Event co-hosted by Argentina, Belgium, the Netherlands and Slovenia
Overview by Maite van Rinsum, Senior Research Associate PILPG-NL
The MLA initiative introduced by The Netherlands, Slovenia, Argentina and Belgium aims at filling the gap in the legal framework that addresses the most serious international crimes.
The initiative enjoys the support from 52 states, which have expressed their support by signing a permanent declaration.
The MLA initiative will organize a three-day retreat in The Hague in May/June 2017 for negotiations on the treaty.
The Netherlands, Slovenia, Argentina and Belgium introduced their initiative for a new multilateral treaty. States carry the obligation to investigate crimes on a domestic level. Inter-state cooperation is key to this: without an adequate international legal framework, the effectiveness of domestic prosecutions diminishes. At the moment, the legal framework for the most serious international crimes is incomplete. There is, for example, a UN convention against organized crime – however, there is no comparable instrument for the core international crimes. This initiative aims to provide a practical but also a political solution: it sends a message that states want to fight impunity. The initiative so far enjoys the support from 52 states, which have expressed their support by signing a permanent declaration. The initiative is not linked to the Rome Statute: non-state parties to the ICC have also joined. The MLA initiative will organize a three-day retreat in The Hague in May/June 2017 for negotiations on the treaty.
A few outstanding issues will be discussed during the retreat. Its main goals are: (1) to inform supporting states, academics, practitioners, and civil society of the latest development of this initiative; (2) to have a discussion about the way forward of the initiative: what form should be used for treaty negotiations: a UN treaty or a stand-alone treaty? (3) to discuss possible elements of the treaty; (4) conclusions will be incorporated in a document, which will constitute the basis for further steps in the process. Working groups will be formed to discuss the way forward in smaller and interactive sessions.
During the Q&A session, someone raised the issue that the International Law Commission of the UN is developing a comparable convention on crimes against humanity. The difference with this initiative is that it includes all atrocity crimes: it is not limited to crimes against humanity but also includes, for example, genocide. Another question was why other states have not joined. The initiating states answered that states have certain priorities, and that signing the treaty requires coordination with states’ ministries of justice. The gap in the legal framework and the importance of this treaty may not be recognized as such by their ministries. Moreover, some non-state parties of the Rome State have joined the initiative: they realized that it is not linked to the Rome Statute. However, it can take some time before other states realize this.