Coalition members call for more consistent approach to ICC referrals
Coalition for the International Criminal Court
UN Security Council Debates Rule of Law & ICC

Coalition members call for more consistent approach to ICC referrals

The UN Security Council holds its first-ever debate on the rule of law and ICC. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

As the United Nations (UN) Security Council (“Council”) yesterday held it’s first-ever debate on peace and justice with a special focus on the role of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Coalition members called on the Council to adopt a more consistent approach in its referrals of situations for investigation by the ICC prosecutor.

According to a concept note, the purpose of the debate was “to explore how the Court, as a tool of preventive diplomacy, can assist the Council in carrying out its mandate to uphold the rule of law, maintain peace and security, and combat impunity while ensuring accountability for mass atrocities. It would also examine how the relationship between the two bodies had developed over the past decade and to consider the way forward in strengthening their linkages.”

Opening remarks were given by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, followed by statements by ICC President Sang-Hyun Song, Phakiso Mochochoko of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor, and President of the Assembly of States Parties Ambassador Tiina Intelmann, as well some 50 UN member states.

Videos of the debate are available on the UN website

Under the Rome Statute—the ICC’s founding treaty—the Council has the power to refer situations for investigation by the ICC prosecutor. To date, the Council has referred the situation in Darfur, Sudan (2005), and in Libya (2011) to the ICC Prosecutor. There have been many calls for the ongoing situation in Syria to be referred to the ICC, including from many inside Syria, in neighboring states, the European Union, the Arab League, the Friends of Syria group, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay and civil society organizations the world over, including many Coalition members. However, a Council referral not been forthcoming.

In a May 2012 letter to UN member states, the Coalition expressed support for a proposal put forward by a group of five countries (Costa Rica, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Singapore), commonly referred to as the “S-5 Resolution”, calling on permanent members of the Council to consider “refraining from using a veto to block Council action aimed at preventing or ending genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

Switzerland also circulated a sign-on letter to the UN member states calling on the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the ICC prosecutor.

For more information visit our ICC-UNSC webpage

Together for Justice.
Coalition Secretariat

Coalition members statements 

UN Security Council: Address Inconsistency in ICC Referrals, Human Rights Watch, 16 October 2012

"A United Nations Security Council discussion on the role of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is an important opportunity to address inconsistencies in the Security Council’s referrals to the court. [...] 'The Security Council’s high-stakes relationship with the ICC merits a full discussion by council members and non-members,' said Richard Dicker, International Justice director at Human Rights Watch. 'This open debate among all UN member states is an unprecedented opportunity for governments supporting the ICC to demand a more coherent approach to international justice.' [...] The October 17 discussion could help highlight Security Council inconsistency in referrals, and discourage future referrals that deny funding and create carve-outs for citizens of non-member countries. It could also highlight the lack of Security Council support for the court following a referral, Human Rights Watch said."

"Amnesty International welcomes the Open Debate of the Security Council on Peace and Justice, with a Special Focus on the Role of the International Criminal Court scheduled to take place on 17 October 2012. The debate is an important occasion for states to consider, not only the first decade of the International Criminal Court (ICC), but specifically the emerging relationship between the Security Council and the Court. However, the ICC faces many challenges that must be addressed if it is to have a real impact in the fight against impunity, including ensuring cooperation from all states and adequate funding to respond to many situations around the world where crimes under its jurisdiction have been or are being committed. [...]"  

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UN and ICC statements 

Secretary-General hails International Criminal Court as centrepiece of 'new age of accountability' urges enhanced cooperation with Security Council, 17 October 2012

"United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, opening the Council’s day-long debate on the rule of law and the intertwined roles both entities played in the pursuit of peace and justice. 'Justice is crucial for breaking cycles of violence and fragility,' the Secretary-General said, adding:  'Let us do our utmost to draw solid lessons from a decade of advances and challenges.  Let us do everything we can to see the Council and the Court work together to deliver both justice and peace.' ' The Court and the Council can support each other in building local justice responses and in strengthening the rule of law,' he said, noting that the two bodies frequently operate in the same political space and shared a common interest.  The Court could help advance the purposes of the United Nations, above all 'to maintain international peace and security'.  And the Council — by understanding and respecting the Court’s work — could advance its own cause and better discharge its responsibilities. [...]" 

See also

UN and International Criminal Court have joint roles in ending impunity Ban says, UN News Centre, 17 October 2012 

Remarks at United Nations Security Council Open Debate  “Peace and Justice with a Special Focus on the Role of the International Criminal Court", Judge Sang-Hyun Song, President of the ICC, 17 October 2012

" [...] The Security Council and the ICC are two highly distinct bodies, with very different roles. But we are connected by the shared objectives of peace, justice and respect for international law,  enshrined in both the UN Charter and the Rome Statute. The worst nightmares of humanity lie at the intersection of our respective  mandates. When massive crimes against innocent victims threaten international peace and security, both the Council and the ICC have an important role to play. And in the ICC, the Council may recognise a unique avenue for ensuring justice as a crucial element in wider international efforts. We hope that the Council will actively support the ICC’s ability to act on these referrals by ensuring compliance with the Council’s resolutions and by underlining the need for full  cooperation by UN members. [...]" 

Address on behalf of the Prosecutor during Open Debate of the United Nations Security Council on “Peace and Justice, with a special focus on the role of the International Criminal Court”, Phakiso Mochochoko Director of Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division, 17 October 2012

"[...] It is evident from the foregoing that the relationship between the Office of the Prosecutor and the UN Security Council could be nurtured and strengthened by extending our interaction beyond specific situations referred by the Council to the Prosecutor, and by creating space for open discussions on thematic issues. Such dialogue is crucial, as both the Security Council and the Office of the Prosecutor are committed to preventing mass atrocities which constitute a threat to international peace and security. [...]  We must find the necessary consensus to show that we are serious about the threat that these serious crimes pose to international peace and security, and that we have and will use the tools necessary to put these crimes to an end.[...]" 

ICC addresses the UN Security Council during the debate on Peace and Justice, ICC press release, 18 October 2012

"On 17 October 2012, in New York, the United Nations Security Council held an open debate on “Peace and Justice with a Special Focus on the Role of the International Criminal Court”, convened by the Guatemalan Presidency of the Security Council. The ICC President, Judge Sang-Hyun Song, and the Director of the Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division in the Office of the Prosecutor, Mr Phakiso Mochochoko, addressed the Council. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the President of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute, Ambassador Tiina Intelmann, and a number of Security Council members also participated in the debate. While the Prosecutor regularly briefs the Security Council on progress in situations referred to the Prosecutor by the Council – Darfur, Sudan and Libya – this is the first time that the ICC President has been invited to address the Security Council...."

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