By Tiina Intelmann
Recently, the International Criminal Court has been in the spotlight of the international stage. This court is an independent judicial institution that states collectively established by agreeing to its founding document, the Rome Statute, in 1998. The statute constitutes the legal framework within which the court works. The Rome Statute system is a major achievement of the whole international community. Hence, the significance of this court extends far beyond one case, one situation, or one region. All members of the international community should bear this in mind when discussing the current circumstances surrounding the work of the court.
Currently 122 states have adhered to the Rome Statute; through their accession to the statute they have voluntarily placed themselves under the jurisdiction of the court. Together, these 122 states are responsible for the Rome Statute system, and together they constitute the Assembly of States Parties, where each one of them is equally represented and enjoys the same rights. The assembly carries out essential functions for the overall Rome Statute system and constantly evaluates how to improve and refine it. The assembly provides a forum to exchange views on issues of concern to States, to consider amendments to the court’s legal framework, to discuss how to enhance the capacity of national judicial mechanisms and assistance to victims, and much more. Indeed, the place of the court in the overall Rome Statute system is to be the court of last resort, to get involved only when domestic avenues fail. It is by no mistake that we constantly stress the importance of the whole Rome Statue system and not the court alone.
As a rule, the Assembly holds one regular session each year. This year is no exception: we will convene in The Hague, The Netherlands, from 20 – 28 November 2013. In light of the challenges that the Court has faced over the past year, many States Parties have expressed to me their wish to engage and constructively address issues of concern with other States Parties.
For these discussions to be truly comprehensive, it is essential for all States Parties to be represented and ready to engage with one another. I hope that any meetings of the African Union or African States Parties prior to this year’s assembly session will focus on consolidating suggestions and proposals for consideration by all States Parties at the Assembly session. Moreover, representatives of the African Union are also invited to partake during the Assembly, as they have been in the past. I encourage African States to reaffirm their commitment to the fight against impunity by engaging actively with all States Parties.
Ambassador Tiina Intelmann is the President of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (http://www.icc-cpi.int).