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The Role of the International Criminal Court

Thematic Session I

The first Thematic Session will cover the start of operations of the International Criminal Court and its repercussions for the protection of human rights and the promotion of democratic values inherent in the Rule of Law.

This session will include contributions from the Judges and the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, as well as participating Ministers of States Parties. The Thematic Session will discuss the policies and priorities that the Assembly of States Parties and the Court itself have developed and will solicit the opinions and positions from participating Delegations from the Region.

The adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 17 July 1998 and its subsequent broad-based ratification represented a major achievement for the international community. The Rome Statute, together with its Rules of Procedure and Evidence and Elements of Crimes, constitute an unprecedented result at the international level, effectively combining different judicial systems and traditions, while at the same time protecting the interests of victims and the rights of the accused.
Over the last five years, the world has witnessed emerging broad trans-regional support for this judicial institution, which was conceived to fight impunity for those who bear the greatest responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, to bring redress to victims and to promote universal adherence to the principles of the rule of law. To date, one hundred and thirty-nine countries have signed the Rome Statute and ninety-two have ratified it, thereby becoming members of the Assembly of States Parties. In many regions of the world, governments have initiated the final phases of domestic implementation of the Statute into their national penal codes.
The fundamental basis of the Rome Statute is the principle of “complementarity”, whereby the primary responsibility for the prosecution of crimes under international law rests with national criminal jurisdictions. Consequently, the International Criminal Court only has a role when national criminal justice systems have collapsed or are not in a position to deal with those crimes and therefore are either unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute them.
On 1 July 2002, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court entered into force. Since then, the Assembly of States Parties has elected the 18 judges of the Court, the Prosecutor and the Registrar and the new judicial institution is already starting its work.

The ICC and the Arab World
While delegations from the Arab world have participated actively in the negotiations on the Rome Statute and its annexes, including in particular the Elements of Crimes and Rules of Procedure and Evidence, only two countries are parties to the Statute, namely Djibouti and Jordan, out of the ninety-two countries that so far have ratified the Statute.
For the ICC to be able to address violations of international humanitarian law worldwide, it is necessary that additional States accede to the Rome ICC Statute. Each new ratification will contribute to the affirmation of the Court as an instrument of law and universal justice. Broadening the number of countries that recognise the jurisdiction of the Court not only contributes to strengthening the legitimacy of this new institution, but would also provide it with the means and capacity to work effectively whenever necessary.
While Jordan currently holds the Presidency of the Assembly of States Parties, the Arab region as a whole is underrepresented among the States Parties. This means that its legal traditions and jurisprudence are not properly represented on the bench and in the staff of the Court and that Arab countries are not adequately present within the Assembly of States Parties. The Government of Yemen is committed to ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and it is hoped that other Countries in the Region will also join in the near future.
The Conference will provide the opportunity to highlight the role of the International Criminal Court in the protection of human rights and the promotion of democratic values inherent in the Rule of Law and the benefits of wider participation of Countries in the Region in its mechanisms.

Thematic Session II

The Interdependence of Democracy and Human Rights

The second Thematic Session will be dedicated to a discussion of the interdependence of Democracy and Human Rights. In the design of specific panels, the coordination of the discussion and the development of some of the aspects highlighted in the work of the United Nations and of Arab Countries in their independent development towards Regional democratic systems of governance, Government Delegations from Regional Countries will present their thoughts and proposals, in open dialogue, on the development of democratic principles in their own countries. Government Delegations from countries previously in transition and those that are now active at an international level within the Community of Democracies, such as Chile and Romania, will present their experiences.
Government Delegations from participating non-regional States, including the European Union, will highlight their need to work together with Arab and Regional voices on the possible paths towards national and regional ownership of democratic principles, within the political and cultural frameworks of each country, and the ways in which they can best assist Arab and Regional partners to reach these goals.

United Nations Millennium Declaration
In the United Nations “Millennium Declaration”, adopted by the General Assembly on 8 September 2000, UN Member States affirmed that they would “spare no effort to promote democracy and strengthen the rule of law, as well as respect for all internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms…”.
Among other things, the Declaration made reference to the strengthening of the capacity of all countries to implement the principles and practices of democracy and respect for human rights; the struggle against all forms of violence against women and the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; a collective work for more inclusive political processes, allowing genuine participation by all citizens in all countries; and the assurance of the freedom of the media and the right of the public to have access to information and a variety of views and opinions.

In his Report on Implementation of the United Nations Millennium Declaration, issued on 2 September 2003, Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated that “Democracy and human rights, though distinct concepts, are closely interlinked. Democracy, as a human right in itself, is implied in article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but it only functions in its fullest sense when other human rights are respected”. After the end of the Cold War, the acceptance of democracy as a rule has gone more or less together with a broad acceptance of universal human rights standards. After the events of September 11, a number of countries adopted extreme security measures and policies as part of the “war on terror”. Nevertheless, according to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, greater respect for human rights, along with democracy and social justice, will, in the long term, be the most effective prophylactic against terror. As the Secretary-General noted, there are still enormous gaps to be filled in the actual practice of promoting democracy and strengthening the rule of law, as well as respect for all internationally recognised human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development.

