More than a decade after the opening of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Court moved into its new, permanent premises. On Tuesday, the building was opened in the presence of the United Nations Secretary General, ministers, diplomats – and with a Michael Jackson performance.
After more than 13 years in a former office building, the ICC on Tuesday officially opened its own, permanent premises. In a ceremony, the international community celebrated the ICC’s achievements and stressed its importance, but also brought to mind the Court’s difficulties.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the ICC “a milestone in the global efforts to promote and uphold human rights and the rule of law” and explained the ICC had become an integral part of international relations today.
Ban expressed his concern about the “increasing disregard” of international law and said it is in the interest of the international community to make the Court more effective. “The success [of the ICC] will be the legacy we leave for future generations”, he said.
As a reminder for the representatives of the various governments present, the ICC’s president, judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi, stressed the challenges the institution is facing. Gurmendi mentioned the unprecedented workload and the limitations of the Court. Reading between the lines, she was referring to the tight budget and the conflicts, for example in Syria and Iraq where the ICC can’t intervene since neither of the countries is a member state and the UN Security Council refused to refer the situations to The Hague. “More states need to join the Rome Statute, [the court’s founding treaty],” she said.
Gurmendi urged governments and the UN to support the ICC. “The Court can’t do the work alone; it needs cooperation”, she said. “Most importantly it needs the determination of the global community to make impunity non-negotiable.”
In a rather unconventional part of the ceremony, a group of the Musical Academy of The Hague performed Michael Jackson’s rock ballad “Heal the World.” On Twitter, the show was received with rather caustic remarks.
In a symbolic act to open the premises, King Willem Alexander of the Netherlands opened an oversized edition of the Rome Statute.
The Court moved into the new premises in the north of The Hague in December. In the past, the ICC had its seat in a former office building in a suburb of the city. Construction started in April 2013.
Part of the permanent premises is a sculpture by the Iranian-born artist Navid Nuur. The installation called “The Gift” symbolises a crystal and is intended to become a visible symbol for the ICC like the broken chair or the gun in front of the UN buildings in Geneva and New York.
Nuur says he was inspired by the fact that “law has a lot to do with emotions; it makes people angry and sad, let them be disappointed, or rather satisfied and happy”. Faced with great emotions, people often cry, he said in a recent interview with the Dutch art magazine “Metropolis M”.
Tears contain salt, Nuur explained. And salt is also found in the seas which connect the continents.
Benjamin Duerr is a legal analyst in The Hague with a focus on the ICC.
Lead image: King Willem Alexander of the Netherlands opening the International Criminal Court (Photo: Flickr/ICC)
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