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Ministry Statements and Speeches 2013

General Assembly Thematic Debate The Role of Criminal Justice in Reconciliation

Statement delivered by Alexandra Lennox-Marwick, Second Secretary - 11 April 2013

Mr President -

New Zealand believes that international criminal justice is essential to the maintenance of international peace and security.

We have consistently supported the international courts and tribunals which have been established to ensure that those guilty of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity are held to account.

Specifically, we are a party to the Rome Statute, and have provided specific and active support for the various ad hoc tribunals.

Although discussions of international criminal justice often focus on international mechanisms, we must not lose sight of the fact that, ultimately, and ideally, it is States themselves that have the primary responsibility to prosecute serious crimes committed in their territory or by their nationals; a commitment which requires appropriate national laws.

International criminal justice mechanisms exist as a complementary and necessary safety net of accountability; but, if these mechanisms are to operate effectively, States must also implement associated international criminal law obligations at the national level. 

Mr President -

Accountability mechanisms play an immensely important role in rebuilding communities after the destruction wrought by atrocities.

These processes not only record, denounce and punish such crimes and their perpetrators; they also restore dignity to victims by providing public recognition of their suffering.

In this way, criminal justice mechanisms, and the accountability they bring, are vital to achieving sustainable peace.

As many colleagues have recalled, over the last two decades, there have been great advances in the field of international criminal justice. Most notably amongst them was the creation of the International Criminal Court – the first permanent, global court with criminal jurisdiction.  

Even so, there are still considerable challenges:

We are confident that working together, with pragmatism and fresh thinking, we can tackle these challenges and build ever-more robust systems.
New Zealand knows, Mr President, that credible restorative justice processes can also help promote accountability, rebuild communities and reinforce lasting peace in societies emerging from conflict.
While continuing to strengthen and support criminal justice responses, we should also recognise the important role that can be played by other, non-adjudicatory, processes in post-conflict situations.

Mr President –

As we undertake these important discussions today and in the future we must ensure that our debates are not only forward-looking and productive, but also represent the diverse experiences States have had with international justice and reconciliation.

Above all, we must remain focused on ensuring a system of international criminal justice that, without fear or favour, serves and does justice to the victims of atrocities, and which helps prevent the future repetition of such crimes.

In closing, we would note that New Zealand listened carefully to the views expressed during yesterday’s discussions, although we do not share many of those views.  We would have welcomed the opportunity to hear a broader, more representative range of opinions; and we particularly believe that the victims of serious international crimes should be given a voice in discussions such as this.

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Page last updated: Tuesday, 22 October 2013 11:59 NZDT