On Tuesday, April 18, 2016, His Majesty King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands officially inaugurated the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) new court complex. The new ICC buildings are located in the dunes between The Hague and the North Sea. Its six gleaming towers can accommodate up to 1200 staff members.
The President of the Court, Sylvia Fernández de Gurmendi, and Sidiki Kaba, President of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute, welcomed His Majesty to the ICC.
From left to right, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, President of the Court, Sylvia Fernández de Gurmendi. and His Majesty King Wilhelm-Alexander of the Netherlands
Dignitaries and diplomats from around the world attended the opening ceremony, including the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bert Koenders; United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fat Bensouda; and Convener of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, William R. Pace.
Since its July 1, 2002 inception under the Rome Statute, the ICC has stood as an independent international organisation separate from the United Nations system. Recognised by 124 member states, it is a court of last resort, intervening only when member states are unwilling or unable to prosecute to prevent those guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes from evading justice.
The ICC is here to “insure adherence to international humanitarian and human rights law… Perpetrators of crimes must be brought to justice,” stated Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Unlike the United Nations’ International Court of Justice, the ICC can prosecute individuals as well as governments. This has created heightened deterrence.
“Accountability a nonnegotiable objective,” stated her Excellency Judge Fernádez.
“The judges administer justice without fear,” stated his Excellency Kaba.
Bert Koenders, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, explained that the ICC was effective based on two human faculties: its empathy and its collective resolve.
“Threats to humankind are met by the collective action,” stated her Excellency Judge Fernádez.
Empathy was emphasized by Mr. Ki-moon, who stressed the ICC’s respect for the needs of the victims, who not only offer testimony, but can present their views and concerns at all stages during the proceedings.
Under the Rome Statute, the ICC has a companion organization, the Trust Fund for Victims, which is funded by member states for those situations where the perpetrators are unable to make reparations to the victims.
Several speakers stated that every country that adheres to Rule of Law, akin to core democratic values, ought to belong to the ICC.
To date, the United States, Egypt, Iran, Israel and Russia have signed the Rome Statute, it was never ratified by their governments. The United States’ reluctance to ratify the Statute was and is based on its desire to protect its troops from potentially politically motivated or frivolous prosecutions. Most recently, however, the Obama Administration has made efforts to improve relations with the ICC.
China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Turkey are not parties to the Rome Statute.
At the conclusion of the program, His Majesty King Willem-Alexander opened a book; a symbolic gesture of a new era in the ICC. In accordance with protocol, His Majesty made no formal statement.
After the ceremony was over, the His Majesty and the Secretary-General, as well as other dignitaries, joined the reception where they interacted with the guests.
The author with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.