New Zealand today joined the growing number of countries that have become parties to the Rome Statute of the
International Criminal Court. The instrument of ratification was deposited by Prime Minister Helen Clark while attending
the UN Millennium Summit in New York.
The Court, which will have jurisdiction over individuals who commit genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes,
will be established once 60 states have ratified the Rome Statute.
"I am delighted that New Zealand has become one of the founding members of the Rome Statute," Helen Clark said today.
"Our ratification helps bring the establishment of the ICC one step closer and signals New Zealand's continuing strong
commitment both to the principles of international justice generally and to ending the current culture of impunity for
these most serious crimes."
The Prime Minister said that the International Criminal Court will help to ensure that individuals responsible for
atrocities are brought to justice without delay. Its existence will also serve as a deterrent, making would-be
perpetrators think twice.
"The sad reality is that a permanent international criminal court is now needed more than ever, as recent events in
Sierra Leone and East Timor illustrate."
The Prime Minister acknowledged that the text of the Rome Statute does contain some compromises that New Zealand would
prefer not to have been made, with the war crimes provision being a particular example.
"We are somewhat concerned that a declaration made by France when it ratified the Rome Statute appears to state that
article 8 applies only to events involving conventional weapons. That seems an unduly narrow interpretation and at odds
with our understanding of the principles of international humanitarian law.
"New Zealand has therefore taken the opportunity to go on record with its view, in the interests of ensuring that no
unnecessary or artificial constraints are placed on article 8.
"New Zealand would, in fact, like to see article 8 go even further and treat nuclear weapons and anti-personnel mines in
the same way as poison gases and expanding bullets, the mere use of which is a war crime. In the longer term New Zealand
intends to work towards an amendment along those lines.
"But the important thing now is for all those states that have signed the Rome Statute to move quickly to ratification
so that the International Criminal Court can become a reality as soon as possible," Helen Clark said.