Organization of American States / States reiterate their commitment to the International Criminal Court

Coalition for the International Criminal Court
Officials from the OAS and the ICC, state representatives and civil society discuss how to improve regional cooperation with the ICC in the framework of the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute.

On 15 March 2018, the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs of the Organization of American States (OAS) held its 10th Working Meeting on the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the OAS headquarters in Washington, D.C. The Meeting brought together member states and observer states of the OAS, high-ranking officials from the OAS and the ICC, and members of civil society.

The opening remarks were delivered by the President of the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs, Ambassador Hugo Cayrús, Permanent Representative of Uruguay before the OAS, and by the Director of the Department of International Law of the OAS, Dante Negro. Next, at a high-level roundtable on the measures to strengthen cooperation with the ICC and the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the RS, ICC Deputy Prosecutor Mr. James Stewart highlighted the essential role of the Americas in the establishment of the International Criminal Court and gave an update regarding the latest developments in the work of the Office of the Prosecutor, including the Preliminary Examinations in the region.

Commitment towards a better regional cooperation with the ICC

After Mr. Stewart’s intervention, the States present at the Meeting made their respective interventions, where they presented not only updates with regards to the implementation processes of the Statute and cooperation measures, but also commitments regarding the 20th anniversary of the Statute; the necessity to enter Cooperation Agreements with the Court; initiatives regarding the promotion of legal assistance in the region; the support to the universality and integrity of the Rome Statute; and the Preliminary Examinations in Colombia and Venezuela, inter alia.

Mexico and Ecuador made commitments regarding the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute – Ecuador committed to organize a seminar in Quito under the UNASUR Presidency in June. Panama also emphasized the importance of the 20th anniversary but did not describe any concrete plans. Argentina highlighted its recent accession to the Cooperation Agreements with the Court and, after the session, held informal meetings with some delegates about its experience and offered assistance in the matter. Peru stressed the importance of regional initiatives to promote legal assistance to cooperate with the ICC and looked into the Cooperation Agreements informally after the session. Brazil agreed to continue to include ICC-related topics in its OAS regional workshops in Rio de Janeiro with government officials and affirmed that the ICC can count with its political support. Chile highlighted the role of civil society in the development of the ICC and asked the OAS member States to not only work together to ensure universality, but also to make sure that the States Parties to the ICC do not abandon the Rome Statute system (indirectly referring to the Philippines). Colombia mentioned its Peace Agreement and the ongoing Preliminary Examination and reiterated its commitment to share information and new developments with the Court. Costa Rica, Guatemala and Paraguay also made statements related to universality. Finally, Venezuela clarified that the Preliminary Examination will focus on alleged crimes, and that it rejects the establishment of a special panel on Venezuela at the OAS (which will soon publish a report, to be shared with the ICC).

Voices of civil society

Lastly, an Expert Panel intervened, where the statements of representatives from other organs from the ICC were heard, such as the Member of the Board of Directors of the Trust Fund for Victims, Felipe Michelini; the Cooperation Officer of the ICC Registrar, Antonia Pereira de Souza; Congressman Jorge Cálix from Honduras, on behalf of Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA); the Regional Coordinator for the Americas of the Coalition for the ICC, Michelle Reyes Milk; the Legal Advisor of the Canada-USA Delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Christopher Harland.

In her presentation, Reyes Milk stressed the importance of the 20th Anniversary as a special opportunity to adopt concrete measures that reaffirm regional commitment to the implementation of the RS and cooperation with the ICC.

“With this new Working Meeting on the ICC, the Organization of American States again reaffirms not only the role that States form the continent have played –and continue playing– in the establishment and development of the International Criminal Court, but also the important support of the OAS towards the ICC and international justice”, said Reyes Milk. “Having held the 10th Working Meeting on the ICC, the OAS provides an essential platform so that States Members of this organization, observing States, OAS officials, ICC representatives, and civil society can share their ideas about the achievements so far, as well as about the challenges that are still to be addressed. The input and contributions of the Americas are, in this way, more relevant now than ever as we commemorate, throughout 2018, the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute, which represents an opportunity for all of us to reaffirm our commitment and support to the Court and to strengthen our belief in the fight against impunity," she added.

Furthermore, Congressman Jorge Cálix, on behalf of PGA, reaffirmed that “to support the ICC, to completely implement the Rome Statute, and to cooperate with the Court is in the best interests of our countries, for the strengthening of our national legal frameworks, and for the integrity of our territory”.

Cálix added that “we can no longer tolerate impunity for the perpetrators of the crimes that shake the human consciousness, which is why I invite you all to work towards justice in your country, in the region, and in the world”.

To see pictures of the event, please visit the OAS website on the 10th Working Meeting on the ICC.

HRW press release: OAS Members Voice Support for International Criminal Court