Global Policy Forum

UN, World Court Agree to Cooperate


By Edith M. Lederer

Associated Press
October 5, 2004

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the president of the International Criminal Court signed an agreement Monday on the working relationship between the United Nations and world's the first permanent war crimes tribunal. Although the court is an independent judicial institution, it was born out of the U.N. system. The agreement provides a legal basis for a permanent relationship between the two organizations as well as information-sharing and judicial assistance. "I think we've today put on solid legal basis the cooperation between the U.N. and the ICC and I think this is an important step in the development of the court's work,'' Annan said after the agreement was signed.

The International Criminal Court is the culmination of a campaign for a permanent war crimes tribunal that began with the Nuremberg trials after World War II. It can prosecute cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed after July 1, 2002, but will step in only when countries are unwilling or unable to dispense justice themselves.

The United States vehemently opposes the court, arguing that it could be used for frivolous or politically motivated prosecution of American troops. But the 97 countries that have ratified the 1998 Rome Treaty counter that it contains enough safeguards to prevent any frivolous prosecutions.

Annan, a staunch supporter of the court, told the court's president, Judge Philippe Kirsch, of Canada, that he has made the "rule of law" a top priority for the remainder of his tenure, which ends Dec. 31, 2006, and he will tell all U.N. agencies and programs "to give you full cooperation." "So I'm working for you now," Annan said. Kirsch replied: "We really look forward to very close cooperation with the U.N. as the (Rome) statute always contemplated. You can count on us."

The agreement includes an exchange of representatives between the United Nations and the court, the ICC's participation in the U.N. General Assembly as an observer, and U.N. cooperation if the court requests testimony of U.N. officials. This means that U.N. human rights, refugee and genocide experts may assist the ICC and, most importantly, U.N. humanitarian and peacekeeping missions can provide vital information on atrocities in conflict areas, said William Pace, head of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, an advocacy group that includes more than 1,000 civil society organizations.

The U.N.-ICC agreement was drafted over four years and adopted first by the ICC Assembly of State Parties in The Hague, Netherlands, on Sept. 7 and then by the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 13, despite opposition from the United States. A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, noted that under the agreement the United Nations will not pay any costs for the ICC, which means the United States will not foot any part of the bill for the court's operation.

Pace said despite opposition from President Bush's administration, the agreement reveals that the majority of the 191 U.N. member states "think otherwise." "By allowing for crucial cooperation between two of the most powerful global justice institutions, this agreement will play an important role in the fight to end impunity for the perpetrators of the world's most atrocious crimes,'' he said in a statement.

ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo is currently investigating its first two cases in Congo and Uganda, and according to the coalition it is considering six other situations on four continents.

More Information on International Justice
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