Subject: Horta on ICC





In the long history of the world's search for international justice and end to impunity, there is now a permanent court that promises to hold accountable perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community: war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and the crime of aggression. For more than 50 years since the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials, the world has failed in bringing to justice those responsible for the millions of victims of such horrendous crimes.

The ICC represents the sharpest expression of developments in international humanitarian and human rights laws. Adopted in 1998 in Rome by 120 states, signed by 139 states and now ratified by almost 70 states, the Rome Statute which creates the ICC will come into force on July Is' this year, to be marked and celebrated as the `International Day for Justice'.

It is crucial not only for East Timor to ratify this treaty at this time in history but for countries in Asia and elsewhere in the world that have witnessed and experienced first hand the atrocities committed by those in power and those who hold guns and use them against innocent civilians, most of whom are women and children.

East Timor, with its recent past, holds itself in high moral ground to ratify not only for the benefit of its own people in the present and in the future but for those who continue to live their lives in the crossfire in areas of conflict and where the most serious crimes are committed everyday. As human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent, we as a people stand in solidarity with those fellow human beings living in very difficult situations similar to what the East Timorese went through over half a Millennium.

There is a need to prevent violence and allow the rule of law to take its due course in trying to bring to justice those responsible for such horrendous crimes.

No country can be safe from any similar attack of violence, including East Timor. The ICC can be a rallying point for those who seek peace through the use of the rule of law. It has yet to evolve and unless we ratify, we cannot participate and have a voice in its making. And as country and a people that have suffered so much in the past, our voice is needed not only to express our sufferings but to put a stop to the unnecessary sufferings of others and prevent future ones from occurring.

Many Asian countries have not ratified yet. It is unthinkable to have an international criminal court without Asia in it not only for geographical and demographical reasons but for a region that have experienced so much violations of human rights and continue to suffer as a result of such violations, we owe a great deal of justice to our people. A strong Asian voice is needed to end impunity in the region and to bring peace to our people. The ICC will benefit a lot from the Asian experience and long standing record of human rights work.

East Timor is committed to ratify the ICC soon and join the international community in ensuring the establishment of an independent, fair and effective international criminal court.

[Delivered at the closing rites of the Workshop on the International Criminal Court, organized by NGO Forum and Forum Asia, 26-28 June, 2002, Dili, East Timor.]

June 27, 2002 | RDTL

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