Department of Justice


OTTAWA, December 10, 1999 -- Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy and Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Anne McLellan today announced the introduction of legislation in the House of Commons to create a new Act of Parliament, the Crimes Against Humanity Act. The new law would implement in Canada the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and would replace the current war crimes provisions of the Criminal Code.

"Today is International Human Rights Day and I can think of no better occasion to table this legislation. Once established, the ICC will help to end the culture of impunity that has allowed gross abusers of human rights to escape justice," said Minister Axworthy. "I am proud that Canada is the first country to introduce such comprehensive implementation legislation. In doing so, we are building on the momentum that started with the negotiations on the ICC Statute in Rome last year and ensuring that Canada is at the forefront of making the International Criminal Court a vital, functioning entity."

The Rome Statute of the ICC was adopted by 120 states at an international diplomatic conference held in Rome in July 1998. Canada served as chair of the pivotal Committee of the Whole at the Conference, bringing it to a successful conclusion, and is again playing this role at the United Nations in New York to work out technical details of the Courtís operation. Minister Axworthy signed the Rome Statute on behalf of Canada on December 18, 1998.

The new Crimes Against Humanity Act would create new offences of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and breach of responsibility by military commanders and civilian superiors. New offences would also be created to protect the administration of justice of the ICC, as well as the safety of judges, officials and witnesses.

"The Government of Canada remains committed to using all available avenues to bring to justice persons suspected of committing genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes," said Minister McLellan. "These amendments would strengthen the legislative foundation for criminal prosecutions in Canada and fortify the administration of justice of the ICC. They would reinforce Canadaís War Crimes Program and reaffirm Canadaís pledge to Canadians and to the international community that Canada is not, and will not be, a safe haven for war criminals."

The Act would also create new proceeds of crime offences and mechanisms to enforce orders of the ICC for the restraint and forfeiture of assets. Money obtained would be paid into a Crimes Against Humanity Fund, established under the Act, and may be distributed by the Attorney General of Canada to victims of offences under the Act or the Rome Statute.

The Crimes Against Humanity Act also implements Canada's obligations under the Rome Statute to surrender persons sought by the ICC for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other offences under the Statute. In addition, a person who is the subject of a request for surrender by the ICC would not be able to claim immunity from arrest or surrender. The Act would complement recent amendments to the Extradition Act, introduced by Minister McLellan, which allow for and facilitate the extradition of persons accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes to international criminal courts and tribunals.

Both ministers expressed the hope that the 91 states that have signed the ICC Statute to date will rapidly ratify and implement it. The Statute will come into force once it has been ratified by 60 countries. The Government of Canada will continue to actively promote a co-ordinated global strategy in support of ICC ratification and implementation. Non-governmental organizations are an integral part of this strategy.

Mr. Axworthy announced that two important initiatives to promote the ICCís ratification would receive funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Tradeís Peacebuilding and Human Security Program. The first is a $60 000 contribution to a joint project of the International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy and the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development. The project will support the development and dissemination of practical tools to assist countries in their efforts to ratify and implement the ICC Statute. The other is a $50 000 contribution to the NGO Coalition for an International Criminal Court. The Coalition is undertaking a global campaign to educate national leaders, media, parliamentarians and civil society about the ICC Statute and to promote its ratification.

Funds for the contributions cited above were provided for in the February 1999 federal budget and are therefore built into the existing fiscal framework.

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A backgrounder is attached.

For further information, media representatives may contact:

Debora Brown
Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs
(613) 995-1851

Media Relations Office
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
(613) 995-1874

Line Chabot-Racine
Office of the Minister of Justice
(613) 992-4621

Marjorie Ward
Communications and Executive Services Branch
Department of Justice
(613) 957-4205

December 10, 1999