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Robbie, grandfather of ICC

By Andre Bagoo Tuesday, May 17 2011

click on pic to zoom in
Meeting Robbie: ICC president Sang-Hyun Song sits with former president Arthur NR Robinson at Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain yesterday, during a Caricom...
Meeting Robbie: ICC president Sang-Hyun Song sits with former president Arthur NR Robinson at Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain yesterday, during a Caricom...

FORMER president Arthur NR Robinson was yesterday hailed as the “grandfather” of the International Criminal Court (ICC) by the ICC president, Judge Sang-Hyun Song. The ICC president’s remarks came on the same day that the ICC moved to issue an arrest warrant for Libya’s leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

In delivering opening remarks at a two-day Caricom seminar on the Rome Statute which set up the court, the ICC president praised Robinson for his role in reviving momentum for the court when Robinson was prime minister.

“He (Robinson) was indeed the grandfather of the ICC,” the president told the participants gathered at the seminar at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain. “Years back, I had the privilege to sit next to him. It was the first inaugural ceremony of the ICC.”

Speaking with reporters after his opening remarks the ICC president elaborated on the role Robinson, now 84, played.

“The idea of creating a permanent international criminal court that would prosecute and punish would-be perpetrators went up and down, up and down and when this idea was brought up, before we engaged in any meaningful discussion, the Cold War froze the entire idea for decades and as soon as the Cold War ended it was president Robinson of this great country–who was at that time prime minister–who spoke up in relation to this idea for the first time.”

“So it was he who revived the whole discussion and idea and then we just took a very smooth course until this court was created in 2002,” the ICC president noted. Robinson gave a special presentation at yesterday’s seminar in which he urged Caricom member states to ratify the ICC. “What we are involved with in this seminar in seeking to have all Caricom countries ratify the Rome Statute is an important development in human civilisation,” Robinson told participants. “For there cannot be civilisation without law or provisions for the treatment of offenders.”

“I would like to express my personal deep appreciation of the efforts that you are making and will be making in the seminar in the process which involves the future of mankind.”

Among those at yesterday’s seminar were: president of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Justice Michael de la Bastide, Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard, Minister of Foreign Affairs Suraj Rambachan.

Rambachan, who was once appointed as ambassador to Brazil by Robinson under the NAR administration, also highlighted Robinson’s role in setting up the court.

“Notwithstanding previous work done by other advocates of a permanent international tribunal to prosecute those accused of the commission of crimes which shock the conscience of mankind, it took the initiative of a statesman from a small island developing state to provide the critical political momentum needed for the establishment of the ICC,” Rambachan said in a feature address. “Robinson...in an address to the United National General Assembly in 1989, breathed renewed life into the movement for the establishment of the ICC.”

“Mr Robinson’s call was viewed with great scepticism in some quarters and by those who did not support the need for individuals including the heads of state and government to bear individual criminal responsibility for their conduct and not hide behind the defence of sovereign immunity,” Rambachan said. “Despite his detractors, Mr Robinson persevered and received tremendous support from individuals such as former Nuremberg prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz who also championed the need for the ICC.”

Gaspard welcomed a call for offences such as drug trafficking and human trafficking to fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC.

“There are many crimes which affect humanity which traverse national and municipal boarders,” he noted. “The ICC would be like a catchment court for those matters which transcend municipal boarders.”

Rambachan, too, called for the prosecution of the offence of drug trafficking to be included under the remit of the ICC.

“As small island nations with notoriously porous borders we can attest to the fact that the transnational character of the crime often results in alleged perpetrators remaining ensconced safely in another State,” Rambachan said.

The president of the ICC Assembly of State Parties Christian Wenaweser said he sympathised with the call for ICC to handle cases of drug trafficking. But he noted getting drug trafficking listed as an offence under the Rome Statute would be complicated and take several years to achieve.

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