Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Kofi Annan, the US and the International Criminal Court

Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, died on Saturday. The many  who mourn him worldwide will  remember this soft spoken,quietly determined and subtly skillful man with his great intelligence and enormous resolve. Most will also remember  his importance to values, issues or causes of their own.

I also mourn in general and also remember him for his large and central role in the making, over American opposition, of a free, fair and independent International Criminal Court (ICC,Court) -  a court as strong as any international organization can be. We who advocate for the Court in the United States must contend with this opposition. We would not have it otherwise. The Court he did so much to bring into being is the Court we want.

Annan's speeches from the beginning of the negotiations for the Rome Statute, and of encouragement and inspiration as they continued, were consistently clear and pointed. They were boldly stated in the awareness that the vision in them of an independent ICC would arouse the opposition, often intense, of some of the permanent members of the UN Security Council. He drew this vision from his own and the United Nations' experience with war crimes.

Annan's representative in the negotiations was his Under Secretary for Legal Affairs, Hans Corell. The story goes that as the end date for the negotiations approached, Annan was on an official visit to Argentina. He had told Corell to let him know at once if the Statute was agreed so that he could rush to Rome for the closing ceremonies.Corell took a call from Annan in the meeting room just as intense and noisy rejoicing at the adoption of the Statute exploded: "Have we a Statute?" Corell simply held up his phone so that Annan could hear the outburst. The Secretary General headed for the airport.

Several players in the negotiations worked hard, skillfully and effectively to achieve an ICC free of any requirement that its member states should consent to the Court's jurisdiction over crimes on their territories or by their nationals.(The United States forced its delegation to vigorously press for this requirement). The players included a very large civil society group organized by the international NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court,the Like-Minded Group of countries and individual nations. Although Annan's clearly and regularly stated position encouraged and reassured them, his most important contribution was to the role and stance of the UN team responsible for supporting and guiding the negotiations throughout their four years.

The team generally carried out the fundamental UN responsibility  of being impartially open, responsive and helpful to all United Nations member states engaged in the negotiations. However, senior UN officials felt free to provide strategic advice and help to the officers of negotiating bodies in both New York and Rome to assist them to move toward the vision of the Court they shared with the Secretary General.

Thus, among the many memories of Annan that will persist is his central part in making the Court's jurisdiction over its original core crimes independent of the consent of its members. The legitimacy and authenticity this gives the Court will, with time and despite the opposition it has aroused, , sustain our advocacy for it in the United States.

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