Full Disclosure
June 13, 2008
The role of the Int’l Criminal Court

This paper was presented at the Paramaribo Regional Parliamentary Seminar on International Justice and Security by Sen. Saboto Caesar.

“The Role of the International Criminal Court” on 7th June, 2008, at Hotel Torarica, Paramaribo, Suriname.

The presenter acknowledges the immense contribution of His Excellency Camillo Gonsalves, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the Permanent Mission of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to the United Nations to this presentation.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is indeed with the greatest honor that I share with you on a subject of such an interesting and valuable focus.{{more}}

Ratification of the Rome Statute – The St Vincent and the Grenadines experience

The state of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a nation of laws, with a longstanding and deeply entrenched respect for justice and the rule of law. It is also a State in which morality and ethical conduct are essential threads in the tapestry of our national psyche.

It is from this perspective that the logic of the Rome Statute is both compelling and unassailable. In the turbulent years immediately after the Cold War, the disintegration of the relatively stable bipolar global political system left a number of horrific regional conflicts in its wake. The people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines were horrified by genocidal slaughters in both Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

Indeed, our own history was scarred by the extermination of our native Garifuna people by colonial powers. Many of our native Garifuna were in fact forcibly removed to the shores of Central America, and have ancient connections to the indigenous peoples of Suriname.

Further, I need not here remind us of the Caribbean’s experience with the horrific Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and the resultant years of slavery. This history has no doubt informed our emotional abhorrence to these repugnant acts of savagery. Modern-day atrocities in Sudan, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cambodia further crystallized national consensus as to the need for a Court of last resort, to ensure that the most serious stains on humanity’s conscience would not go unpunished.

In 1948 the Convention on genocide was adopted as a warning against committing crimes against humanity on national, ethnic and religious grounds.

In 1993 and 1994 the United Nations Security Council established the ad hoc tribunals of Yugoslavia and Rwanda to bring to justice individuals who had committed genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In 1998, the former President of Trinidad and Tobago, the Hon. H.R Robinson, ensured that the establishment of a permanent international criminal court was again an item on the agenda of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

After years of preparations and many discussions, the International Criminal Court was officially established in 2002.

We commend the camaraderie and efforts of all nations states, international and regional organizations which have assisted in the growth and development of the Court.

Our recognition of the necessity for such a court is rooted in ethics, morality and a commitment to the rule of law, as opposed to neglect or indifferent acceptance of recurring spasms of violence. Moreover, our commitment to these principles is stronger than the political and financial intimidation practiced by various actors who wish to hold themselves somehow immune from the dictates of this most basic and indisputable humanitarian imperative.

We are a tiny state, with no standing army, and a strong reliance on friendly relations with our neighbours. But make no mistake, our fidelity to the fundamental principles of the Rome Statute cannot be compromised by cash or coercion. No single nation or a group of nations will ever be able to diminish our willingness to persevere. Neither the fear of repercussions from states adopting an anti-International Criminal Court stance, nor changes in the political dynamics of governance internally should be allowed to cause us to waver in our faith. We remain resolute in our belief in the necessity of the International Criminal Court as an aspect of our expression and dedication to the principles of universal justice.

In addition to protecting our citizens by means of our national legal system, we are obliged to make accessible to them the extra guarantee derived from the International Criminal Court.

St Vincent and the Grenadines, therefore, notes with satisfaction and admiration the progress made in the development of the Court into a fully functioning judicial institution. It is vitally important for the credibility and international recognition of the Court that it functions appropriately in its role in bringing to justice those responsible for crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Together with our global allies we believe that the most horrific violations of human rights must never be committed with impunity.

Thus we cannot stress too highly the need for its judicial officers and other staff to remain motivated and committed, and for all Member States of the United Nations to cooperate fully with the Court as it strives to perform its critical role.

The people of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, therefore, encourage other Members of the international community to become State Parties, so that the goal of universal ratification may one day become a reality. We also urge State Parties to join us as we work towards doing what is necessary to implement the requisite legislation to ensure that justice in all its manifest ways shall be seen to be done.

As a nation we wish to underline at this juncture the fundamental importance of the cooperation of the international community with the Court in order to ensure that it can successfully fulfill its mandate. Overall success is within our reach; however, for such to be attainable we must be able to rely on Member States, international and regional organizations, civil society and other actors to play a decisive role in the process. It is, therefore, essential that they provide the necessary cooperation and assistance to the Court in its many tasks.

In closing, we wish to reaffirm our support for and commitment to the International Criminal Court. We are aware of the important role of the Court in the International Community and the fact that it remains, for some victims, the last bastion of hope for justice and compensation.

Consequently, we must all strive to protect the integrity of the Court and encourage others to do so, including not only State Parties and States concerned, but international and regional organizations. It is our hope that this cooperation enables the Court to fulfill its mandate and meet the many complex challenges that are ahead.

Human rights violations are as old as humanity. The atrocities committed have created deep wounds in the community of nations. We have a cause for which we must unite and persist to the end.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you for your attention.

Saboto Caesar is a Lawyer and Unity Labour Party Senator.