Press release

As of October 2003, 92 States have acceded the Rome Statute. Universal ratification is needed for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to be truly effective and to have jurisdiction over as many situations as possible. Only then will it be in a position to strengthen the rule of law in the world.

However, it appears that the ratification rate has been stagnating for some time. Only four States have ratified in 2003. New impetus is thus needed. To this end, Amnesty International launched a campaign focusing on a different country each month, with a view to strengthening public awareness; mobilize civil society and lobbying governments into taking the necessary steps to ratify the Statute. This action is supported by the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). Moreover, in parallel with Amnesty International’s initiative, the FIDH has initiated a ratification campaign on the longer run. This campaign will last three years and will in particular focus on Asia.

The « target country of the month » in October is Japan. This choice can easily be explained by the fact that so far, only 12 Asian countries have ratified the Rome Statute, namely Afghanistan, Cambodia, Cyprus, East Timor, Fiji, Jordan, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Nauru, Republic of Korea, Samoa, and Tajikistan (according to UN General Assembly Regional Groups). As a major political power in the region, Japan’s ratification would send a strong message to its neighboring States.

Although Japan has consistently been supporting the establishment of the ICC, and has recurrently expressed its commitment to international justice and the rule of law, the ratification process has significantly slowed down. Japan declared that it was currently reviewing its legislation to check its compatibility with the Rome Statute. Indeed, the principle of complementarity embodied in the Statute provides that States are primarily responsible for prosecuting perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The authorities nonetheless seem to consider the legislative reform as a rather low priority.

There have however been encouraging signs in the past few months. In December 2002, during an EU-Japan meeting, EU governments already party to the Statute provided Japanese authorities with advice on the modification of national legislation, and shared experiences with their Japanese counterparts. On 1 July 2002, the Head of the Delegation of Japan, Ms. Naoko Saiki, made the follwing statement to the tenth session of the Preparatory Commission of the International Criminal Court: « It is imperative that the ICC wins the widest possible support among the members of the international community ». Japan also reiterated « its firm commitment » to international justice. The FIDH also welcomes the statement of the Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations, H.E. Mr. Haraguchi, at the UN Security Council open debate on Justice and the Rule of Law on 30 September 2003, according to which « the most important recent development in international criminal justice is the birth of the International Criminal Court ».

Those statements must now be followed by concrete actions. The FIDH urges the Japanese authorities to be consistent with their commitment to international justice and to take the necessary measures to be able to ratify the Rome Statute as soon as possible. The FIDH also calls on civil society to collaborate with the Japanese Network for the International Criminal Court (JNICC) in order to raise awareness on this fundamental issue and to assist the Government with implementation issues.

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