Mr. President, we welcome this opportunity to join the discussion on “Justice and Rule of Law.” As the Secretary General’s October 2011 report makes clear, the rule of law and transitional justice are critical in preventing conflict and atrocities and rebuilding societies torn apart by systemic violence. Today, I would like to address three aspects of justice and the rule of law as they relate to conflict and post-conflict societies: first, the importance of support for justice at the international level; second, the need to build the capacity of domestic justice systems; and third, recent efforts by the United States to institutionalize and deepen our own commitments in this area.
First, strengthening the rule of law requires more than technical expertise. It also requires political will and coordinated action by a wide range of international actors.
One key way in which the international community has signaled that impunity for the most serious crimes will not be tolerated is the creation of international and mixed tribunals, as well as commissions of inquiry and fact-finding mechanisms. Active support by all states for international and mixed tribunals is crucial. We have supported these international accountability mechanisms across the globe, from the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia to commissions of inquiry in places like Kyrgyzstan, Cote d’Ivoire, and Libya. In this regard, the International Criminal Court can play an important role in contributing to the fight against impunity.
The United States supported the UN Security Council’s ICC referral regarding Libya, and we are helping to ensure that those charged by the Court there face justice consistent with international standards. Although the United States is not a party to the Rome Statute, over the past several years we have sent observer delegations to the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) sessions and the Review Conference in Kampala. In December, we cosponsored a high-level panel at the ASP to highlight the importance of ensuring protection for witnesses and judicial officers. We have engaged with the Office of the Prosecutor and the Registrar to consider ways to support specific prosecutions already underway, and we have responded positively to a number of informal requests for assistance.
As we approach justice and rule of law in conflict and post-conflict situations, we must place special emphasis on the protection of women and children, as well as of other vulnerable groups. This includes persons targeted for violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
We must ensure accountability for those responsible for the most serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, and deter further violations. Hindering such persons from traveling, accessing funds, and arming themselves through the application of targeted sanctions can play an important role in deterring future violations. In this connection, we have strongly supported the application of targeted sanctions to help combat the threats posed by the most egregious of such violations to international peace and security. The rule of law also means States must fulfill their international legal obligations, including Chapter VII obligations, related to sanctions imposed by the Security Council.
While all these international accountability mechanisms play an important role, on their own they are insufficient. We must also catalyze a broader process of long-term prevention. The lessons of international justice must be embraced at the national level, and developed locally to ensure that states can protect their citizens’ rights.
The many rule of law capacity building initiatives to advance transitional justice deserve the continued support of the international community. The United States, together with our partners, enthusiastically supports initiatives in states such as the DRC, Cote d’Ivoire, and elsewhere to bolster domestic capacities to investigate and prosecute atrocity crimes and to build justice systems that can deliver fair, impartial justice. We can help deter and prevent future violence through actions such as embedding judicial advisors in local prosecution cells, supporting specialized mixed courts, funding witness protection programs, training police to investigate sexual and gender-based violence, and training border security.
Finally, let me end with two recent initiatives that the United States has undertaken to make good on our commitment to address many of the issues discussed here today.
First, in December 2011, President Obama signed an executive order launching the first-ever U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security – a comprehensive roadmap for accelerating and institutionalizing efforts across the United States government to advance women’s participation in making and keeping peace. This National Action Plan recognizes that women are not just victims of war; they are agents of peace and essential to building the rule of law in any society.
Second, the U.S. government, under Presidential Study Directive 10 (PSD-10), undertook a comprehensive review to strengthen the United States’ ability to prevent and respond to mass atrocities. The Directive also mandated the establishment of an Atrocities Prevention Board that will coordinate prevention and response efforts and help the United States engage early and effectively. The review also focused on how we can work with our international partners to more effectively prevent and respond to atrocities. We look forward to working with our partners to strengthen the international community’s capabilities in this area.
These two initiatives exemplify the importance the United States places on ensuring that we prioritize the rule of law and transitional justice as essential elements to prevent and respond to conflict as well as assist in building peace.
Mr. President, as today’s discussion has pointed out, strengthening the rule of law around the world reinforces peace, progress, and security. We look forward to further discussion of rule of law matters throughout the United Nations system, including future discussions here in the Council as well as the High-Level Event on the rule of law in the General Assembly this fall.
Thank you, Mr. President.