Permanent Mission of Australia
to the United Nations
New York

17 October 2012 - Statement to the United Nations Security Council

17 October 2012

Promotion and strengthening of the rule of law in the maintenance of international peace and security

Statement by H.E. Ms Philippa King, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations



Mr President

Australia thanks Guatemala for holding this important debate and welcomes Guatemala’s accession to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). We thank the Secretary-General, President Song and Mr Mochochoko for their briefings today.

Australia has been a steadfast supporter of the Court since its inception. Ensuring accountability for international crimes is a key component of peacebuilding and conflict prevention. Our experience in providing support to States transitioning from peacekeeping to peacebuilding has taught us that peace and justice are both fundamental to establishing sustainable security in all societies.

Australia recognises there will be different views on the appropriate time to press for accountability, particularly when delicate political settlements to end conflict are being negotiated. Nonetheless, combating impunity and acknowledging the wrongs of the past are important factors in establishing lasting peace based on respect for human rights and the rule of law, a point underscored in the 2011 World Development Report.

On this basis, Australia views the ICC as a vital partner for the Security Council. We welcome the evolving relationship between the Court and the Council, particularly the increased attention being given to the ICC in the Council’s country-specific and thematic resolutions and statements.

Effective coordination between the ICC and the Council is essential in order to send the clear message that those who commit the most serious international crimes will be held to account. It is important to ensure the separate efforts of the two bodies – which have very different mandates - have a multiplying effect and that they are able to work together to end impunity for the most serious crimes.

For our part, Australia wishes to offer some suggestions for how the Court and Council can work most effectively together.

It is critical for the Security Council to speak with one voice on the question of accountability. As the Independent International Commission of Inquiry has shown, there is a body of alarming evidence to suggest that the most serious international crimes have been committed in Syria. In these circumstances, the Council – as the ultimate guardian of international peace and security – has an important role to play and we urge the Council to consider referring the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. This would send an important message that there will be no impunity for those who commit the most serious crimes of international concern and that the Syrian people can expect justice for the crimes being committed.

Of course ICC referrals must not be used as a substitute for the Council exercising its broader responsibilities. We also urge the Council to be vigilant against referring situations such as Syria to the Court without taking complementary action where appropriate. Indeed, once the Security Council has referred a situation to the ICC, it is crucial for the Council to give ongoing support to the work of the Court. Such support will maximize the prospects of States cooperating with the ICC and ensure the objective of a referral is achieved. This support is most needed when the Court notifies the Council that a State has failed to meet its obligations to cooperate with the Court. Looking forward, it is also important that any future referrals by the Council are precisely drafted so as to identify clearly the cooperation obligations on States.

Of course, cooperation between the Council and the Court should not be limited to situations where the Council has referred a situation to the ICC. In many scenarios, situations before the Court also feature on the Council’s agenda and cooperation in these situations is equally important. The decision by the 1572 Sanctions Committee to lift the travel ban on Laurent Gbagbo to enable his travel to The Hague is an example of the importance of such cooperation. More generally, sanctions committees covering situations before the ICC should give close consideration to the question of whether indictees should also be designated for sanctions purposes.

Finally, Mr President, Australia recognizes that cooperation is a two-way street. For this reason we encourage the Court to continue to engage with the Council through regular briefings and the provision of detailed advice as to the support it looks to the Council to provide.

We welcome this debate as an important contribution to further exploring how the ICC and the Council can better collaborate to achieve the goal of ending impunity for the most serious crimes, and in the process of doing so, contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security.

I thank you Mr President.