New Zealand statement for the ICC Prosecutor’s briefing on Libya

Ministry Statements & Speeches:

  • Peace, Rights and Security
Statement delivered by Phillip Taula, Deputy Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations, 9 November 2016

Thank you Mr President, and we thank Prosecutor Bensouda for her briefing.

Our experience on the Council over the past two years has reinforced to us the need for an effective international accountability framework.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) plays an important role in that framework.

Its existence sends a clear message that the international community has the tools to ensure that serious international crimes will not go unpunished.

The Security Council’s ability to make referrals to the ICC forms an important part of that framework.

However, as we have stressed numerous times, this Council must remain scrupulous in avoiding perceptions that it is using referrals as a political tool, particularly in the midst of a conflict.

Such actions risk politicising the Court, and can prolong both the conflicts concerned and the process of seeking accountability.

Furthermore, the Council should not make referrals unless it is also prepared to follow up on their implementation.

Sustained non-compliance with Chapter VII resolutions calls into question the very credibility of the Council and the authority of its resolutions.

In our view, costs incurred by the ICC as a result of decisions by United Nations (UN) organs should be attributed to, and accounted from, the UN budget.

At the very least, Council members should not obstruct open discussions on this issue, but should defer to the General Assembly, which has the prerogative and mandate to determine funding issues.

Mr President,

Developments in Libya have not yet paved the way for re-establishing effective government authority, restoring the rule of law, protecting basic human rights, and providing justice for past violations, and the situation remains extremely fragile. 

As a result, the environment for the ICC in taking forward the Council’s Libya referral remains extremely challenging.

The current security environment makes it almost impossible for ICC staff to undertake investigations on the ground. 

Moreover, Saif Al Islam Gaddafi remains in detention in an area outside the custody and control of the Government of National Accord (GNA). 

We nevertheless commend the Office of the Prosecutor for its continued efforts, and we welcome the ongoing cooperation provided by the Libyan Prosecutor-General’s Office. 

The ICC is, of course, a court of last resort. It was never intended to take the place of national justice systems but rather to complement them.

However, Libya’s current domestic judicial options remain significantly constrained, especially its investigative and judicial capacities. 

We believe the international community, including the ICC, has a role to play in helping build Libyan capacities in this area. The ICC’s interactions with Libya have given it useful practical knowledge of Libya’s circumstances and needs in this regard. 

We note the Prosecutor’s active efforts to encourage the development of coordinated investigative and prosecutorial strategies with regard to Libya-related cases in order to help close the impunity gap for ICC crimes. 

We welcome the agreement in principle at the recent meeting convened by the ICC with judicial and investigative agencies from Libya and various interested states to work collectively and in a coordinated manner.

While we remain supportive of the Prosecutor’s efforts in Libya, we cannot pretend that this referral is currently the most pressing issue facing either Libya or the Court.

Moreover, we must be cognisant of the wider political context in which this work is being undertaken. The ICC is currently facing an unprecedented situation in its relationships with some of its African members.

None of us should be surprised. This situation has been brewing for some time.

There are genuine substantive concerns, and these need to be thoroughly discussed.

But we also need to get much better at listening to and engaging with African States on issues of concern to them.

New Zealand has tried to play a part in facilitating this dialogue, in the ICC context as well as in the General Assembly and here in the Security Council.

We were disappointed that the meeting between the Council and the AU Ministerial Committee on the ICC, which we scheduled during our September Presidency, did not proceed.

We need to see a greater willingness to prioritise this engagement. 

The recent announcement by three African states that they intend to withdraw from the Rome Statute should concern us all.

African states were amongst the ICC’s earliest and strongest supporters, and we do not believe it is in anybody’s interests to now see them walk away.

Now is the time for an open, honest, and respectful dialogue between this Council, the ICC, and its African members, aimed at finding a way through the current crisis that best serves our common goal of ending impunity.

As a friend of both the Court and of Africa, New Zealand is committed to playing its part.

Thank you Mr President.


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