Benelux Foreign Ministers host meeting with ICC Prosecutor and their EU colleagues
Today, February 22nd, in the context of the Belgian Presidency of the Benelux, Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmès invited the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Ms. Fatou Bensouda, and her fellow EU Foreign Ministers for an informal meeting with the 27 EU Ministers ahead of the monthly Foreign Affairs Council. Ms. Bensouda started her mandate as Prosecutor in 2012 and will finish it in June this year.
During the meeting, Ms. Bensouda has been invited to give a state of play of the main activities and challenges of her Office and the Court’s important contributions to peace, security and the fight against impunity, and raised awareness around the challenges the ICC is facing, among which sanctions directed at her and her teams by the previous US administration. Back in November 2020, Ministers Wilmès, Blok and Asselborn made a joint call to then president-elect Joe Biden to withdraw the executive order targeting the ICC as soon as possible.
The Benelux Ministers consider the ICC a central pillar of a global system of international justice and a key element of the international rules-based order, as was also reflected by the role Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg took up as ICC focal point during their respective UN Security Council Mandates.
Full cooperation, as well as diplomatic and political support by all States Parties are essential for the effective functioning of the Court, especially at a time when the ICC faces multifaceted challenges. The Benelux Ministers are committed to further strengthening the Court and the Rome Statute system as a means to end impunity for the perpetrators and bring justice to the victims of these crimes, and therefore welcome the ongoing Review of the Court in bringing this joint goal forwards. Today’s meeting was a strong signal of the Benelux and EU support to the Court and its Prosecutor at a time when international criminal justice is needed more than ever.
Sophie Wilmès: Belgium thanks Prosecutor Bensouda for her great commitment and wishes her successor all the best in his crucial mandate. As the International Criminal Court is facing major external challenges, Belgium calls upon all countries to support this essential institution. Only by joining forces can we build a fundamentally more just world. A world where the most ruthless violators of international humanitarian law are prosecuted and put on trial, and their victims find justice. Justice, a necessary condition for lasting peace.
Stef Blok: The Netherlands is a staunch supporter of the ICC, the cornerstone of the international criminal justice system. We are very grateful for the excellent cooperation with Prosecutor Bensouda and her office over the last nine years, and we look forward to welcoming her successor Karim Khan to The Hague. In order to achieve justice for the victims, all states parties, as well as the broader international community, must do their part.
Jean Asselborn: Luxembourg highly values the work of the International Criminal Court. It is a key institution in the fight against impunity for the most serious crimes of international concern: the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. For many innocent victims of armed conflict, the ICC represents the best hope for justice. I thank Ms. Fatou Bensouda for her dedication and in particular for her efforts during her mandate as Prosecutor to strengthen the protection of women and children.