25 years of the Rome Statute – a milestone in international law
Active engagement for the rules‑based international order is a fundamental pillar of German foreign policy. Our recognition of the central role that international law plays in preserving peace and security, but also in restoring justice and responsibility stems not least from Germany’s historical responsibility.
Statement by Annalena Baerbock prior to her departure:
When the Rome Statute became reality a quarter of a century ago, following long and tough negotiations, it helped a centuries-old idea – bringing about peace through law – to finally achieve an important breakthrough. A further stone was added to international law as the foundation of our international community in the form of the International Criminal Court (ICC). At long last, states accepted that the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole must not go unpunished.
Germany’s engagement for robust international law
Germany is not only the second-largest donor to the International Criminal Court. It also supports the candidacy of German lawyers applying for a position as a judge at the ICC. For this reason, the Foreign Minister is being accompanied on her trip by Dr Ute Hohoff, Judge at the Federal Court of Justice with many years of expertise in investigating sexual crimes in connection with conflicts in particular, who is standing in the 2023 elections as a candidate to succeed the current German Judge Professor Bertram Schmitt and who would be an outstanding asset to the International Criminal Court.
Adapting the Rome Statute to the demands of the 21st century
Foreign Minister Baerbock was the first foreign minister to call for the reform of the Rome Statute in connection with the crime of aggression in her speech at the Hague Academy of International Law in January this year.
Speaking in The Hague in January, Annalena Baerbock shared the following thoughts:
Russia’s war against Ukraine is also a brutal attack on international law. This watershed moment means that we also need to find new responses in international law so that it can broaden the scope of its applicability.
Since the Kampala compromise, which supplements the Rome Statute, aggression also ranks among the crimes prosecuted by the ICC. However, under the current definition, the crime of aggression can only be prosecuted when both the state that is a victim and the state of the aggressor have ratified the agreement reached in Kampala.
Looking at Russia’s war of aggression, there is therefore an accountability gap in international law concerning the crime of aggression. Germany proposes a two‑pronged approach to close this gap.
Firstly, Germany is supporting Ukraine with a special tribunal in The Hague for crimes of aggression, which is anchored in Ukrainian law and supplemented by international elements. As a supplement to the International Criminal Court, it can take action where the ICC is currently unable to act due to the gap.
Secondly, at the ceremony in New York and at the subsequent panel discussion at ministerial level, Foreign Minister Baerbock will appeal for the review process for the Kampala compromise scheduled for 2025 to be used to implement practical amendments to the Rome Statute so that it can rise to the challenges of the present and the future. As well as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, it should be possible for the crime of aggression to be investigated so extensively that it is sufficient that the state that is the victim falls under the jurisdiction of the ICC.
Furthermore, Germany is calling upon all states that are not yet part of the ICC to sign and ratify the Rome Statute and the agreement reached in Kampala.
Foreign Minister Baerbock prior to her trip to New York:
In the eyes of the perpetrators, the ICC already has genuine teeth. And in the eyes of the victims, it represents the hope that their suffering will not go unpunished. That is why one gap in the prosecution is particularly painful, namely the crime of aggression, the crime against the most precious asset we have: our peace. The hurdles for prosecution are still too high here. No one in the 21st century should be allowed to wage a war of aggression with impunity. For this reason, we intend to continue to develop international law in cooperation with partners so that it reflects the realities of the 21st century.
Meeting of the Security Council
The situation in Ukraine, with a particular focus on international peace efforts and humanitarian concerns, will be discussed at the afternoon session of the United Nations Security Council, where Foreign Minister Baerbock will also speak.
The International Criminal Court in The Hague is an independent, permanent court for the punishment of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression. It therefore also serves as a deterrent for acts of this nature. To date, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court has been ratified by 123 states; there have been 31 court judgements, and 10,000 victims have been involved in the proceedings.
The ICC is guided in its work by the Rome Statute, which was adopted on 17 July 1998 and entered into force on 1 July 2002.
Germany is the second largest contributor behind Japan, providing around 20 million euro in 2023. Germany, together with 42 other states, called upon the ICC to investigate Russia’s crimes in Ukraine at an early stage and is supporting the court in this task. German Professor Bertram Schmitt is currently working at the ICC as a judge. The candidate to succeed him, backed by the Federal Government, is Dr Ute Hohoff, Judge at the Federal Court of Justice.