Ladies and gentlemen,
First of all I would like on behalf of Finland to express our gratitude to our Estonian colleagues and friends for all their hard work in order to make this seminar a reality and for their hospitality here in Tallinn.
It is an honor for me to address you today on the important topics on the agenda of this seminar.
This year we celebrate the tenth anniversary of the entry into force of the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court. The ICC has come a long way since its establishment in 2002. The number of States Parties to the Statute is currently 121, Guatemala being the most recent addition. The number of country situations has grown to seven and the number of judicial proceedings is rapidly increasing. The UN Security Council has twice referred a situation to the Court. This indicates that the ICC has become a permanent institution of international criminal law and an important tool in fighting impunity for the most serious international crimes.
This year has also been without precedent in the history of the Court.
In March, the Court decided in its first ever judgment that Thomas Lubanga is guilty of the war crime of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities. Just last month, the Court also issued its first ever decision on reparations for victims in the same case. Both these decisions mark significant milestones in the functioning of the Court. They are also long-awaited by the victims of these crimes and the affected communities.
The International Criminal Court is and it should be an instance of last resort. The primary responsibility to investigate and to prosecute for the Rome Statute crimes lies with states themselves. There are persuasive arguments for enhancing national capacities to try the alleged perpetrators. It is of great significance for the victims and their communities to see that those perpetrating on them are brought to justice in their own country. In cases where national trials are not possible for various reasons, the ICC is an indispensable vehicle in ensuring justice and accountability.
One of the great novelties of the Rome Statute system is indeed the role and rights it provides for victims of crimes within its jurisdiction. The Rome Statute adopted in 1998 includes several provisions relevant to victims, such as participatory rights of the victims, right to legal representation, protection of safety of victims and reparations. It can be said that the ICC does not only have a punitive but also a restorative function. Enabling the victims of the Rome Statute crimes to effectively participate in the proceedings and to engage with the Court can have a positive impact on how the victims experience justice.
The Trust Fund for Victims of the ICC is in the heart of the restorative function of the Court. In addition to implementing Court ordered reparations, the Trust Fund provides general assistance to victims of crimes which fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC but have no link to ongoing judicial proceedings. For example, as we all know, so far no accused has been brought before the ICC in the Uganda situation. Nevertheless, the Trust Fund has been providing assistance to victims in Northern Uganda since 2008. Before the Lubanga judgment, the Trust Fund has for many years provided support for victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo as well.
In the Lubanga case, the ICC for the first time gave effect to the provisions of the Rome Statute on reparations. The Court formulated principles on reparations that are to be applied to reparations for victims in this particular case and mandated the implementation of its decision in this case to the Trust Fund for Victims.
The Court accepted that the right to reparations is a well-established and basic human right enshrined in universal and regional human rights treaties and in other international instruments. The Court highlighted that it is of paramount importance that the victims, together with their families and communities, can participate in the reparations process, and that they should be able to express their particular points of view and communicate their priorities. It is difficult to argue against this starting point for the implementation of reparations. Effective implementation of the Court’s decision on reparations in cooperation with the victims themselves is essential in order for the Court’s decision to have a real impact on and meaning for the victims and affected communities. To this end, we welcome the role given to the Trust Fund for Victims in the implementation of the decision on reparations. The Trust Fund has already gained a lot of valuable expertise on the needs of the victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo through its previous engagement in the country.
Finland has for long been a strong supporter of the Trust Fund. The Trust Fund has a central role in the efforts to bring justice to the victims, and I want to express Finland´s gratitude to the Board and Secretariat of the Trust Fund for their hard work and dedication. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in voluntary donations to the Trust Fund which we very much welcome. At the same time we recognize that the Trust Fund will also in the future, and not least when implementing the decision on reparations in the Lubanga case, be largely dependent on voluntary donations in order to effectively fulfill its mandate. For her part Finland pledges to continue its financial as well as political support to the Trust Fund for Victims of the ICC.
At the same time it must be underlined that those found guilty of ICC crimes should as a main rule provide for the reparations. The resources of the Trust Fund should be resorted to only when those found guilty do not have any or sufficient assets for this purpose. To achieve this, it is also for the States to cooperate more efficiently in tracing and freezing the assets of the accused.
Beyond the issue of reparations, Finland continues to recall that relevant and focused outreach is an essential component of Court’s activities. The ICC is an international court which needs to ensure that its processes are understood by the most affected communities, or else the proceedings threaten to become irrelevant. In addition, without effective outreach and access to information the victims will not be able to enjoy their right to participate.
The number of victims participating in the proceedings is rising. There may be a need to reflect the role of victims in the ICC process, and whether the current process fully meets the expectations of efficiency and effective participation. In addition, there still remains a number of questions on the implementation of court-ordered reparations, which will need to be addressed. It is therefore vital that the victims remain high on the agenda in the ICC discussions.