Mr Chairman, distinguished delegates,
In 1988, 100,000 Kurdish men were rounded up, trucked to the desert and executed, as part of the so-called Anfal campaign. In presenting an overwhelming case of genocide to the international community, Human Rights Watch collected 18 tons of secret police documents and interviewed scores of survivors, including seven men who miraculously escaped the firing squad. The international community did nothing.
But if the ICC is to realize its tremendous potential to deter genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, it must be strong and independent. Most important among the decisions facing this conference is the need to avoid any requirement of state consent. Allowing states to prevent the Court from exercising jurisdiction on a case-by-case basis would paralyze the Court and effectively turn the Security Council into the only trigger mechanism. That would mean a veto for each permanent member. As virtually every state but a handful of the permanent members agree, no Court that is seen as an arm of the Security Council will enjoy the credibility it needs to operate effectively. While the Security Council will have an active enforcement role, in practice enforcement will depend much more often on state cooperation, which in turn will depend on the Court's credibility and legitimacy.
In addition, to ensure that those responsible for all serious atrocities are brought to justice, even when individual states find it inconvenient, the Court must have an independent prosecutor, authorized to investigate and prosecute egregious crimes wherever and by whomever they are committed.
The court must have jurisdiction over the full range of serious crimes, including the prosecution of war crimes in internal armed conflicts which constitute the vast majority of contemporary atrocities, as well as abuses that are specific to women and children.
Support for an independent, effective, impartial Court is broad, reaching across Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and Asia. However, as an international organization based in the United States, we feel compelled to refer to the basic policy choice faced by Washington. Will the U.S. accept the very strong guarantees likely to be enshrined in the statute against frivolous or unfounded prosecutions of U.S. citizens, including a complimentarity regime that currently reflects U.S. preferences? Or will it insist on a 100%, iron-clad guarantee that no U.S. citizen would ever be brought before the Court -- a guarantee which would destroy the universality of the Court. We are disappointed that, at this late date, the United States still has not announced its position on this key point.
If the United States and a handful of other states continue to insist on what amounts to immunity from prosecution, the commitment of the like-minded states and the many others that support their position will be tested by an equally clear choice -- whether to stand by or compromise principle. We hope they do not capitulate to a minority of recalcitrant states, some of which will not ratify the statute in any event. We hope that they reject any proposals that would seriously weaken the independence of the Court. Instead, we urge them to remain true to their principles and create an effective tribunal with real deterrent impact. It would be wrong to accept a weak statute in the unrealistic hope that it will be improved in the future. Now is the time to build a Court to which victims will look in the century to come.