Parliamentary Assembly session : 23 – 27 September 2002 

Dick Marty: Defending the integrity of the International Criminal Court

“We appeal to parliamentarians the world over to reject any bilateral agreement conferring immunity” said Dick Marty, the Parliamentary Assembly rapporteur in the urgent debate on the status of the International Criminal Court.

Question: Dick Marty, you are a Liberal member of the Swiss parliament and you are presenting an urgent report on the status of the International Criminal Court. Why the urgent procedure?

Dick Marty: Firstly, allow me to say that the International Criminal Court is undoubtedly one of the major achievements in international law in recent decades. The Court, which does not replace national courts but is complementary to them, is a vital tool for combating impunity. The impunity battle was one that had to be fought before an international justice system could be set up to deal with the gravest crimes - war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. In 1999 the Assembly took a stance in a resolution which urged all Council of Europe states to sign and ratify the Rome statute setting up the Court. Today we are taking emergency action in reaction to attempts to undermine the Rome statute and thus the Court’s authority by means of bilateral immunity agreements.

Question: The attempts are mainly by the United States. How do you see their attitude?

Dick Marty: Firstly, I want to make it clear that our position is in no way motivated by anti-Americanism. On the contrary. We want to convince our American friends of the need for an international justice system. I think the issue is one of divergent cultures. Basically the Americans do not recognise any international court and are almost viscerally mistrustful of all international institutions. They are afraid of American citizens and American soldiers falling victim to political score-settling in the international courts. Whereas we Europeans have had highly satisfactory experience with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which has made a crucial contribution to the progress of European civil society.

As a matter of urgency we are appealing to states to have nothing to do with bilateral immunity agreements. That will make us the first international organisation to adopt a clear position on the question. The Romanian government has signed a bilateral agreement, but the Romanian parliament has not yet ratified it. Israel, too, has signed a bilateral agreement with the United States. We appeal to the Knesset not to ratify the agreement. The Parliamentary Assembly is appealing to all parliaments worldwide not to ratify such agreements.

Question: Romania and the United States are not alone. France too has made important reservations

Dick Marty: If my information is correct, France has availed itself of the reservation in Article 124, which provides for a seven-year time lapse before the provisions on war crimes come into force. I regret it because the Assembly’s 1999 resolution expressly asked states not to make use of that reservation.

We are at a historic juncture where there are those who remain loath to recognise the worth of international law while others have perfectly understood that international law, in an increasingly interdependent world, is vital to peace and progress.

Given all the genocides, war crimes and crimes against humanity the 20th century inflicted on us, the challenge facing the Council of Europe is one that is central to its very existence - that of affirming the inviolability of human rights, which necessarily involves fierce resistance to any attempt to allow the gravest crimes to go unpunished