Delivered by: Nasra Al Rahma, First Secretary

Madam Chair,

Allow me to begin by expressing the UAE’s appreciation to you and the co-organizers for convening this meeting. I wish to thank President Silvia Fernandez de Gurmendi for participating in today’s meeting. I have also listened carefully to the other briefers.

Twenty-five years on, the conclusion of Rome Statute establishing – so many decades after proposals for an international criminal court were first floated – remains a significant achievement.  But we must also acknowledge that the ICC has faced significant challenges, as well as criticisms, including from its own States parties as to whether it has lived up to expectations. Today’s meeting is therefore a good opportunity to reflect on the Court’s record and discuss the elements that should guide its work going forward. In this context, I would like to make three observations:

First, the principle of complementarity enshrined in the Rome Statute must remain the keystone of the ICC’s work. Complementarity is the tool through which the Court achieves a balance between its objectives and the fundamental principle of sovereignty. The UAE firmly believes that the enduring responsibility of each State to protect its populations from atrocity crimes lies at the core of state sovereignty, and the ICC should support States to fulfil this responsibility when the latter is willing and able to do so. Moreover, it is important to recognise the continuing application of complementarity. Throughout the course of ICC investigations and prosecutions, the situation in the subject State may change dramatically, and when the State does develop the capacity and motivation to fulfil its responsibility to provide justice, it must be given ample opportunity to do so. This is not just a matter of effective use of Court resources: as experience shows, nationally-owned criminal justice initiatives can provide retribution for victims, restore trust in public authorities and build resilience against the recurrence of atrocities.

Second, in cases where the Court exercises its jurisdiction, it is critical for the Court and the Prosecutor to maintain a high standard of transparency, particularly for affected States. We further encourage the ICC to build on its engagement with, and outreach to, affected States and local populations. For these States and the survivors, victims and witnesses of the crimes concerned, even if the Court’s facilities are half a world away, the justice the Court dispenses must not be.

Finally, I note that some of today’s discussion has concerned the issue of universality, and I wish to conclude with an observation on what our objective should be with respect to universality, in the context of state sovereignty. The decision by a State to join the Rome Statute, or to refer a situation to the ICC, is an exercise of sovereign power. It must be respected as such. To be equally respected, as exercises of sovereignty, are the decisions by States to not join the Rome Statue, and the actions taken by States to fulfil their responsibility to address atrocity crimes in their territory and jurisdiction. Accordingly, what we must strive for is not a narrow vision of universal membership in any one treaty body. Rather, our objective must be universality of justice, and universal respect for and application of international law.

Thank you, Madam Chair.