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Press Conference on Tunisia's Accession to International Criminal Court Statute

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

24 June 2011

In the wake of sweeping changes across the region, Tunisia today became the first North African State to accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, said that country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ghazi Jomaa, at a Headquarters press conference today.

Joining Mr. Jomaa was Christian Wenaweser, the Permanent Representative of Liechtenstein, in his capacity as President of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. He informed correspondents in the course of the briefing that on Monday, 27 June, the Court would make public warrants of arrest for Libyan leader Muammar Al-Qadhafi, his son Saif Al Islam Qadhafi and the head of Libya’s Intelligence Agency, Abdullah Al Sanousi.

As for Tunisia, Ambassador Jomaa said the country was undertaking “genuine efforts” to embrace democracy, human rights and the rule of law. To that end, it had deposited with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this morning the documents necessary to join the Rome Statute — the treaty that created the International Criminal Court. Among its provisions, the Statute, and by extension the States parties to it, grants the Court jurisdiction over the “most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole” — namely, those of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression.

“Tunisia is witnessing historic changes,” said Mr. Jomaa, who acknowledged, however, that there was still “a long way to go”. Despite the challenges posed by the unstable regional context, he said, Tunisia was committed to continued steps towards establishing a democratic Government.

The sea change followed a January 2011 popular uprising in Tunisia, which was subsequently echoed across several States in the Middle East and North Africa. That revolt resulted in the removal from power of Tunisia’s long-time President, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The country is slated to hold a constitutional referendum in October, which Mr. Jomaa today called the country’s “first free election”.

“Tunisia’s accession to the Rome Statute is a testament of the profound changes brought about by the Arab Spring,” said Mr. Wenaweser. “It fulfils a central demand of peoples everywhere for societies guided by clear rules and the principle of equality before the law.” He added that he hoped other countries would follow the example that Tunisia was setting today.

Alongside the Rome Statute, Tunisia would soon accede to three other international agreements, he said. Those were the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which aims to prevent torture and ill-treatment by allowing regular inspection of places of detention; the First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which allows individual complaints to be made to the United Nations Human Rights Committee; and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which bans the practice of secretly detaining individuals outside the protection of the law. The instruments to join those agreements would be officially deposited next week.

By joining with the international community on such crucial matters, Mr. Jomaa said, his country was sending a “clear message” about its commitment to democracy and the rule of law. He added that Tunisia looked forward to joining the international effort to fight impunity and promote accountability.

Besides becoming the first North African State to join the Rome Statute, Tunisia is the fourth member of the Arab League to become a State party and the 116th State party to the Statute overall.

Updating correspondents on the Court’s recent activities, Mr. Wenaweser said the Prosecutor was taking steps forward in investigating recent violence in Côte d’Ivoire. The authorization to open such an investigation had to be granted by the pre-trial chamber, he said, which was the next step in the process.

Reminding correspondents that the term of the current Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, was set to expire in June 2012, he said that the work of the search committee for a successor was continuing smoothly. Twenty-four names representing all regional groups had been submitted to the committee to date, and of those, 21 were under active consideration. The process was still open to applications.

Further to the situation in Libya, Mr. Wenaweser explained that Monday’s arrest warrants of Libya’s leadership would be issued as part of the Court’s inquiry into the situation in that country, which was being carried out under the auspices of Security Council resolution 1970 (2011). The Court had been able to act swiftly, said Mr. Wenaweser, thanks to the consensual nature of that resolution.

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For information media • not an official record

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