Remarks at the UN General Assembly Annual Debate on the International Criminal Court

Ambassador Richard Mills
Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
November 10, 2021


Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, President Hofmanski, for your briefing and for your leadership as President of the International Criminal Court.

As noted in the Court’s report on developments between August 2020 and August 2021, this has been a year of significant change and activity at the Court. The United States would like to commend the ICC for a number of achievements in some of the longest-running situations before the Court – situations involving national governments that invited the ICC to act because they were unable to do so. In March, the United States welcomed the verdict in the case against former Lord’s Resistance Army Commander Dominic Ongwen for war crimes and crimes against humanity. This was a significant step in securing justice for atrocities committed by the LRA, and we hope that this verdict brought some measure of closure to the LRA’s too many victims.

We also welcomed the Appeals Chamber’s decision in March to confirm the conviction of Bosco Ntaganda, closing one chapter of the many years of atrocities against the population in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, including sexual slavery as a crime against humanity and a war crime, that had been committed by his forces. We are pleased to have assisted in facilitating the voluntary surrender of Ongwen and the transfer of Ntaganda to the ICC. The United States remains committed to furthering justice for LRA atrocities, and we continue to offer monetary rewards for information leading to the arrest of LRA leader Joseph Kony.

Finally, the United States applauds the progress that has been made to advance accountability in the Central African Republic, including the commencement in February of the trial against Alfred Yekatom and Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona for atrocity crimes.

We are also pleased to note several positive developments beyond the ICC. These are developments in relation to broader efforts to seek justice for atrocity crimes in national, hybrid, and international courts. This includes the commencement of trials in the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, and the announcement of an atrocity crime indictment by the Special Criminal Court of the Central African Republic. Given the responsibilities that states have for protecting their own populations, and the limited capacity of any international court, the United States continues to robustly support countries in their own domestic efforts to ensure accountability.

Turning back to the ICC, we would also like to take note of the important effort underway relating to reform as the Court approaches its twentieth birthday. All organs of the Court and States Parties, working with other states, civil society, and victims, have engaged over the past year in consideration of a broad range of reforms, including those identified in the Independent Expert Review of the ICC.

Although, as this Assembly knows, the United States is not a State Party, we welcome these ongoing efforts to identify and implement reforms that will help the Court better achieve its core mission of serving as a court of last resort in punishing and deterring atrocity crimes. While we maintain our longstanding objection to the Court’s efforts to assert jurisdiction over personnel of non-States Parties absent a Security Council referral or the consent of the state, we believe that our concerns are best addressed through engagement with all stakeholders. Where domestic systems are unable or unwilling to genuinely pursue the justice that victims deserve, and that societies require to sustain peace, international courts such as the ICC can have a meaningful role.

We are impressed that the ICC persevered during the COVID pandemic and has been able to remain continuously operational in its pursuit of justice. We extend our appreciation to all ICC staff for their dedication to accountability.

Mr. President, around the world, far too many victims of mass atrocities, both within and outside of the ICC’s jurisdiction, have yet to find justice. We are reminded that much remains in our work together to prevent mass atrocities, and to ensure that the perpetrators and those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, are brought to justice.

The United States looks forward to continued discussions at the United Nations and to our upcoming participation as an observer at the meeting of the ICC’s Assembly of States Parties in The Hague next month.

Thank you, Mr. President.