The International Criminal Court (“ICC” or “Court”) last Friday marked the opening of its judicial year by organising a ceremony at the seat of the Court in The Hague, Netherlands.
H.E. Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona, President of Trinidad and Tobago attended the event, together with more than 50 senior judges representing the national jurisdictions of 25 States Parties to the Rome Statute, 8 regional or international courts, and the International Criminal Court.
Members of the diplomatic corps, international organisations and civil society were also present.
It was the first time the ICC has formally marked the opening of the judicial year, which also coincided with the launch of commemorations of the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute, the Court’s founding treaty.
ICC President, Judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi, who delivered the opening address, averred that holding such a ceremony for the first time at the International Criminal Court underlines the judicial nature of the institution, which is guided strictly by its legal framework.
According to her, judges of the ICC have undertaking to perform their duties honourably, faithfully, impartially and conscientiously.
She indicated that the ceremony provides an opportunity not only to foster understanding about the Court’s work but also to engage with judges of other jurisdictions in order to exchange views and experiences in their respective functions and noted, “The future of the rule of law lies in dialogue and collaboration – not in isolation.”
She averred that the expanding scope of the courts’ work underlines the importance of investing continuing efforts in improving the Court’s performance and efficiency.
Much effort, she said, has been made by the judges of the court to this end, and much progress has also been achieved in the last three years.
“The judges have sought to improve and accelerate judicial proceedings through a collective assessment of the legal framework and methods of work,” she said.
She stressed that 2018 will be an extremely important year for institutional developments at the Court as six newly elected judges will be sworn in March, replacing six of the current judges – including herself – on the bench.
The new composition of judges, she said, will need to take important decisions for the governance of the institution, including the election of the new presidency, and the election of the Registrar for a five-year term.
She acknowledged all those who play a role in the courts’ proceedings and stressed that as in any court, the work of judges is assisted tremendously by the professionalism of the lawyers appearing before them.
According to her, the contributions of Registry of the Court and the counsel for the prosecution and defence as well as the counsel for victims are essential for the quality of the courts’ proceedings.
She also acknowledged the significance of interpreters, court management teams, security officers, audio-visual technicians, IT support and many others without who the court would not be able to function effectively.
H.E. Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona O.R.T.T., S.C., President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, former ICC Judge and former High Court Judge of the Supreme Court of Trinidad and Tobago was the distinguished guest speaker of the event.
The International Criminal Court, he said, is the international guarantor and guardian of the rule of law.
He stated, “Today, as the ICC commemorates the milestones of an inauguration and an opening ceremony, the resonating themes implicit in the Court’s very existence are accountability, transparency, independence, cooperation among Member States, Nation States and the universality of the Rome Statute.”
The Ceremony was held after a fruitful judicial seminar on complementarity and cooperation of national, regional and international Courts where participants discussed the interconnectedness of international, regional and national courts as part of a global justice system.
By Osumanu Al-Hassanfirstname.lastname@example.org