Compiled by Susan Kendi
Thank you so much, Mr President, vice-presidents, honourable judges of the International Criminal Court, Vice-President of the Assembly of States Parties, Mr Registrar, President of the International Criminal Court Bar Association, my predecessor Fatou Bensouda, Deputy Prosecutor, ladies, and gentlemen.
It is a great honour to take this solemn declaration that is up to recall that this magnificent, courtroom, this building and this office that I now lead can be viewed through two different prisms.
First, it is an awful testament to the horrors of mankind. That in this 21st century, as we send rovers to Mars, as we are about to commence space tourism, where we have managed to harness the powers of the sun, of the wind, and of oceans, in this 21st century, medieval crimes are being committed by modern people.
Rape, slavery, killings, torture, attacks against identity, all manner of persecution and destruction of cultural property take place as we speak. But through the other prism, through the other lens, this court and the whole Rome Statute architecture represents, in my view, a promise to the future. That tomorrow need not be as bleak, as sorrowful as yesterday.
To states parties, with respect I commend you, every single state that has signed up and ratified the Rome Statute, for your commitment to international justice, your commitment to fulfil the promise that you have made. And I undertake in my new position as Prosecutor to respect the statute, to comply with complementarity, and insist on independence. And I will endeavour to foster cooperation and collaboration wherever possible. I will endeavour to nurture engagement rather than competition.
The priority for me, and I believe that’s the principle of the Rome Statute, is not to focus so much on where trials take place, but to ensure that the quest for accountability and inroads on impunity are made. Burdens sharing for me is a corollary, of course, to resource limitations, but it is also a legal and moral obligation upon all of us, a shared commitment on behalf of humanity, of which we have the honour to be a part. And together, I really do believe we can make progress, and I stand steady and willing to engage with states in novel and imaginative ways.
Link to that is my view, Mr President, but of course, the ICC is not only a court of last resort, in my view, and it is a matter for the honourable judges of the court, in my view, The Hague itself should be a city of last resort. Wherever possible, we should be trying to have trials in the country or in the region wherever possible. Of course, it is easier for survivors and victims. It can save costs, reduce the carbon footprint, but also importantly, it shows we are not in the export business. We are not. We are involved in a body of law that is owned by humanity. It is not of the West or of the East. It is not of the global North or of the South; it belongs to each and every one of us.
To non-state parties, I say that I wish to include you in my engagement in this joint quest for justice. The principles that underpin the Rome Statute also find form in the Charter of the United Nations, in customary international law. My conviction is that we can find common ground in the quest and in the imperative to ensure we eradicate genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
Civil society remains an essential partner. I have worked with many parts of civil society and I have seen so many occasions when they work in perilous and dangerous situations, and I need their help. The office needs their help, and we will continue to engage with them. And I pledge to be as collegiate with NGOs, with civil society, and as independent from them as I will with states.
During my term, my aim is to build upon what works, to build on the solid ground that exists. But also to repair what is broken. To rejuvenate, to revive in the quest for greater efficiency and greater impact.
To staff, as my predecessor knows very well, you will be my right and my left hand. This office should be the best place in the world for anybody who believes in the rule of law, human rights, international relations to work, and you have a right to work in a harassment-free working environment. And I intend to start addressing that, Mr President, from today. I hope that with the help of the staff, we can make this a reality.
In this regard, in my view, the current agenda and geographical imbalance in the office, particularly gender imbalance in the highest echelons of the office, must be treated as an urgent operational priority requiring immediate correction. This is not as some favour to different parts of the world or to women; it is a requirement of good management, it is a requirement of justice, but also it is an essential pillar to improve the performance of the office.
Linked to that, staff will become increasingly aware that opening preliminary examinations, requesting authorisation, or commencing investigations is a start. But as we say in English, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We have to perform in trial. We cannot invest so much, we cannot raise expectations so high and achieve so little, so often in the courtroom. As an office, we need a greater realisation of what is required by the burden of proof and the obligation to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt.
I am also convinced, and I have said it for years, that if we fully embrace this wonderful gift from the civil law system of Article 54 of investigating incriminating and exculpatory evidence equally so we get to the truth, that is going to be a key component to building stronger cases and getting better results in the courtroom.
To the defence, I say I stand ready for engagement. There is an obligation upon all offices of the court, prosecution and defence, to narrow the issues wherever possible, to find areas of common agreement and ensure that international justice is not dragged out or delayed. And I also stand ready to prove the issue of disclosure, so that trials can also be more effective and efficient.
The final word of course, Mr President, must be to the survivors. The survivors are the heroes of the story that we have the honour to tell. Their indefatigable energy, their stamina and persistence for justice, I have found repeatedly all over the world, stuns one into silence. And their example is as humbling as it is inspiring. I ask survivors for their patience as we bring about improvements, but I commit to all times, Inshallah, tell them the unvarnished truth.
Mr President, excellency, the honourable judges attending remotely, I am truly and sincerely humbled at my opportunity to serve, at the responsibilities that have been entrusted in me. And I will do my utmost to discharge those responsibilities without fear or favour, faithfully and with integrity, and in full conformity with the solemn declaration that I have just given. Thank you so much.
The swearing-in ceremony: https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=Ue8twoVA464