Europe supports the ICC without fail and without zeal

21 May 2007 by Emmanuel Chicon and Benjamin Bibas

Since its conception, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has found its most fervent supporters in Europe. No fewer than 20 European countries participated in the pro-ICC "like-minded group" of 58 during the Rome Statute negotiations in 1998. This diplomatic activism—rewarded by the election of judges from Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Ireland, Latvia and other European states to the permanent court—has continued unfailingly within the European Union (EU). However, on a practical level, the cooperation is less effective and relations with the ICC remain bilateral for the most part, just like relationships between States regarding universal jurisdiction cases.

"At the start of each rotating presidential term, we draw up a list of countries in which the EU wishes to promote the universality and integrity of the Rome Statute," says Rafael de Bustamante, a "focal point" for the ICC at the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union. Currently, more than 100 states have been "canvassed" in this way and the upcoming ratification by Japan, chosen as a "priority" target in 2006, owes much to this aspect of European diplomacy. At the Council, an ICC working party was created in 2002 within a working group on public international law. It is essentially composed of representatives of the Foreign Affairs Ministries of the Member States, who five or six times a year discuss the support strategy of the Union vis-à-vis third countries. In June 2003, the Council of the European Union adopted a Common Position on the ICC: "To support the effective functioning of the Court and to promote a universal support in its favor by encouraging the widest possible ratification of the Rome Statute."

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