The Arab Human Development Reports
The "Arab Human Development Reports" (AHDR) of 2002 and 2003 focused on human development in the Arab world at the beginning of the new millennium, considering its present state and most disabling flows. Based on this analysis, the report advanced concrete proposals for achieving levels of development related to the potential of the Arab region and the aspirations of new generations of Arabs. The Report challenged the Arab world to overcome three fundamental obstacles to human development posed by the widening of gaps in freedom, women's empowerment and knowledge across the region.
Public, media and policy attention on the first Report has been wide and vigorous, prompting a keen debate, both in the region and abroad, on the central dilemmas of Arab human development. This attention was not confined to public discussion circles; various Arab governments and institutions also discussed the Report, criticising some findings and agreeing with others. Subsequently, and in line with the recommendations of the first Report, several Arab countries took some important steps forward, in particular in relation to the empowerment of women and to the improvement of their political participation.
The 2002 AHDR highlighted the three deficits afflicting the Arab world and stressed the importance of democracy as part of the solution to bridging them. However reaction both to events in Iraq and the Occupied Territories shows how divided the international community is on the modalities of such reforms. For much of the Arab world and, indeed, according to global public opinion, military action was not the best way to promote democratic change. In fact, in the 2003 report there is a strong reassertion of a key principle contained in the previous report: lasting reform in the Arab world must come from within.

Democracy and Human Rights
The 2003 AHDR emphasised how the three deficits are still critically pertinent, since global and regional developments unfavourable to Arab human development have exacerbated these negative trends.
On the other hand, genuine democratisation is the key to sustainable human development and is a necessary condition for the Arab world to unleash renewed creative forces, harness the talent of the younger generation and forge equal partnerships in the rapidly globalising world. In realising these goals, the Arab world would also be better placed to develop constructive and equitable settlements of the current protracted civil strife and regional conflicts.

This Thematic Session would therefore concentrate on two of the three main obstacles to human development, namely freedom and women's empowerment, as the concept of knowledge has been widely developed in the 2003 AHDR. Within those broad categories, the concept of freedom would be subdivided into three specific items: elections, freedom of association and the independence of media. Selected participants with expertise in these areas would present more detailed information on these issues, taking as their starting point the data given by the 2003 AHDR.

Following presentations on these four items, it is envisaged that a fruitful debate, enhanced by a sharing of information and experiences by participants, will lead to the adoption of a common conclusion on methods and approaches to strengthening democracy and human rights principles, in particular the protection of freedom and women’s empowerment.

Regional and International co-operation
Finally, this Thematic Session could also focus on how promote the enhancement of democracy, human rights and the rule of law on a regional level.
Selected panellists will discuss how these principles can best be promoted by a concerted cooperative effort in the Region, through the vehicle of the Arab League, including its Standing Committee on Human Rights, which is well placed to foster comprehensive, cohesive and consistent approaches taking into account cultural and political needs in the region.

Delegates will also discuss the role of the African Union, of which many Countries of the Region are members, on women’s empowerment, by the adoption of the Additional Protocol of Maputo to the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights. More generally, interventions will focus on cooperation in the framework of African Union and other relevant regional bodies on such items so as to facilitate the exchange of experiences.

The experience of European regional cooperation in the promotion of democracy and human rights, through the Council of Europe and the European Union will also be presented as an example of productive regional cooperation.
Through this exchange of ideas and experiences, it is envisaged that the debate will lead to a crystallisation of principles for the promotion of democracy, human rights and the rule of law through regional and international cooperation, focusing in particular on the context of this Region.

The panels have been designed to ensure that constructive dialogue, devoid of undue criticism or polemic, can take place on the themes to be addressed, benefiting from the contributions of all Delegations on the items discussed in a spirit of sharing ideas, proposals and principles.

Thematic Session III

The role of Civil Society in the promotion of Democracy, Human Rights and the International Criminal Court

