OAS and International Criminal Court Further Cooperation to Strengthen International Criminal Law

WASHINGTON, DC – The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, and the President of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Sang-Hyun Song, today held an exchange of letters for the establishment of a Cooperation Agreement between the two institutions on issues of common interest, such as the promotion and dissemination of international criminal law and the Rome Statute, the exchange of information and participation in activities of mutual interest.

During a signing ceremony, held at OAS headquarters in Washington, DC, Secretary General Insulza asserted that the International Criminal Court “represents a landmark in the history of international law, international criminal law, and international humanitarian law, and in the international endeavor to fight impunity against gross violations of human rights.”

The leader of the hemispheric institution recalled that while Minister of Foreign Affairs of Chile, he was in charge of representing his country in the signing of the Rome Statute on September 11th, 1998. “The chosen date was of enormous symbolism and historical relevance to my country because it was the 25th anniversary of the military coup that changed the life of many of us.” The Secretary General also added that “many countries in the hemisphere have had similar experiences and our societies have had to deal with the scars that such painful events left behind. We have learned from our own experiences that impunity for the most serious, heinous crimes, threatens internal and regional stability in our nations.”

Expressing satisfaction and his commitment to continue supporting the ICC’s work, the OAS representative affirmed that “peace and justice are the main elements in the establishment of a culture of accountability in our continent and throughout the world.” Further, he announced that the agreement signed today is “a first step in consolidating our ties with the Court, and it will allow us to cooperate in areas of common interest.”

President Song, for his part, highlighted that the OAS and the CPI “share values of fundamental importance to humankind,” and he referred to the role that Trinidad and Tobago, an OAS Member State, played in the creation of the ICC, proposing to the United Nations in 1989 the establishment of a permanent international court to deal with the transnational drug trade. That proposal led to the creation of the world’s first permanent international court mandated to prosecute the most serious crimes of international concern – genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. As of today 114 States have joined the Rome Statute of the ICC that came into force on July 1st, 2002. “Today, the ICC has earned its place among permanent international institutions in charge of questions of peace and justice,” said Judge Song, also affirming that “we would not have been able to come this far without the relentless efforts of civil society, States, and intergovernmental organisations. Among these, the OAS has been one of the most consistent and vocal proponents of the ICC, for which we are very grateful.”

“Through its resolutions on the ICC, the OAS General Assembly has consistently extended high-level political support to the Rome Statute system and urged the OAS Member States to further strengthen their cooperation with the Court,” said the leader of the judicial international institution who also thanked the OAS effort to encourage States not party to the Rome Statute to consider joining the ICC.

The President of the ICC expressed his gratefulness with the signing of the agreement with the OAS “because the benefits of such cooperation are very real. As you are aware, Rome Statute crimes still plague our world and innocent children, women and men continue to fall victim to unimaginable atrocities. The emerging system of international criminal justice can only become fully effective with the strong support of States and the international community as a whole. Regional organisations such as the OAS play a vital role in paving the way toward that goal,” he concluded.

Prior to the signing ceremony, both officials held a private meeting in which they talked about the efforts to achieve universal adoption of the Rome Statute, the work of the ICC, its relationship with the United Nations Security Council, and the status of ratification of this instrument by OAS member countries.

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