[Open Letter] Attacks on the ICC must be condemned

Open Letter

The Guardian  /  May 31, 2021

Attempts to discredit the international criminal court and obstruct its work cannot be tolerated if we are serious about upholding justice globally, write more than 50 former prime ministers, foreign ministers and senior international officials.

We welcome the support that European leaders have expressed for the international criminal court and its unique mandate of advancing justice following war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Consistent support for the ICC and promotion of its universal reach highlight Europe’s serious commitment to deter such violations and to promote a rules-based international order, peace and security.

It is clear that Europe has long benefited from multilateralism rooted in international law and the institutions that uphold it. Now, in a time of increasing challenges to the multilateral order and an independent judiciary in many corners of the world and within Europe itself, preserving the ICC’s legitimacy and mandate becomes an imperative.

We regret to see increasing attacks on the ICC, its staff and cooperating civil society groups. We witnessed with serious concern the executive order issued in the United States by former president Donald Trump and the sanctions designated against the court’s staff and their family members. Deeply worrying is now the unwarranted public criticism of the court regarding its investigation of alleged crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territory, including unfounded accusations of antisemitism.

It is well established and recognized that accountability for serious rights violations by all sides to a conflict is essential for achieving sustainable and lasting peace. This is the case in Israel-Palestine, just as in Sudan, Libya, Afghanistan, Mali, Bangladesh/Myanmar, Colombia and Ukraine. Where there is no accountability for grave human rights violations, it is the victims seeking justice and people longing for lasting peace who are paying the price.

Attempts to discredit the court and obstruct its work cannot be tolerated if we are serious about promoting and upholding justice globally. We understand fears of politically motivated complaints and investigations. Yet we strongly believe that the Rome Statute guarantees the highest criteria of justice and provides a crucial avenue to address impunity for the world’s most serious crimes. Failure to act would have grave consequences.

In this context, we stress the importance of all European governments firmly supporting the independence of the ICC and shielding the institution and its staff from any external pressures or threats. That includes refraining from public criticism of the ICC’s decisions, which could contribute to undermining the independence of the court and public trust in its authority.

We welcome the Biden administration’s decision to rescind the executive order and lift the sanctions against the ICC. This will set grounds for opportunities to work on strengthening international justice institutions and norms together with our key transatlantic ally.

The ICC is a vital part of the rules-based international order. Now more than ever, Europe must lead by example in protecting the court’s independence.

Douglas Alexander Former minister of international development, UK
Jean-Marc Ayrault Former foreign minister and prime minister, France
Hans Blix Former foreign minister and former director general of the IAEA, Sweden
Emma Bonino Former foreign minister and former European affairs minister and former European commissioner
Ben Bradshaw Former minister of state for the Middle East, UK
Gro Harlem Brundtland Former prime minister, Norway
John Bruton Former prime minister, Ireland
Micheline Calmy-Rey Former foreign minister and president, Switzerland
Ingvar Carlsson Former prime minister, Sweden
Gunilla Carlsson Former minister for international development cooperation, Sweden
Menzies Campbell Former leader of the Liberal Democrat party, UK
Willy Claes Former foreign minister and NATO secretary general, Belgium
Joe Costello Former minister of state at the department of foreign affairs and trade, Ireland
Massimo d’Alema Former foreign minister and prime minister, Italy
Teresa Patrício de Gouveia Former foreign minister, Portugal
Karel de Gucht Former foreign minister and European commissioner, Belgium
Ruth Dreifuss Former president, Switzerland
Alan Duncan Former minister of state for Europe and the Americas and minister of state for international development, UK
Espen Barth Eide Former foreign minister, Norway
Jan Eliasson Former foreign minister and UN general assembly president, Sweden
Uffe Ellemann-Jensen Former foreign minister and president of the European Liberals, Denmark
Benita Ferrero-Waldner Former foreign minister and European commissioner for external relations, Austria
Charles Flanagan Former minister of foreign affairs, Ireland
Sigmar Gabriel Former foreign minister and vice-chancellor, Germany
Bjørn Tore Godal Former foreign minister, Norway
Bertel Haarder President of the Nordic Council, former minister for European affairs and minister of the interior, Denmark
Peter Hain Former minister for the Middle East, UK
Lena Hjelm-Wallén Former foreign minister and deputy prime minister, Sweden
Lionel Jospin Former prime minister, France
Tom Kitt Former minister of state for overseas development and human rights, Ireland
Neil Kinnock Former European commissioner, former leader of the Labour party, UK
Bert Koenders Former foreign minister, the Netherlands
Yves Leterme Former foreign minister and prime minister, Belgium
Martin Liedegaard Former foreign minister, Denmark
Mogens Lykketoft Former foreign minister and UN general assembly president, Denmark
Michael McDowell Former minister of justice and former attorney general, Ireland
Per Stig Møller Former foreign minister, Denmark
Holger K Nielsen Former foreign minister, Denmark
Lindsay Northover Former parliamentary under-secretary of state for international development, UK
Andrzej Olechowski Former foreign minister, Poland
Marc Otte Former EU special representative to the Middle East peace process, Belgium
Ana Palacio Former foreign minister, Spain
Chris Patten Former vice-president of the European commission and European commissioner for external relations, UK
Jacques Poos Former foreign minister, Luxembourg
Mary Robinson Former president and UN high commissioner for human rights, Ireland
Soraya Rodriguez Former secretary of state for international cooperation, Spain
Robert Serry Former UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, the Netherlands
Javier Solana Former foreign minister, NATO secretary general and EU high representative for common foreign and security policy, Spain
Erkki Tuomioja Former foreign minister, Finland
Ivo Vajgl Former foreign minister, Slovenia
Jozias van Aartsen Former foreign minister, the Netherlands
Hubert Védrine Former foreign minister, France
Joris Voorhoeve Former leader of the liberal party VVD and former minister of defence, the Netherlands
Margot Wallström Former deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Sweden
Sayeeda Warsi Former cabinet minister and Foreign Office minister for the UN, human rights and the ICC, UK