We are committed to ICC - Khama

Staff Writer
Statement by President Ian Khama, during a workshop yesterday on the ratification of the Kampala Amendments to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on the crime of aggression, Gaborone

I hope that by accepting the invitation to host this workshop, Botswana has been able to demonstrate her strong support and abiding faith in the instrumentality of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). It is also my sincere hope that during the course of the next two days, delegates will be provided with the necessary enabling environment to achieve the objective of this workshop. 

In the exercise of its judicial mandate, the Court draws its inspiration from the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, which is "to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression".I have no doubt that the Court's mandate to prosecute all crimes  under the Rome Statute and the Security Council's political mandate of maintaining  international peace and security, are compatible and mutually reinforce the concept of peace and justice.

Clearly, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court continues to evolve into a body of international law that lays a solid emphasis on promoting accountability, fighting impunity and ensuring the protection of victims of grave violations of human rights. As the permanent Court of last resort, the ICC has so far set itself apart in dispensing international criminal justice. Since the idea of a penal international justice system was first launched at The Nuremberg Trials 67 years ago, the international community has increasingly relied on the limited role of ad-hoc tribunals and Special Courts to stem the tide of human rights abuses. 

The emergence of the ICC was therefore a welcome development that served as a true embodiment of the aspirations of the international community.  The ICC has transformed the enforcement of the international justice system and successfully brought relief and hope to the countless number of victims of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. However, as States Parties, we need to do more in order to close the existing impunity gap by, among other actions, upholding the provisions of the Statute that we signed for.

As States Parties, we are bound by the Statute to cooperate with the Court  by, for example,  effecting arrest warrants and bringing perpetrators of violence to answer for the atrocities they commit against defenseless and innocent civilians, mostly women and children.   Our responsibility as States Parties

is to ensure that the vision that guided the framers of the Treaty establishing the ICC back in 1998 must never be impaired by the circumstances and status of the accused. On the contrary, States Parties should respond to a higher calling and assist the Court to build a protective shield around victims, who in most cases were visited with brute force, lost dignity and shattered livelihoods.

Botswana believes that the adoption of the Kampala amendments on the crime of aggression has brought the international community a step closer to expanding criminal liability from individuals to aggressor states. This is why our delegation to the Review Conference in Kampala in 2009 was led at the highest levels by the Minister with portfolio responsibility for Justice, Honourable D.N. Seretse, who welcomed you this morning. We fully support the amendments adopted in Kampala and I am pleased to inform you that I shall be signing the instrument of ratification during this opening ceremony. This is a symbol of our commitment to the implementation of the Rome Statute, and I hope that it will encourage other countries to do the same.

We believe this is an opportunity that should not be lost.  We need to play our part in making the approach towards the final moment of activation of the jurisdiction of the Court over the crime of aggression in 1 January 2017 an absolute certainty.  Looking at your programme, I note that you will be addressed by experts on the subject, and cover a wide range of technical issues.

This is important because even though States may agree with the principle of the amendments, it is equally critical that they understand precisely what needs to be done to give practical effect to them. In this regard, I am pleased to learn that the workshop will address issues that may arise in the course of ratification and/or implementation, and that delegates will learn from the experiences of countries who have made advances. It is therefore my sincere hope and wish that this Workshop  deliver on its intended objectives of advancing the various stages of ratification processes of the Kampala amendments to the Rome Statute of the ICC. I wish you fruitful deliberations, positive outcomes and a pleasant stay in Botswana. I thank you for your attention.

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