstein and the Global Institute for the Prevention of Aggression. The purpose of the seminar was to recall the historic importance of the amendments to the Rome Statute on the crime of aggression and war crimes, adopted in Kampala in June 2010, and to encourage States to ratify and implement them. The seminar was organized as part of the campaign supporting the exercise of jurisdiction of the ICC concerning the crime of aggression (http://crimeofaggression.info/). Once the amendments are activated, the ICC will become the first international court to prosecute the crime of aggression since the trials at Nuremberg and Tokyo following World War II.
The speakers included the Slovenian Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec, the ICC President Judge Sang-Hyun Song, UN Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, Miguel de Serpa Soares, the President of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute, Ambassador Tiina Intelmann, and Slovenian constitutional judge and member of the International Law Commission Dr Ernest Petrič. Dr Danilo Türk, former President of the Republic of Slovenia, also gave a special address. A video message was delivered by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Participants were also greeted by Benjamin B. Ferencz, Former Chief US Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trial, via video. In addition, several leading experts, academics and civil society representatives spoke at the seminar.
In his opening address, Foreign Affairs Minister of Slovenia Karl Erjavec expressed strong support to the ICC. He said that Slovenia's priorities include respect for human rights, the rule of law and peaceful policies. He advocated dialogue on the challenges facing the ICC. "The International Criminal Court is currently addressing different situations. We regret its inability to act in cases where mass violence and crimes occur on a daily basis, such as in Syria or North Korea." According to the Minister such examples highlight the importance of enhanced ICC jurisdiction concerning mass crimes and violence, including the crime of aggression. Minister Erjavec underlined the preventive role of the ICC, pointing out that nobody is above the law, and called on States to ratify the Kampala amendments. “This is a way to protect the small countries, because aggression always comes from strong countries,” he said.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon echoed this call in a video message and praised the Kampala amendments as a historic breakthrough: "With one voice we have said no to impunity for the most serious crimes of international concern. We have demanded accountability for aggression, the most serious form of the illegal use of force." UN Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Soares commended the Eastern European region for its commitment to the Court and highlighted the importance of the campaign to activate the amendments. "The United Nations cannot fulfil its goal of advancing peace and security, development and respect for human rights if there is no justice for serious crimes of international concern," he stated. President Intelmann expressed her belief that States should consider ratifying both of the Kampala Amendments as soon as possible as "the Kampala Amendments are a fundamental tool to support the establishment of a rules-based international order, where law prevails over force."
The ICC President Song emphasised that "the advent of the ICC and the broader Rome Statute system has changed the way the world thinks – and increasingly also, acts – in relation to grave international crimes". He called upon countries to support the ICC in its efforts, and to advocate its universal authority. It is important that the Court receive the opportunity to judge crimes of aggression, namely the actions of political or military leaders who are responsible for the worst forms of force used against another country. The ICC President Song thanked Slovenia for its long-standing and strong support of the International Criminal Court, and for its contribution to the Trust Fund for Victims.
At the closing of the first day of the seminar, State Secretary Benko hosted the reception for participants. The keynote speech was given by Dr Danilo Turk, former President of the Republic of Slovenia.
In expert panels that followed, speakers and participants discussed questions that may arise in the process of ratification and/or implementation of the amendments, exchanged their experiences, and received information about further resources that can be used for this purpose.
The discussion reaffirmed that States of the Eastern European region are at the forefront of a global push to ensure accountability for State leaders who are responsible for the most serious forms of the illegal use of force against other States.
Four members of the International Criminal Court from Eastern Europe have ratified the Kampala Amendments, which empower the Court to prosecute crimes of aggression and the use of certain additional weapons in non-international armed conflicts (Croatia, Estonia, Slovakia, and Slovenia). At the seminar, five more EEG States announced their intention to ratify before the end of the year (Albania, Czech Republic, Georgia, Macedonia, Poland), while the remaining nine EEG States Parties are working on the ratification process (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Moldova, Romania, Serbia). The region continues to hold the highest percentage of States that have ratified the Crime of Aggression.
The seminar also aimed at promoting the universality of the ICC, which has become an important player in the international system since its establishment in 2002. "The biggest achievement of the ICC is to set up a new paradigm of international criminal justice. Today the ICC cannot be ignored anymore," recalled ICC President Judge Sang-Hyun Song. At the seminar, Armenia informed that it was inching closer to becoming party to the Rome Statute.
The closing address was delivered by Tina Brecelj, State Secretary at the Ministry of Justice of Slovenia.
While attending the seminar, ICC President Judge Song also met Minister Erjavec, with whom he discussed cooperation between Slovenia and the ICC, reservations of African countries and the possibility of referring the Syrian case to the ICC. State Secretary Bogdan Benko met Ambassador Tiina Intelmann, and Under-Secretary Miguel de Serpa Soares. State Secretary Benko affirmed that Slovenia supported international criminal justice, especially the work of the Court. The other two parties welcomed Slovenia's visible role in this area, and encouraged the country to continue its efforts.