New Zealand Law Society - International Crimes and Criminal Court Bill introduced

International Crimes and Criminal Court Bill introduced

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The International Crimes and International Criminal Court Amendment Bill was introduced on 21 November 2019. The bill amends the International Crimes and International Criminal Court Act 2000 to incorporate a series of amendments made to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court concerning war crimes (the war crimes amendments).

Minister for Foreign Affairs Winston Peters is in charge of the bill.

The war crimes amendments were adopted at the June 2010 Review Conference of the Rome Statute at Kampala, Uganda, and at the 16th Session of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute in December 2017 at New York, United States.

The war crimes amendments expand the list of war crimes subject to the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction and allow the court to hold individuals criminally responsible for them.

The amendments make it a war crime to employ the following in a non-international armed conflict:

  • poison or poisoned weapons:
  • asphyxiating, poisonous, or other gases, and analogous liquids, materials, or devices:
  • expanding bullets; and

the following in both national and non-international armed conflicts:

  • weapons that use microbial agents, biological agents, or toxins:
  • weapons that injure by fragments that are undetectable by X-rays:
  • blinding laser weapons.

The bill enables New Zealand to ratify the war crimes amendments and allow proceedings to be brought in New Zealand for these offences under section 8.

Commencement (clause 2)

Sections 1, 3, and 6 come into force on the day after the date of the Royal assent. The rest of the Act comes into force on a date appointed by the Governor-General by Order in Council. Commencement by Order in Council is necessary in order to co-ordinate the commencement of the rest of the Bill with the entry into force, for New Zealand, of the war crimes amendments to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (the Statute). Under article 121(5) of the Statute, any amendment to article 8 of the treaty comes into force for each State Party that ratifies or accepts the amendment 1 year after the deposit of an instrument of ratification or acceptance.

The war crimes amendments were adopted by the Assembly of States Parties to the Statute in—

  • 2010 (inserting Article 8(2)(e)(xiii) to (xv) by resolution RC/Res.5 of 10 June 2010); and
  • 2017 (inserting Article 8(2)(b)(xxvii) to (xxix) and article 8(2)(e)(xvi) to (xviii) by resolution ICC-ASP/16/Res.4 of 14 December 2017).

Clause 4 amends section 4, which is the interpretation provision, by replacing the definitions of international crime and Statute.

Clause 5 amends section 6 to provide that Articles 8 bis, 15 bis, 15 ter, and 25 (3 bis) of the Statute, which relate to the crime of aggression, do not apply to, and do not have the force of law in, New Zealand.

Clause 7 replaces the Schedule of the principal Act with the Schedule set out in the Schedule of the bill, which contains an up-to-date version of the full text of the Statute.