This Thursday, December 14, 2017, in New York, the Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court (ICC), added three war crimes to the Rome Statute. The new war crimes added to the Rome Statute are the use of biological weapons or toxins, weapons injuring with undetectable X-ray fragments and the use of laser weapons resulting in permanent blindness.
These weapons indiscriminately kill people or cause very serious suffering. Their rise to the rank of war crimes strengthens international law. The use of these weapons in armed conflict will become even more difficult. The inclusion of these new crimes in the Rome Statute also provides legal certainty for the victims and gives them specific recognition of the suffering they have endured.
Through a press release on Friday morning, the Belgium Ministry of Foreign Affairs took credit for being at the forefront of getting the crimes recognized in the Rome Statute:
“It was Belgium that had proposed these amendments to the Statute, the founding treaty of the ICC, as early as 2009. Belgium has tirelessly mobilized, through its diplomatic network and the voices of its foreign ministers, its ministers of justice and even its prime ministers to promote the adoption of these amendments.”
The press release provided a window into the protracted deliberations that led to adoption of the three crimes on the final day of #ASP16:
“Throughout the lengthy negotiations that led to this important diplomatic success, Belgium has favored the path of dialogue, listening and transparency, in order to forge a consensus. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders is proud that Belgium has succeeded in carrying out this difficult project.”
The current conflicts, in which weapons of an equivalent type – such as chemical weapons in Syria – are being used, demonstrate the importance of the adoption today of these three new war crimes.
More reporting to follow.