Talking justice at the UN General Assembly

ICC Prosecutor addresses Informal Ministerial Network for the ICC in the margins of 72nd session of the UNGA. ICC-CPI
Last month's United Nations General Assembly saw high-level support for the ICC system of international justice. Many states called for UN Security Council reform to better address and prevent atrocities.

The 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) took place from 12 September to 25 September 2017 at the UN Headquarters in New York. The General Debate, opening on the 19 September, saw the world leaders express their views on a variety of topics.

Concerning Myanmar, many states chose the UNGA as a platform to denounce the violence - described by UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres as "ethnic cleansing" - being carried out against the Rohingya minority, calling for accountability mechanisms to identify and punish perpetrators. De facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi canceled her plans to travel to New York for the annual Assembly.

Regarding the situation in Syria, a large number of states, including France, Italy, Australia and Iceland reiterated the need to ascertain the responsibilities of those having deployed chemical weapons on civilians. Botswana’s vice president affirmed support for the referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to ensure that perpetrators of these crimes be held accountable.

The UNGA was also an occasion for states to reiterate their support for the ICC and expansion of the Rome Statute system in the fight against impunity more broadly. Many states, including Samoa, Slovenia, Cabo Verde and Andorra, insisted on the value of the mission of the ICC and called on the international community to strengthen their support for the system by upholding the Kampala Amendments and the activation of the Court’s jurisdiction over the Crime of Aggression.

Reform of the UN Security Council was also discussed with countries like France and New Zealand highlighting the deficiency of the Security Council in assessing mass atrocities, insisting that the veto power should be limited when facing certain situations. Andorra went as far as suggesting allowing the ICC to act ex officio in the most serious cases without the need to be activated by the Security Council.

The annual meeting of Informal Ministerial Network for the ICC took place in the margins of the UNGA. Its members took the opportunity to formally commit to forwarding universality through diplomatic means and occasions such as the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute in 2018.

In a statement, the governments reiterated their strong political support for the International Criminal Court in a roundtable discussion with the ICC Prosecutor Ms. Fatou Bensouda. Members highlighted the importance of the international criminal justice system – with the ICC as its center piece – aimed at ensuring that perpetrators of the worst crimes under international law are held to account. In this regard, they underscored the principle of complementarity and the primary responsibility of States in closing the impunity gap.

A number of international justice-related side events took place over the course of this year’s UNGA session, including a panel discussion on the crime of aggression, on building the foundation for justice in the Syrian conflict, and on improving Security Council action related to preventing and ending mass atrocities.

A plea to reinforce peace

UN Security Council: Drop the Veto