Let me begin by saying that Norway fully recognises the substantial progress made by the International Criminal Court this past year. The Court is steadily integrating itself, also in practice, into the international legal system and the broader framework of international institutions and relations.
Norway welcomes the second annual report of the Court to the General Assembly, which reflects its achievements. We would like to thank the President of the Court, Mr Philippe Kirsch, for his presentation.
We are very pleased to note the strengthening of the relationship between the ICC and the UN.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan once said that there can be no healing without peace; there can be no peace without justice; and there can be no justice without respect for human rights and the rule of law.
Norway fully shares this view, and firmly believes that the ICC has a crucial role to play in ensuring justice, as a complementarity to national systems in order to achieve accountability for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
At the same time, it has long been recognised that the pursuit of justice in areas affected by armed conflict can give rise to particular challenges. One challenge that has been increasingly debated is related to the relationship between peace efforts and criminal prosecutions.
Efforts to promote ceasefires and peace agreements can of course give rise to dilemmas. In certain cases, people who are key to the success of peace talks may even have perpetrated the gravest crimes.
Nonetheless, in order to end bloodshed and armed conflict, mediators may have to call on all the parties concerned to sit down together and negotiate.
The emergence of a system of international criminal justice has not changed any of that. Nor does it constitute any obstacle to the pursuit of peace. Nor do we need more empirical evidence of peace that has failed because of continued impunity for mass atrocities.
We have enough experience in this field. We do not need more empirical data to substantiate the need for international legal order, including international criminal justice.
Ending armed conflict is, in turn, crucial to the establishment of justice and the promotion of human rights and development. Prolonged bloodshed is not in the interest of any victims. Instead, it creates new ones, and on a large scale.
Although it has long been recognised that there is no durable peace without justice, it is equally difficult to conceive of true justice in a society without peace.
These two aims, peace and justice based on respect for human rights, are among the fundamental purposes of the United Nations. They are both identified in the very first article of the Charter. Although they are distinct, they are closely interrelated.
And although they may be difficult to attain simultaneously, we have to strive for their achievement – if necessary one at a time - not least because they are mutually supportive and reinforcing.Governments that are committed to the aims of the United Nations and to the prosperity of civilian populations must have a full understanding of the relationship between human rights, development and security.
Facilitating the end of conflict and contributing to durable peace, including through justice, are demanding challenges for the international community. Removing impunity for mass atrocities, and communicating clearly to war-torn societies that such measures are being taken are necessary steps.
The new system of international criminal justice will bring the perpetrators of mass atrocities to justice when national systems are not able or willing to do so.
This powerful message has broad support and was recently reiterated by the Secretary-General, who said that: “Justice, especially transitional justice in conflict and post-conflict societies, is a fundamental building block of peace.
In the face of pressures to the contrary, the international community should ensure that justice and peace are considered to be complementary requirements. Indeed, we must never choose between justice and peace, even if it is not possible to pursue both goals in parallel.
This is particularly important because it remains our firm position that there should be no amnesty for international crimes.”
This message is slowly being implemented in practice, through painstaking efforts at national level, through international cooperation and, where necessary, through international mechanisms such as the ICC, which is triggering legal obligations for States parties to the Statute.
In this regard, Norway expects States that have legal obligations according to the Statute, or who have entered into cooperation agreements with the Court, to comply with them and to demonstrate in practice their commitment to justice.
These States have a responsibility to reach out and explain to their populations the true nature of the Court and its system. This is a system that provides for fair hearings and rights for the accused, while safeguarding the interests of victims. This is a system that enjoys broad support in the international community.
At the same time, the international community, including the UN Security Council in particular, retain their responsibility for the maintenance of peace and security, and ultimately for effective support to peace efforts. It is important that the General Assembly, as well as the Security Council, underline the importance of the pursuit of justice in the quest for durable peace.
These bodies must take this fully into account when shouldering their responsibilities.
Norway is pleased to note that today more than one in two member States of the United Nations are parties to the Rome Statute. It is no small achievement that only four years after the establishment of the Court, it numbers more than 100 States parties. Norway sincerely hopes that this number will continue to rise at the same rate, and that we will achieve the aim of universal adherence.
This past year important steps have been taken by the Court in its judicial functioning. The Court has initiated its first proceedings against an accused, and the Appeals Chamber has issued its first decision on the merits. However, as emphasised both in the report before us and by the President of the Court, the Court will need the cooperation of States. This is why Norway calls on all States to cooperate fully with the Court.
In closing, I would like to reiterate Norway’s firm and long-standing commitment to the integrity of the ICC Statute, and an effective, credible and a responsible International Criminal Court, which can and should enjoy the broadest possible support of States. We believe that it is in the long-term interests of nations, irrespective of size, regional grouping or political orientation, to work for a strengthened rule of law. This is not only the expression of our consistent approach to long-term peace and reconciliation through justice. It also reflects, we believe, a realistic assessment of needs in today’s interdependent world.
Thank you Madame President.