Dáil Éireann - Volume 459 - 07 December, 1995

Written Answers. - International Criminal Court.

[957] 26. Mr. R. Burke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will take immediate action to persuade the major powers to support the establishment of a permanent international criminal court under the auspices of the United Nations and which would have jurisdiction to deal with war crimes, international human rights abuses, environmental crime, international terrorism and drugs. [18303/95]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring): The establishment of an international criminal court has been discussed within the United Nations system for over 40 years. The debate has been marked by occasional bouts of urgency interspersed with long periods of inactivity.

The establishment by the Security Council of ad hoc Tribunals to deal with the appalling violations of human rights in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda had the effect, among others, of reviving the idea of establishing a permanent independent international criminal court. It also galvanised the international legal community into undertaking serious work towards its inception.

I have sought to maintain this impetus at the political and diplomatic level and I have raised the question of the establishment of a permanent international criminal court on the last three occasions upon which I have addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations. Indeed, as recently as 27 September 1995, I stated at the 50th General Assembly that:

“There is a growing acceptance that violations of humanitarian law are a threat to international peace and security. The case for the establishment of a Permanent International Criminal Court is therefore more obvious than ever. It is only through such a body that the international community can effectively demonstrate that massive human [958] rights violations will never go unpunished.”

Progress towards the establishment of such a court received a major boost with the announcement by President Clinton, during the 50th Anniversary celebrations of the United Nations, that the United States would support the establishment of such a court. The 15 member states of the European Union have also indicated their approval for the establishment of the court.

Since then, officials of my Department have participated actively in the formulation of a General Assembly Resolution on the establishment of the court. The Resolution, which is due to be adopted before the end of this Session, provides for meetings next year of a Preparatory Committee, the penultimate stage in the drafting of a convention establishing a permanent international criminal court. The Preparatory Committee will have to reach agreement on several complex issues. One of these will be the determination of the crimes over which the court will have jurisdiction.

I do not know which countries the Deputy is referring to when he uses the expression “major powers”. The General Assembly Resolution concerning the Court has already been adopted at Committee level by all the Member States of the United Nations, including the five Permanent Members of the Security Council.