Canada and the ICC. Part Two: General Statement.

Canada delivered its official statement to the Review Conference general debate today. “Debate” is a more active term than is accurate. Instead, state representatives deliver prepared speeches, which tend to include the following elements: gratitude to Uganda for hosting the conference, praise of the work of the ICC to date, reflection on their own state’s contributions to the ICC, and an insinuation (sometimes clear, sometimes guarded) of their state’s position on the proposed amendments to the Rome Statute. (See Adam’s post for a description of those topics.) I’ll include excerpts from Canada’s statement below. But first, let me describe the scene.

The official plenary takes place in a large banquet hall on the grounds of the Speke Resort. The hall is pleasant enough, done in tones of peach and rust, but is perhaps a little small for the occasion. Diplomats are packed tightly together, seated at long, thin worktables, behind the small white placards that bear their country names.  The seating arrangements reflect the playful vagaries of the alphabet, with Iraq next to Israel, and so on. A visiting alien, looking over the hall, would not be able to distinguish the powerful countries from the others. Each gets a white placard, and each gets a single vote. This will prove important when it comes to a final decision over the crime of aggression.

While speakers take the podium to declaim their position, and translators rapidly translate in their glass booths, diplomats on the floor sometimes listen attentively or with glazed-over expressions, but often spend much of the session chatting. In the delegation of a certain former Yugoslavian state, a man and woman conversed for a good thirty minutes without listening to the speeches, and from their animation and occasional giggles I suspect the topic was not the laws of war.

Canada, in the person of Alan Kessel, The Legal Adviser at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, took the podium in the last slot before lunch. Kessel was a Canadian representative at the Rome Statute negotiations, and so has a long history on this file. (See my post for more on Canada at Rome.) His speech differed somewhat from the prepared version, and he made the rhetorical choice of beginning and ending with his conclusions. I will excerpt a few portions of this speech below. I apologize if there are any discrepancies — I’m relying on the notes I took in the hall, supplemented with the official statement issued by Foreign Affairs:

The ICC in Africa

I would like to begin by thanking the Government of Uganda for the considerable efforts that they have put into hosting this event. African Parties have played an important role in the establishment of the ICC, and we will continue to look to them for creative and workable solutions to the many issues we will be discussing over the next two weeks.

I was particularly taken yesterday with the expression of support that came from President Museveni, President Kikwete, and former Secretary-General Kofi Anan, to the effect that Africa is part of this court, Africa supports this court, and Africa needs this court.

Canada’s cooperation with the Court

Canada has supported projects promoting ICC ratification and implementation and has supported programming aimed generally at promoting the rule of law and accountably….Canada, with the collaboration of many States Parties, has also undertaken to shepherd the establishment of the Justice Rapid Response mechanism which can assist, when needed, in the investigations of both the Court and national jurisdictions.

Greater state cooperation needed, especially on arrests

While the strengthening of national systems is important, in the instances where the Court takes jurisdiction over crimes, states must fulfill their obligation to cooperate with the Court. States Parties must continue to recognize and protect the independence of the Court and must offer their full diplomatic support to the Court, particularly through the execution of arrest warrants. This obligation, we would stress, is not limited to the accused’s state of nationality.

Aggression: Canada keeps cards tight to chest

On the crime of aggression there is a divergence of views. Legitimate concerns have been raised and must be addressed in a creative and flexible manner. We must strive to move forward, by consensus, on these issues. To do otherwise we will only weaken the court and undermine its mandate.

Desired outcomes for the Review Conference

There is clearly a strong desire among States Parties to have a successful outcome to this Conference. Canada shares this sentiment, but the success of this Review Conference should be judged qualitatively – any outcomes should (1) serve to promote accountability; (2) strengthen the Court; (3) reinforce the continued commitment of States Parties to the Rome Statute; and (4) encourage the universal acceptance of the Rome Statute. In furtherance of these goals, Canada will be participating actively in the upcoming discussions and negotiations; we would encourage other delgations to do the same.

I suspect that Canada’s position on certain issues will become clearer as the Conference continues. But, for now, I’d encourage comments by those who would like to parse the official statement.


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