to First Prosecutor of the ICC
by Benjamin B. Ferencz, June 16, 2003
Revised remarks of Benjamin B. Ferencz, a former
Nuremberg Prosecutor as delivered at the swearing-in ceremony
in the Hague of Luis Moreno Ocampo as Chief Prosecutor of the
new International Criminal Court, June 16, 2003.
Thank you all for the honor of being allowed to
share a few thoughts with such a distinguished audience. I wish
I could pay tribute to each one of you who have worked so hard
to bring this event about. We are assembled here to advance a
Almost 400 years ago, a young Dutchman, who became
known to the world as Hugo Grotius, was imprisoned for daring
to advocate that all human beings had a moral right to live in
peace under rules of binding international law. These principles
became the guiding lights for the International Criminal Tribunals
at Nuremberg that I had the privilege of serving over 50 years
Today, a Chief Prosecutor for another International
Criminal Court - the ICC - is being sworn into office. The world
is fortunate to have found an outstanding human rights advocate,
Luis Moreno Ocampo, to accept the heavy responsibilities that
have unanimously been entrusted to him.
He does not have, as we did at Nuremberg, the power
of mighty armies to support him. Nor will he have available the
masses of incriminating evidence seized by victorious powers.
On his shoulders will rest the difficult burdens of proving guilty
knowledge and criminal intent of the accused. He must persuade
judges coming from different legal disciplines. Finances will
be limited and cooperation from national governments may be hesitant.
He will. have to proceed cautiously and skillfully And all the
world will be watching.
Nuremberg was little more than a beginning. Its
progress was paralyzed by cold-war antagonisms. Clear laws, courts
and a system of effective enforcement are vital prerequisites
for every orderly society. The matrix for a rational world system
has countless parts that are gradually and painfully being pressed
into place. The ICC is part of this evolutionary process. It is
a new institution created to bring a greater sense of justice
to innocent victims of massive crimes who seek to live in peace
and human dignity. That's what the ICC is all about.
It is understandable that not all sovereign states
have yet accepted this new creation. They seem to prefer the law
of force rather than the force of law. Their concerns are unjustified.
There is no way to defend militarily against individuals who are
ready to kill or be killed for what they perceive to be a struggle
against injustice. A fair prosecutor and a wise court to determine
what is permissible or impermissible is now available as a legal
response to crimes against humanity. It is time to give law a
I speak to you today in a purely personal capacity
as one who served in the army of the United States during World
War II and witnessed all of its horrors first hand. Another Nuremberg
Prosecutor, Whitney Harris, is here with us today. I would never
denigrate brave young people who risk their lives to serve their
country or do anything to subject them to the risk of unfair prosecutions.
Those who scoff at the efforts and aspirations
are entitled to have their views considered -- on the merits.
I am convinced that this court and this Prosecutor will prove
that their apprehensions are unjustified. In time, the world will
come to support this court.
The United States took the lead in creating the
International Criminal Tribunal at Nuremberg. A distinguished
Supreme Court Justice, Robert Jackson, was given leave to serve
as Chief Prosecutor for the United States. Jackson's' words still
ring in my ears: "That four great nations, stung with injury,
stay the hand of vengeance and subject their captive enemies to
the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes
that Power ever has paid to Reason."
The next dozen trials at Nuremberg, conducted by
the United States, made unmistakably clear that law must apply
equally to everyone. At Nuremberg we spoke in the name of the
American people and as representatives of the US government. The
dream of a more peaceful world under law, that inspired the world
at Nuremberg, will never die.
I recall an inscription over a portal at the Harvard
Law library. It quotes a distinguished conservative statesman,
Elihu Root, a former US Secretary of State and Secretary of War
who was the founder of the American Society of International Law:
"Make us effective," he said, " for the cause of
peace and justice and liberty in the world." For me, that
is the unforgettable voice of America.
I am confident that the time will come, in the
not too distant future, when compassion, tolerance, understanding
and a more effective rule of law will govern relations among nations
and peoples. Today we have moved closer to that goal. I salute
you all for your dedication, determination and accomplishment
and to wish you well as you continue to advance toward a more
humane and peaceful world.