ICC must be protected - Open Letter to the States Parties to the Rome Statute

30/04/2020
Press release
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Your Excellency,
We, the undersigned organizations, call on your State and all States Parties to the Rome Statute to show support for the Rome Statute system and the International Criminal Court (ICC), especially in the face of threats to its independence and mandate.
Although threats to the pursuit of international justice, including in the context of the ICC, are not new, protecting the ICC is particularly important today in the face of escalating hostility towards the Court.

The ICC’s crucial role in complementing the primary role of national courts cannot be over-stated. We acknowledge that the ICC would benefit from changes to strengthen its performance, but ensuring a fair, effective, and independent Court depends on support from States Parties.
We welcome the reaffirmation of ICC States Parties to “uphold and defend the principles and values enshrined in the Rome Statute and to preserve its integrity undeterred by any threats against the Court.”

We urge States Parties to uphold the Rome Statute system by making strong, concrete expressions of support and to defend it by unequivocally condemning threats.
The challenges faced by the Court require nothing less.

As you know, on 20 January 2020, one month after the ICC Prosecutor announced that the situation in Palestine merits investigation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for “sanctions against the international court, its officials, its prosecutors, everyone.”

On 17 March 2020, U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo threatened to impose punitive measures against two named senior ICC staffers, other ICC staffers, and their families.
His remarks came after the ICC authorized an investigation into the situation in Afghanistan. These are among the latest in a series of attacks that undermine the Court itself and intimidate its staff in order to protect political interests at the expense of international justice.

This combination of threats and the U.S. visa ban policy seeks to undermine the Court’s ability to deliver justice to victims whenever States are unwilling or unable to genuinely investigate and prosecute crimes under the Rome Statute. The ICC must be free to carry out its mandate, without fear or favor, on the basis of the legal requirements delineated in the Rome Statute—not on the basis of political considerations.

As a State Party to the Rome Statute, your country has clearly committed to ending impunity for crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction, regardless of the perpetrator’s nationality.
Defending the Court’s independence is key to fulfilling that pledge. We urge you to act with your fellow States Parties to champion the Court’s mandate and independence and uphold the Rome Statute’s integrity by:

1. Expressing your government’s strong and continued commitment to the ICC and its prosecutorial and judicial independence in bilateral, multilateral, and public forums at the domestic, regional, and international levels;

2. Calling on the U.S. government to repeal its ICC visa ban policy and to refrain from attacking the Court, its staff, or their families in any way;

3. Calling on the Israeli government to repudiate its call for sanctions against the Court and its staff;

4. Publicly expressing your government’s determination to cooperate fully with the Court across its work;

5. Calling on all relevant actors to cooperate with the investigation into the situation in Afghanistan and any possible investigation into the situation in Palestine;

6. Ratifying, if not previously done, the Agreement on the Privileges and Immunities of the International Criminal Court (APIC);

7. Domesticating, if not previously done, the Rome Statute; and

8. Signing, if not previously done, all relevant cooperation agreements with the ICC (for example, on the protection of witnesses and victims; the release of persons, including interim release; and the enforcement of sentences).

Thank you for your commitment and support for the Rome Statute system and the ICC.

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