|Amnesty International - Report - IOR 40/07/99
13 May 1999
United Nations (UN)
Appeal by Amnesty International to All States to Ratify the Statute of the International Criminal Court As Soon As Possible
PUBLIC AI Index: IOR 40/07/99
13 May 1999
which was adopted on 17 July 1998 by a vote of 120 to seven, with 21
abstentions, at the conclusion of a five-week diplomatic conference in Rome,
provides for the
establishment of a permanent International Criminal Court with jurisdiction over the worst
crimes in the world: genocide, other crimes against humanity and war crimes, in both
international and non-international conflicts.
The need for the Court is clear. In the half a century since the end of the trials before the
International Military Tribunals at Nuremberg and Tokyo, despite millions of victims of
genocide, other crimes against humanity and war crimes, states have largely failed to fulfil their
responsibilities to bring those responsible to justice.
The Court will not, of course, be a substitute for national courts which are able and
willing to fulfil their responsibilities.
It will exercise its jurisdiction only when states fail to carry
out their responsibilities under international law to bring those responsible for these crimes to
The very existence of the Court will act as a catalyst to inspire national legal systems to
fulfil their duties and will act as a deterrent to such crimes.
In the short term, Amnesty International is requesting all states to:
1. Sign and ratify the Statute of the International Criminal Court as soon as
The Statute requires 60 ratifications before it can enter into force. It will enter into
force on the first day of the month after the 60th instrument of ratification is deposited with the
United Nations Secretary-General. If 60 instruments of ratification are deposited by 30
September 2000, the Statute will enter into force before the end of the 20th century - a century
which has seen the worst violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in
As of 10 May 1999, ten months after the Statute was adopted, 82 states had taken the
first step towards ratification by signing the Statute and three had ratified it.
2. Refuse to enter into agreements prohibiting the surrender of the nationals of
certain states to the Court. The United States has started pressing other states to enter into
bilateral agreements under Article 98 (2) prohibiting the surrender of United States nationals who
have been charged with genocide, other crimes against humanity or war crimes to the Court.
Such agreements would defeat the purpose of the Court to ensure effective international justice
when states are unable or unwilling to bring to justice persons responsible for such crimes.
Every state should make a public pledge not to enter into such agreements and any state which
has made such an agreement should immediately cancel it.
3. Refuse to make opt-out (license to kill) declarations under Article 124 of the Statute. Article 124 permits states at the time of ratification to make a declaration that they do not accept the Court's jurisdiction over war crimes for a seven-year period. Such a declaration would undermine the very purpose of the Court by giving states impunity from international justice over war crimes for seven years, from the moment the Statute enters into force for that state. No state should make such a declaration and, once the Statute enters into force, the United Nations should not accept troops for its peace-keeping operations from states which refuse to recognize the Court's jurisdiction over war crimes. In addition to refusing to accept contributions of forces from any state party while such a declaration is in effect, the United Nations should request non-states parties to agree to make a declaration pursuant to Article 12 (3) that they will surrender their nationals to the Court if requested to do so when their nationals are accused of crimes committed as a member of a United Nations peace-keeping or other operation.
4. Ensure that the work of the Preparatory Commission is effective. The Preparatory Commission has begun work at United Nations Headquarters in New York preparing draft Rules of Procedure and Evidence, Elements of Crimes and associated documents for consideration by the Assembly of States Parties when it is established. To ensure that the Preparatory Commission itself is effective, states which are able to do so should, as requested by the General Assembly in Resolution 52/160 on 15 December 1998, make voluntary contributions to the United Nations trust fund to assist governments to participate in work to establish the Court and to support the participation of non-governmental organizations, which played such an important role in the work of the Ad Hoc and Preparatory Committees and the diplomatic conference, on the same basis as approved by the General Assembly in the same resolution.
5. Adopt whatever legislation is necessary to ensure that the International Criminal
Court is an effective complement to national jurisdictions. Most states will need to enact
legislation which provides for full, prompt and effective cooperation with the new Court. Such
procedural legislation should be in many respects similar to the legislation which is required to
cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda.
states have the primary responsibility for prosecuting these crimes.
In many cases,
additional substantive legislation will be needed to provide that genocide, other crimes against
humanity and war crimes, as defined in the Statute, are also crimes under national law no matter
where committed; that defences under national law are not inconsistent with those permitted
under the Statute and international law; and that there are no periods of limitations in national
law for these crimes.
Amnesty International is urging that heads of government, foreign ministers and national legislatures take these concrete steps as soon as possible to ensure that the Statute can enter into force at the earliest possible date and that the Court will be efficient in deterring and punishing genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Of course, the primary responsibility for investigating and prosecuting those responsible for these crimes will continue to rest with states. The Court will step in only when states are unable or unwilling to perform this duty, but it will not have the same universal jurisdiction over these crimes as states, except when the Security Council refers a situation involving a threat to or breach of international peace and security.
Therefore, Amnesty International is also calling upon states to exercise such jurisdiction
when the Court is unable to do so or other states fail to fulfil their responsibilities. It has
published today 14 Principles on the Effective Exercise of Universal Jurisdiction (AI Index: IOR
53/01/99) to guide states in exercising such jurisdiction after the House of Lords judgment on 24
March 1999 concerning the request by Spain to extradite former General Augusto Pinochet on
charges of torture and conspiracy to torture.
In the longer term, Amnesty International will be working to ensure that the Court
receives all the resources it needs; that qualified candidates are selected as Prosecutor, Judges
and other staff; that a Review Conference is called as soon as possible to strengthen the Statute;
that the Statute is ratified as widely as possible after it enters into force, that states cooperate
fully and promptly with the Court and that the Assembly of States Parties takes effective action if
any state party fails to do so.
I urge you to take these steps to help end impunity for the worst crimes in the world
which have plagued this century like no other. I look forward to working with you to achieve