Dáil Éireann - Volume 480 - 30 September, 1997

Written Answers - Independent International Criminal Court.

[1010] 62. Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the recent statement by the US President calling for the establishment of an international court to prosecute human rights offenders. [14747/97]

63. Mr. Dukes asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position the Government is taking in relation to proposals currently before the UN to establish an independent international criminal court to prosecute perpetrators of genocide, aggression, war crimes and other crimes against humanity; whether the Government supports the proposition that such a court should not be subject to veto by any national Government; whether the Government supports the proposals to give individuals' and citizens' groups, as well as national Governments and the Court's prosecutor, the right to bring cases before the Court; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14619/97]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. R. Burke): I propose to take Questions Nos. 62 and 63 together.

Ireland is firmly committed to the establishment of an international criminal court to prosecute violations of international humanitarian laws. This commitment has been reiterated on many occasions in the various relevant fora, including at the UN General Assembly. Ireland recognises that there is a growing acceptance throughout the international community that violations of international humanitarian law constitute a threat to international peace and security. In the light of the proliferation of heinous offences in the world, Ireland feels that the case for the establishment of a permanent international criminal court is stronger than ever. It is only through such a body that the international community can effectively demonstrate that massive human rights violations must never go unpunished.

President Clinton's recent statement at the United Nations General Assembly calling for the establishment of a permanent international court is therefore to be greatly welcomed.

Ireland has participated actively at the several meetings of the preparatory committee which has been set up to discuss the establishment of an international criminal court; and it is intended that Ireland will participate at the diplomatic conference to be held in 1998 which will be charged with finalising and adopting a convention establishing an international criminal court.

Ireland has supported the principle that the court should be independent, in particular from non-legal and non-judicial considerations, and that its prosecutor should be able to investigate all cases free from political pressure.

There are, however, certain practical reservations to be taken into account with regard to giving the power to bring cases before the court [1011] to individuals and non-governmental organisations. Such an approach could discourage a large number of states from becoming party to the convention which will eventually establish the court. From a pragmatic point of view, the widest possible level of ratification of the convention is necessary to ensure the success of the court.