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14 December 2011 - Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court
General Debate - Statement by by Mr. Martin Briens Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

Mr. Vice President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would firstly like to thank President Song and Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo for having presented to this Assembly the review and future prospects of the ICC. I reaffirm, on behalf of the French government, our full support for their mission.

The scope of the Court’s activities continues to expand. The Office of the Prosecutor is conducting preliminary examinations – whose potential for preventing and promoting national judicial proceedings is huge – in 8 countries, on 4 different continents; it is conducting inquiries in 7 countries and the Court is hearing 4 trials simultaneously.

The speed with which the Prosecutor’s inquiries were conducted in 2011 in Libya and in Côte d’Ivoire, the arrest and transfer to The Hague this year of two individuals, including former Head of State Laurent Gbagbo, the recent issuing of a new arrest warrant relating to the situation in Darfur for the Defense Minister, Mr. Hussein, and the announced completion of the first trials are all important developments.

It’s interesting to note that these activities, which often target key figures, and sometimes give rise, in the short term, to negative responses from particular States, or organizations, do not impinge on the Court’s universalization process: on the contrary, six new States joined the States Parties in 2011. Those who announced that the States would denounce the Statute if the ICC continued to pursue its independent policy were mistaken. This Court represents a guarantee of protection for all those who want to forever turn the page on atrocities.

Mr. Vice President,

For 9 years – and again this year - France has remained committed to the International Criminal Court through concrete cooperation measures, in accordance with the Rome Statute, and has continued to provide diplomatic support.

Judicial cooperation is a legal obligation for all States that have chosen to ratify the Rome Statute. This can’t be an "a la carte" cooperation. There are no good or bad arrest warrants; there are ICC arrest warrants that must be executed. The President of Botswana, in his opening speech, eloquently reminded us of this.

Support for the ICC also helps to promote peace and international security. In this respect, I echo the remarks of the Prosecutor who underscored that the States made a deliberate decision in 1998. The creation of an independent and permanent Court was meant to be a new response to the most serious crimes.

It’s with this in mind that France co-sponsored resolution 1970 of 26 February 2011, which, in accordance with Chapter VII of the Charter, referred the situation in Libya to the ICC; this text was unanimously adopted –this was a historic moment - by the 15 Security Council members.

France also arrested and transferred Callixte Mbarushimana in September 2011.

France’s support for the Court’s inquiries and proceedings – its core activities – is indisputable. We are the 4th leading contributor to the ICC. This is – and I’m responding to the question posed by President Song – one of our priorities. But this support goes hand in hand with the need for good governance and sound management. The financial crisis affects all States and every individual. Budgetary discipline is an imperative and we expect the Court to make the same efforts as those undertaken by our citizens, to combine legal action with budgetary efficiency when using the resources allocated to it. Thus our budget for 2012 should take into account, and, in our view, go beyond, the recommendations of the Committee on Budget and Finance.

Mr. Vice President,

This meeting witnessed the election of Mrs. Fatou Bensouda as the future Prosecutor. I don’t need to tell Mrs. Bensouda how highly we regard her. She wasn’t born yesterday.

She will have the difficult task of continuing the action of a Prosecutor who helped to transform a bureaucratic court into a major player on the international stage in just a few years. We have every confidence in her to consolidate the Court’s achievements and to guarantee its independence.

We must in particular continue to promote 3 key policies:

- the policy of complementarity with the States

- the policy of only prosecuting major criminals and

- the policy of prevention.

The sharing of responsibilities under the principle of complementarity between the States and the Court, based on what is being done in Colombia, and perhaps in Guinea and Libya, is indeed the most effective solution. The holding of genuine national proceedings in these countries would represent a success for the ICC.

Lastly, we must all contribute to the Court’s preventive role. This is what the UN Secretary-General is doing when he reaffirms that justice has to take its course in all cases that are referred to the Court; that’s what his Special Representatives, Mrs. Coomaraswamy and Mrs. Wallström, are doing when they echo the judicial proceedings against those responsible for child recruitment or sexual violence. Many institutions, such as the Peacebuilding Commission, can act as sounding boards in order to further strengthen the impact of the ICC’s activities.

Mr. Vice President,

Two risks have been identified for the years ahead:

- Firstly, the temptation of the States and other actors to interfere with the Court’s independence; this is a debate that we had last year; it’s right and proper for the States to discuss issues of governance with the Court, but we must maintain the balance that results from the Rome Statute.

- Secondly, the risk that the Court may find itself isolated by adopting judicial decisions that are ignored by those who manage conflicts; this represents a challenge for the States Parties. In this respect, France welcomes the procedures adopted to deal with or prevent non-cooperation on the part of the States. The President of this Assembly will have a vital role to play in implementing this new mechanism and we wish him every success in this mission to mobilize the States Parties.

Thank you

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