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Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court 2023: Statement from Andrew Murdoch, Legal Director at FCDO

Statement on Behalf of the United Kingdom: Session of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute 7 December, 2023

Madam President, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates. I welcome this opportunity to address the Assembly on behalf of the Government of the United Kingdom.

This anniversary year marks a significant milestone in the Court’s history.

The Rome Statute is a landmark treaty, given life through the collective determination of the international community to address impunity and ensure accountability for the most egregious crimes.

It is worth reflecting that twenty-five years ago there were those who thought the Court would be a symbolic but ultimately toothless body. Such pessimism has been proved wrong. The Court continues to grow – including with Armenia’s welcome ratification of the Rome Statute.

Madam President,

The United Kingdom would like to express its deep gratitude to President HofmaÅ„ski, whose term as President of the Court expires next year. 

We also offer our sincere thanks to you, Madam President. As a judge, President of the Court and now as Assembly of States Parties (ASP) President, you have been a loyal servant and champion of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and its values. 

And we thank outgoing ASP Vice Presidents Ambassadors Sequensová and Rae for their exemplary service to the Court.

Finally, we congratulate Mr Osvaldo Zavala Giler on his election as ICC Registrar, the incoming ASP President, Vice Presidents and newly elected judges. You can all count on the UK’s support in the execution of your important mandates.

Madam President,

We commend the Court for its work this year, demonstrating its capability to successfully run three parallel trials, including the conviction of Dominic Ongwen for crimes against humanity and war crimes.

We commend the work of the Trust Fund for Victims in ensuring that the interests of victims are central to the work of the Court.

We also commend the Office of the Prosecutor for its careful prioritisation and use of resources. Concluding the investigative phase of four situations since the last Assembly is part of an effective prosecutorial strategy to achieve better and more focussed results. An agile approach to the Court’s work is more important than ever given the growing pressures it faces on its limited resources. 

Madam President,

It is a perhaps a reflection of the Court’s successes that we have seen increased attempts to intimidate the Court and undermine its work. The criminal proceedings initiated by Russia against six ICC Judges and the Prosecutor and the cyber-attack were both cynical responses from those who fear the Court’s ability to deliver accountability and justice. Now more than ever, the Court needs our support.  We stand in support of the principled stance of the Prosecutor. 

Of course, such support need not be blinkered to the challenges the Court faces. 

While we welcome the progress made to improve its performance, effectiveness and efficiency, there is more to be done. We congratulate the Review Mechanism and all stakeholders in the Independent Expert Review (IER) process on completing the assessment this year of almost all 384 IER recommendations.

Some of those recommendations have already been implemented, but the majority have not. It is vital that momentum is maintained to deliver the change that is needed.    

The UK firmly believes that States must help the Court to meet its existing mandate before asking it to do even more. Great caution needs to be exercised by States considering adding more crimes to the Rome Statute, particularly where doing so risks division amongst States Parties.

And while we welcome the Court’s three courtrooms being in full use this year, we remain concerned by the lack of trials in the pipeline.

But of course the ICC does not exist or operate in a vacuum. When considering what more the ICC should do to meet the expectations of the States Parties, we should also consider what more we, the States Parties, can do for the ICC.

While States Parties rightly seek the Court to be more effective and efficient, to avoid judicial or prosecutorial overreach, and to respect complementarity, it must equally be properly resourced. The United Kingdom supports an increase to the Court’s budget this year to ensure that it has the resources to deliver what it is being asked to do.

The Court also needs States Parties to cooperate on fugitive tracking and execution of arrest warrants to ensure that, where necessary, individuals suspected of atrocity crimes are held accountable in The Hague. This will help ensure the pipeline of future trials.

Madam President,

Justice is a precursor to lasting peace. The intricate relationship between peace and justice underscores the indispensable role of the ICC in the pursuit of a more just and harmonious world.

The United Kingdom has been a steadfast supporter of the Court since its establishment, and we continue to stand with the court in its global fight against impunity.

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