Ambassador Beth Van Schaack
Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice
New York, New York
July 18, 2023
Thank you so much, State Secretary Cicéron Bühler and Ambassador Ishikane, for sponsoring this timely discussion. It’s really an honor to speak amongst this distinguished group of experts and delegates, as we reflect upon the pivotal moment in the Court’s 25-year history.
Twenty-five years on, the ICC has achieved meaningful and significant advances in delivering justice—retributive and restorative—to victims and survivors of atrocity crimes. In so doing, it has brought hope to communities around the world desperate for some semblance of justice, the restoration of peace and security, and the ability to pursue their own life paths free from violence, persecution, and abuse.
As one important contribution, the Court during its lifespan, has issued groundbreaking decisions and judgments that have advanced our understanding of the prevalence of sexual violence in war, the vulnerability of precious cultural artifacts, the use of children as instruments of conflict, and reparations owed to victims.
It has generated valuable lessons learned in the prosecution of atrocity crimes. This includes the importance of continuing to support national legal systems as they strengthen domestic prosecutions for international crimes. This includes through professional exchanges with dedicated war crimes units, capacity building, and comprehensive national legislation, incorporating Rome Statute crimes.
These measures also include incorporating survivor-centered, trauma-informed practices in the work of prosecutorial authorities, applying an intersectional approach to violence against vulnerable communities, engaging in meaningful consultations with diverse cross-sections of stakeholders, and promoting restorative justice practices, including reparations.
The Court is now a key pillar in the international community’s system of international peace and security alongside the UN Security Council, other UN Charter organs and entities, peacekeeping missions, and regional institutions. Indeed, the Court is working actively in many areas where the Council is also engaged: Libya, Sudan, Myanmar, and the Central African Republic.
All that said, and as others have mentioned, there is more that can be done to strengthen the collaboration between the Council and the Court, including when it comes to state cooperation to effectuate Security Council referrals, meaningfully addressing instances of non-cooperation, the tracking and capture of fugitives, financial support, and coordinating sanctions with arrest warrants.
As we know, the principle of complementarity is at the heart of the Rome Statute system. While states bear the primary responsibility to deliver justice for atrocity crimes, whether committed in their midst or against their citizens and those within their jurisdictions, the Court nonetheless carries out an important role when it encourages, catalyzes, and supports national prosecutions.
And in terms of advancing restorative justice, the Trust Fund for Victims offers critical support to survivors, often in areas where there are no other measures of support.
The Court, as we have seen, can work in collaboration with regional, national, and local justice institutions to apply and advance best practices. Such local institutions can help the Court by acting as key liaisons with victims, survivors, and their communities in ways that may be more cost-effective, sustainable, and culturally sensitive.
In closing, Madam Chair, while the United States is not a party to the Rome Statute, we of course recognize the right of all countries to make the sovereign decision to join the Court, and we welcome efforts by all states to enhance and strengthen the system of international justice however they can.
As we have in past decades, the United States is supporting the Court’s work with practical assistance across a range of situations, and we are actively exploring additional ways to advance the work of the Court, including through support to victims, witnesses, and survivors.
We look forward to working with States Parties and Non-party States alike to continue to strengthen the system of international justice at the national, regional, and international levels for the years to come. Thank you.