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Ambassador Rice at U.N. Debate on Peace and Justice

17 October 2012

October 17, 2012


Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, at a UN Security Council Debate on Peace & Justice, with a Special Focus on the Role of the International Criminal Court, October 17, 2012

Thank you, Mr. President, Foreign Minister Caballeros, we’re grateful for you convening this important debate. I’d also like to thank the Secretary-General, ICC President Song and Mr. Mochochoko for their briefings.

Mr. President, strengthening the global system of accountability for the worst atrocities remains an important priority for the United States. President Obama has emphasized that preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and core moral responsibility for our nation. We are committed to bringing pressure to bear against perpetrators of atrocities, ensuring accountability for crimes committed, and prioritizing the rule of law and transitional justice in our efforts to respond to conflict.

Accountability and peace begin with governments taking care of their people. But the international community must continue to support rule of law capacity-building initiatives to advance transitional justice, including the creation of hybrid structures where appropriate. From the Democratic Republic of Congo to Cote d'Ivoire to Cambodia, the United States is supporting efforts to build fair, impartial, and capable national justice systems.

At the same time, more can be done to strengthen accountability mechanisms at the international level. The United States has strongly backed the ad hoc international criminal tribunals and other judicial institutions in Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia. Such tribunals and courts have been critical to ending impunity and helping these countries move forward. As these judicial institutions complete their mandates in the coming years, the International Criminal Court may become an even more important safeguard against impunity.

Although the United States is not a party to the Rome Statute, we recognize that the ICC can be an important tool for accountability. We have actively engaged with the ICC Prosecutor and Registrar to consider how we can support specific prosecutions already underway, and we’ve responded positively to informal requests for assistance. We will continue working with the ICC to identify practical ways to cooperate - particularly in areas such as information sharing and witness protection - on a case-by-case basis, as consistent with U.S. policy and law.

Last year, the Council made its first unanimous referral to the ICC of the situation in Libya. Resolution 1970 has kept the principle of accountability central to Libya’s transition from authoritarianism to democracy. Moving forward, it’s critical that Libya cooperate with the ICC and ensure that the detention of, and any domestic proceedings against, alleged perpetrators of atrocities are in full compliance with its international obligations. We are exploring ways to assist Libya in pursuing justice sector reform, and we reaffirm that there must be accountability in Libya for violations and abuses on all sides.

The Security Council also acted in response to the atrocities in Darfur. But justice has still not been served, and the lack of accountability continues to fuel resentment, reprisal, and conflict in Darfur and beyond. Despite constant calls on all parties to the conflict to cooperate fully with the ICC, Sudan has failed to meet its obligations under Resolution 1593, and individuals subject to outstanding arrest warrants remain at large. We continue to urge all states to refrain from providing political or financial support to these individuals, and we applaud the example Malawi set by refusing to host President Bashir. This Council should review additional steps that can be undertaken to complete the ICC’s work in Darfur. We should take inspiration from the concerted European Union efforts that resulted in the arrest and detention of the final fugitives from the ICTY.

Mr. President, we should consider ways to improve cooperation and communication between the Security Council and the Court. For example, the Council should monitor the developments in situations it refers to the Court, since the ICC may face dangers in conducting its work. However, we must also recognize that the ICC is an independent organization. This status raises concerns about proposals to cover its expenses with UN-assessed funding.

The interests of peace, security and international criminal justice are best served when the Security Council and the ICC operate within their own realms but work in ways that are mutually reinforcing. We should not accept the false choice between the interests of justice and the interests of peace.

As we work to strengthen accountability, we support the States Parties’ decision to delay until 2017 a final decision on the Court’s exercise of jurisdiction over the crime of aggression. This delay will allow for consideration of issues about the aggression amendments that require attention and enable the Court to consolidate its progress in the investigation and prosecution of atrocity crimes.

Mr. President, how we act to halt violence against civilian populations and hold accountable those who perpetrate such crimes is a fundamental test of our time. The United States continues to press for accountability in Syria without prejudging the ultimate venue for it. As the UN Commission of Inquiry has recognized, the Syrian people should have a leading voice in determining how to deal with those responsible for atrocities in a manner consistent with international law. We continue to help Syrians document abuses and collect evidence, to ensure that the perpetrators of horrific violence against the Syrian people are ultimately held accountable.

In conclusion, we must rededicate ourselves to preventing atrocities from happening and ensuring accountability in their aftermath. We have made progress on both fronts, but much work remains. The United States will not rest until those responsible for perpetrating mass atrocities face justice and those who would commit such crimes know they will never enjoy impunity.

Thank you, Mr. President.