Without information, no reconciliation

UN chief opens new building for under-fire ICC

1 min 45Approximate reading time

UN chief Ban Ki-moon Tuesday made a powerful plea for nations everywhere to end impunity for the world's worst crimes, as he officially opened the new premises of the International Criminal Court.

The first permanent headquarters for the ICC, situated on the edge of the sand dunes in The Hague, was "a milestone in global efforts to uphold human rights and the rule of law," Ban Ki-Moon said.

"When civilians are indiscriminately bombed, when rape is used as a weapon of war, when populations are targeted based on ethnicity or faith, when children are forced to carry guns and fight, people can now legitimately expect that the perpetrators will be brought to justice," Ban said.

The new building, with state-of-the-art security and surrounded by a water-filled moat, gives the ICC a permanent base just steps from the prison where some of those awaiting trial are held.

In 1998 some 120 nations adopted the Rome Statute establishing the legal framework and basis for the world's only permanent war crimes tribunal. The statute entered into force in 2002.

On Tuesday Ban told some 350 VIP guests, including Dutch King Willem-Alexander, that he was increasingly concerned about states and perpetrators who disregard human rights and who commit atrocities.

"More should be done to save human lives," Ban said.

"Only by their actions can nations and their leaders show that they fully support accountability and an end to impunity.

"Only by their actions can they show that they are committed to upholding human rights."

Built at a cost of 206 million euros ($218 million) and paid for by the parties to the Rome Statute, the new building "will help us carry out the essential functions of this court," said ICC president Argentinian judge Silvia Fernandez.

The ICC has in recent years come under attack particularly from African countries, which accuse it of unfairly targeting its leaders.

The court's supporters including major human rights organisations however say the ICC remains the best chance for victims of finding justice and bringing perpetrators to book.

The court's opening comes as a rare bit of good news after major setbacks in efforts to prosecute top Kenyan politicians accused of fomenting the deadliest violence in the east African nation since independence in 1963.

A case against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta -- the son of the country's independence leader Jomo Kenyatta -- arising out of the violence collapsed at the end of 2014. And war crimes judges dropped the charges against Deputy President William Ruto on April 5.

Ban warned that around the world "terrible abuses still occur."

"When governments fail to enforce the rules and act on the principles they have agreed -- or, even worse, are themselves the perpetrators of violations -- the result is even more violence, vast disillusion and the erosion of the foundations of international order," he intoned.

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