Civil-society organisations, according to international criteria, are the host of associations around which society voluntarily organizes. They are comprised of a wide variety of organisations, including trade unions; non-governmental organisations (NGOs); gender, language, cultural, religious and environmental groups; charities and other non profit organisations; business associations; social and sports clubs; cooperatives and community-development organisations; professional associations; academic and policy institutions; and media outlets. Political parties are also included, although they often sit astride civil society and the State when they are represented in Parliament. Civil society, in positioning itself in between the individual and the State, comprises organised or unorganised groups and individuals interacting socially, politically and economically, regulated by formal and informal rules and laws. In the field of international relations, scholars now speak of civil society organisations as “non-State actors”, referring in particular to their emerging influence in the international sphere, where previously only States played a significant role. Recently they have promoted new environmental agreements, greatly strengthened women’s rights, contributed to important arms control and disarmament measures and promoted the improvement of the rights and well-being of children, the disabled, the poor and indigenous peoples. Governments and international organisations can, at times, find civil society groups a threat to their interests, but increasingly officials are looking at them for innovative ideas and information. Furthermore, some Governments and international organisations recognise that consultation with and, more often, support from civil society gives their public decisions more credibility. Indeed, the ability of civil society organisations to help illustrate different social realities and represent a rich variety of citizens’ needs and concerns that governments alone are not well-placed to identify is becoming accepted and encouraged more frequently. Many observers see these trends as signs of increasing pluralism and democracy, because authoritarian and paternalistic governments have often either outlawed independent civil society organisations or confronted them with severe administrative hurdles and harassment. This is reflected in the words of the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan (A/58/323), who said, “It is by now almost a truism that elections are not isolated events but part of a holistic process, and that sustainable democracy must be rooted in stable institutions and a strong civil society in which the rights of minorities as well as those of majorities are protected by the rule of law. Even ostensibly democratic political processes are often marred by limited public participation, restricted or manipulated information and controlled or censored media”.

Working on common goals and ideals
In the last few decades, civil society organisations have started forming coalitions based on common goals and objectives. In particular, less emphasis has been put on traditional forms of assistance and has instead been put more on mobilising the public in favour of important causes, often by adopting common platforms of action. An emblematic case has been that of the NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), which was set up in 1995 in New York with the purpose of advocating for the establishment of an effective and just International Criminal Court. It is now a matter of common opinion, including among State representatives, that the CICC was indispensable to the adoption of the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and, later, to its entry into force. Another important example is the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, launched in 1992, that brings together over 1,300 human rights, humanitarian, children’s, peace, disability, veterans, medical, humanitarian mine action, development, arms control, religious, environmental and women’s groups in over 90 countries. The tremendous work of this coalition, whose members work locally, nationally and internationally, to ban antipersonnel mines has encouraged a large number of Countries to sign and ratify the Mine Ban Treaty, which was adopted in Ottawa in 1997.

Civil society and the Arab World
According to the AHDR 2002, the Arab world has an ancient civil tradition, based mainly on the “waqf” system. Since the end of the nineteenth century, this has taken the form of cultural associations and charities whose main activities have been education and the provision of health care, together with social, religious and some political matters. These groupings, which were frustrated and even eliminated by some authoritarian States in the 1950s and 1960s, have revived their activities in recent years, more or less encouraged by public authorities who have recognised the value of their assistance in times of difficulty.

It has to be recognised that civil society actors encounter several external constraints in playing their role effectively; indeed, according to the AHDR, Arab civil associations face many difficulties. Bureaucratic constraints in the form of control of civic associations by public authorities present serious problems, although sometimes the laws regulating them have become an important rallying point for Arab civil associations. While many active associations do not approach public authorities with confrontation in mind, the latter may not yet be open to associations’ positions on issues such as delegation, consultation and decentralization, which can cause difficulties in their relations and, consequently, on their ability to work effectively.

It does appear that civil associations active in social assistance in the Arab World tend to have a more clear social impact as they seem to satisfy immediate and sensitive needs of the population. However, this does not seem to be the case of other, more advocacy-oriented civil-society organisations, whose functions are “new” in the area and who are often not appreciated in society. In fact, an increasingly dynamic and constructive civil society in the Arab region, including public and non-governmental think tanks and research institutions, has the potential to provide intellectual and analytical ammunition for operationalising the commitment to a future for all, based on a comprehensive, multifaceted strategy for poverty reduction.

The connection between Arab civil society and international civil society is a desirable trend in the Region, meeting thus the challenges of globalisation. The abovementioned global coalitions have been effective in stimulating more constructive international attitudes and policies in the field of human rights and democracy, also to the benefit of Arab countries. There has been an increase at the pan-Arab level in coordination, solidarity and communication among civil society organisations on global issues, mainly in the establishment of networks and unified platforms.

According to the ADHR of 2002, reform of the laws regulating the work of civil society organisations in the Arab World might encourage youth and women to establish associations to play an effective role in their governance. In addition, it is worth mentioning that civil society can bring into focus contradictions between cultural and religious conditioning and the founding principles of the nation in the Arab World.

The growing role of Civil Society and the emergence of joint Arab organisations are normally accompanied by openness, plurality and expressed public opinion. This phenomenon should help to promote the expansion of political participation and the formation of political parties and organisations, all of which are considered to be the basis of civil society and an effective, vital force behind economic and human development.

Experience shows that strong and vigorous civil society organisations in many cases have been of help to a number of countries by undertaking concrete actions and participating actively in public life, instead of being marginalised.

This Thematic Session will provide an opportunity to prominent intellectuals and personalities as well as representatives of civil society organisations, from within and outside the Region, to share information and views on their experiences so as to facilitate the development of a potential set of principles and priorities that civil society can follow to further the development of democratic principles and the protection of human rights and encourage partnership between Government and civil society.