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Denmark puts focus on national prosecutions of ICC crimes

Denmark together with South Africa on Monday 19 November organized a key debate in The Hague about the need to improve national prosecutions of ICC crimes

Denmark together with South Africa in The Hague on Monday 19 November launched a key debate which included prominent participants from the UN, a number of governments, and the International Criminal Court (ICC). This is the first time the annual Assembly of States Parties to the ICC focuses on the need for more and better national prosecutions of ICC crimes, i.e. war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Villy Søvndal, comments:

“Not the least in Africa and Asia there is a need for increased international cooperation on building and further developing the ability of states to prosecute the most heinous crimes at the national level. This would not only ease the pressure on the ICC, but more importantly it can contribute decisively to rebuilding and reinforcing the national justice sector and thereby adherence to the rule of law in such countries. Genocide and other ICC crimes demolish the peoples’ trust in public institutions, especially in courts. To fight impunity domestically, based on the requisite willingness and ability to deal with the past, can show the people that justice will prevail.”
The Minister for Development Cooperation, Mr. Christian Friis Bach, remarks:

“Much support is already being extended to the justice sectors of developing countries in regard to both administrative and physical infrastructure. The debate today has clearly shown that through development assistance we can deliver a decisive contribution to securing that countries all over the world are empowered to deal nationally with their violent pasts, and to make sure that perpetrators of the most heinous crimes are held accountable for their actions. We have a common responsibility for making sure that perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide are brought to justice.”

The former Prime Minister of New Zealand og current head of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Helen Clark, participated for the first time in an official ICC meeting. She spoke to the Assembly of States Parties in a key note address about the lessons that the UN system has learned from working on capacity building with regard to the most heinous crimes within justice sectors in countries such as Rwanda, Bosnia, and Guatemala. She encouraged more dialogue between the ICC's Assembly of States Parties and the development community and called this matter a "transformative agenda." Representatives from more than 20 states as well as international civil society made statements during the subsequent debate.

Representatives from the 121 states that have joined the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court are currently assembled in The Hague. The city of The Hague is also known as the capital of international law; apart from the ICC, also the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia are placed there. States meet once a year in the ICC's Assembly of States Parties to discuss relevant issues and provide  continued support .
Denmark together with South Africa has since 2010 been spearheading an international initiative  within the Assembly of States Parties to create a stronger link between general development assistance to the national rule of law and more targeted support to national authorities that seek to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

The ICC is a court of last resort – it deals only with the cases where states parties are not able or willing genuinely to investigate and prosecute relevant crimes. In many states, this is only possible if the national legal system receives assistance to conduct trials concerning war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide. These cases require special expertise in several areas including witness protection, forensics and sexual violence.