‘Era of impunity is over’, ICC to go beyond African cases – Ban Ki-Moon

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 01 June 2010, 08:48 GMT]
The United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, has said with the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC), those who commit the worst human crimes will be held responsible. Speaking at the opening of the ICC review conference at Speke Resort Munyonyo Monday, Ki-moon said no government or justice system complicit in international crimes can shield criminals from justice. “Whether they are rank or military commanders, civil servants following orders, or top political leaders, they will be held to account,” he said, in comments published on Uganda’s ‘New Vision’ website. “The old era of impunity is over. In its place, slowly but surely, we are witnessing the birth of a new age of accountability.” The UN chief added that the ICC will soon be handling cases beyond Africa.

The ICC was set up as a court of last resort, acting when national courts cannot or fail to do so, in issues of grave international concern.

The ICC has so far mostly focused on African conflicts, But Ban denied the court is selectively targeting Africa, pointing out that apart from Darfur and Kenya, other cases had been referred by African states.

"Even if it saddens me to say this, the evidence [of abuses] will take the court beyond Africa sooner rather than later," he said.

The ICC, he noted, has its roots in the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals, and those of Rwanda, former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, Cambodia and Lebanon.

When the ICC was established 12 years ago, he added, few believed that the court would investigate and try war crimes and crimes against humanity across an increasing number of countries.

“Seldom since the founding of the United Nations itself has such peace, justice and human rights been dealt with. I see this as a landmark in the history of international criminal justice.

Ki-moon named Slobodan Milosevic and Charles Taylor, a former Prime Minister, Jean Lambanda, Chea Nuaon and Radovan Karadzic, city mayor Jean-Paul Akayesu, and General Ante Gotovina as some of the powerful politicians and former heads of state who had been brought to book.

He appealed for universal support to give the ICC international reach, welcoming the United States of America under president Barrack Obama.

The court, Ki-moon added, breaks new ground on the rights of victims including compensation, which signifies that justice is not only retributive, but restorative as well.

The time has passed, he added, when justice seemed incompatible with peace, stressing that the two must go hand in hand.

“Let Kampala be known as the place where the international community came together in concert to close the door on the era of impunity and ushered in a new age of accountability,” he said.

Ban also welcomed the presence of the United States, which is not a member of the ICC but has started to re-engage with the court and is attending the conference as an observer, Reuters reported.

"Under the leadership of President Obama, I understand the United States is very seriously reviewing all of its policies and I do hope the U.S. will join the ICC as soon as possible," Ban told reporters.

Delegates at the Kampala conference will also discuss proposals giving the court powers to probe state aggression, one of four grave crimes over which the ICC has jurisdiction but one which it is yet to tackle, in part because of political sensitivities, Reuters reported.


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