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Conference on "Domestic Implementation of the Rome Statute

Accra, Ghana, 21-23 February 2001

Address of Emma Bonino to the Opening Ceremony

Honorable Minister, Excellencies, distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen: Let me at the outset say how honored I am to be here today in Accra among government representatives, policymakers and experts in International criminal law. I am delighted to participate in this Conference hosted by a country that has been among the very first to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Ghana is also the country of UN Secretarty-General Kofi Annan, a leader of international peace and justice and a long time friend of the ICC. I still vividly remember how, on 18 July 1998, on the Roman Capital Hill Square, Mr. Annan decided to join the Mayor of Rome, dozens of human rights activists and myself in a public celebration of the adoption of the Rome Statute. It was an extremely joyful moment, which I will never forget. The path that has brought us to 139 signatures to the Statute and 29 ratifications - the Dominican Republic deposited its instruments yesterday - started almost 50 years ago. Cruel events in the Balkans and in the Great Lakes Region called for a renewed commitment to justice. Those who for years had been engaged in the process of the creation of an effective system of international criminal justice as jurists or politicians needed to turn into advocates and activists to reach that goal. In my capacity as Member of the Italian Parliament and Secretary General of the Transnational Radical Party, I succeeded in convincing the then Italian Prime Minister, Professor Giuliano Amato, to be among the promoters, together with a small group of friends, of the adoption by the United Nations Security Council of the Statute of an Ad Hoc Tribunal for the crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia. To publicly support that proposal, in 1993, we handed over to the then UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali thousands of signatures collected from all over the world on an appeal to urge the actual creation of the ICTY. The process of the establishment of the International Criminal Court began in the same way: a small group of people that started to work together to translate a utopian dream into a concrete reality. At the 1994 UN General Assembly, I personally had the honor to participate in those early talks trying to accelerate the decision-making process proposing, on behalf of the Italian Government, Rome as the host city of the Diplomatic Conference. Ever since that proposal was accepted by the GA, that original group of people started to become bigger and bigger. The so-called "like-minded" group of countries was created at the UN Headquarters in New York and a Coalition of Non-governmental Organizations was founded to follow the final phases of the negotiations of the Statute. It is thanks to this effective collaboration between Governments and public opinion that on 17 July 1998, at the FAO in Rome, the Statute of the International Criminal Court was finally adopted with 120 votes in favor, 7 against and 21 abstentions. A successful outcome that many considered impossible even during the Diplomatic Conference itself. Rome for me did not represent the end of my commitment to see the Court become operational. In fact, ever since 17 July 1998, with No Peace Without Justice, the Coalition of NGOs and some leading Governments, among whom the members of the European Union and Canada whose representatives I recognize here this morning, we have been able to mobilize opinion leaders and decision makers the world over to see the Court coming into being. As recently as a month ago, at the European Parliament we succeeded in adopting a strong and firm resolution asking EU Governments to use the Ratification of the Rome Statute as a negotiating element towards associated Countries and partners. This same approach was adopted by the Council of Ministers of the EU. Honorable Minister, Excellencies, Distinguished delegates: The Statute that we have today is not THE perfect Statute, it represents the result of the harmonization of very different criminal systems, a brand new exercise aimed at meeting different concerns and at finding a balance between diverse national and international interests. At the final plenary of the Diplomatic Conference, many delegations stated that, although imperfect, the Rome Statute represents the best instrument to put an end to impunity for the most heinous crimes against mankind - a compromise in which national positions had to be put aside to achieve the endorsement of the document by a large number of countries. I fully subscribe to those views. Moreover, I am convinced that the Statute contains many important provisions. One of its pillars is "complementarity", which states that the Court will only take up cases where there is a genuine unwillingness or inability of a national criminal jurisdictions to act. All the negotiators in Rome agreed that the best way to bring perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes to justice, was through effective national criminal justice systems. National courts, when able to operate effectively and independently, are closer to the people they are supposed to try, and their procedures are more understandable for victims, witnesses, defendants and the public. The ICC is intended to "fill the gaps", when national systems are disrupted by conflicts, when they are themselves implicated in the crimes, or when States are unwilling to comply with their obligations deriving from conventional and customary international law. Another provision of the Statute that I hold dear is the exclusion of the death penalty. Given the magnitude of the crimes under the jurisdiction of the Court, the choice not to include capital execution represents the reaffirmation of the irreversible trend towards the abolition of the death penalty all over the world. Ladies and Gentlemen: As you are aware, last June the Preparatory Commission finalized, by consensus, the text of the "Rules of Procedure and Evidence" and the "Elements of Crimes". Another significant achievement that this time also saw the active participation of some of the countries that voted against or abstained at Rome on the final vote on the Statute. We owe this success to the leadership of Ambassador Kirsch of Canada, whose strong and enlighten chairmanship brought us not only to a successful conclusion of the Diplomatic Conference, but also to the present constructive climate in which the Preparatory Commission is finalizing all the remaining relevant documents for the Court to start working. In conclusion, Allow me to thank the honorable Attorney General and Minister of Justice Nana Akufo-Addo under whose auspices we have gathered here today, our friends at GHAFFOMP, the NGO Coalition for the ICC and last but no least my friends at No Peace Without Justice, who worked hard to make this conference happen. I am sure that at the end of these two days we will all leave Accra even more determined to work for the prompt entry into force of the Court. We need to increase the pace of ratifications and we need to do it together. We owe it to the victims of wars, we owe it to the generations to come. Thank you.

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[ Corte Penale Internazionale e Tribunale Penale Internazionale ]

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