Paris, January 6, 2010
Reaction to the position of Mr. Bernard Koucher and Miss Michelle Alliot-Marie in Le Monde, January 7, 2010
It is not enough to have judges
We still need laws that allow them to act
The French Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CFCPI) took note of the announcement by Mr. B. Kouchner and Miss M. Alliot-Marie of the creation of a “genocide and crimes against humanity” pole at the Paris high court, but asks the government to ensure that it is accompanied by a vote on the law adapting the penal code to the Statute of the ICC.
CFCPI wants to believe the ministers when they write that “France will never be a sanctuary for perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity,” and that France has the will to “fight without weakness against their impunity.”
But the Coalition cannot help but question the government on the sincerity of its intentions, since the vote on the law that would allow these prosecutions has been deferred for ten years. Creating a pole of judges to deal with international crimes is one thing. Making these crimes punishable in France would be another. It would be indicative of a real willingness to participate in the fight against impunity in concert with the International Criminal Court (ICC), as the majority of other European countries have been doing for a long time.
The project announced by the ministers does not change the fact that acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes cannot be prosecuted in France unless they were committed in Rwanda in 1994 or in the former Yugoslavia during the Balkan conflict. These temporal and spatial restrictions should have been removed ten years ago. They date back to the UN’s creation of special tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, in the mid 1990’s. The ICC was born and France ratified its Statute in 2000. Since that date, France has needed to adapt its domestic law, but has not yet resolved the problem.
Admittedly, a bill to this end was proposed in 2006 and was submitted to a vote in the Senate in the summer of 2008. The government seems to fear its entry into force so much that its examination by deputies is continually postponed. The government has convinced the senators to render the law practically unenforceable in the following ways:
• by imposing suspects’ regular residence on French territory • by subordinating prosecutions to the condition that crimes be punished by the law of the country where they were committed, as if we were not in the presence of crimes that offend the conscience of all of humanity • by granting the Prosecution a monopoly over prosecutions, breaking with the French penal tradition and with the principle of equality, since all victims should have the right to start legal proceedings, except those for the most serious crimes • and finally, by subordinating prosecutions in France to the condition that the ICC expressly declined its jurisdiction, inverting the principle outlined by the Statute of Rome, which gives priority to national courts. These veritable locks on the procedure leads de facto to depriving victims of access to a French judge. It makes France a land of impunity for perpetrators of international crimes, in total contradiction to the objectives announced by the ministers of justice and of foreign affairs.
— French Coalition for the ICC: Simon Foreman, President of CFCPI (06.74.75.60.97), Jean-Philippe Dedieu, Coordinator of CFCPI (06.70.05.64.60)
— FIACAT: Marie-Jo Cocher (01 42 80 01 60) email@example.com
44 NGO’s, lawyers’ groups, and unions are members of the French Coalition for the International Criminal Court: