Three new war crimes recognized thanks to the efforts of Belgium

This Thursday 14th of December, in New York, the Assembly of State Parties to the International Criminal Court (ICC) added three new war crimes to the Rome Statute. Belgium had proposed these amendments to the Statute, which is the founding treaty of the ICC, as early as 2009. Belgium, through its diplomatic network and through the interventions of its ministers of Foreign Affairs, ministers of Justice and prime ministers, worked tirelessly to promote the adoption of these amendments.

The new war crimes added to the Rome Statute are, respectively, the use of biological and toxin weapons, the use of weapons causing injuries by fragments which in the human body escape detection by X-rays and the use of laser weapons causing permanent blindness. These weapons kill without discrimination or inflict very severe suffering. Their elevation to the rank of war crimes strengthens international law. The use of these weapons during armed conflicts will become even more difficult. The inscription of these new crimes in the Statute of Rome ensures also legal certainty to the victims and gives a specific recognition to their pain.

Current conflicts, in which weapons of an equivalent type are used – such as chemical weapons in Syria – demonstrate the importance of the adoption today of these three new war crimes.

In the course of the long negotiations leading to this important diplomatic success, Belgium always privileged dialogue and transparency in order to foster consensus. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders is proud that Belgium was able to bring this difficult project to a good end. He recalls at this occasion that it is based on values which are at the heart of the priorities of Belgian diplomacy, such as the fight against impunity and the protection of civilian populations in armed conflicts.