News & Events

VITAL AMENDMENT TO THE ROME STATUTE UNANIMOUSLY PASSES

6 December 2019

On December 6 The Assembly of State Parties to the International Criminal Court unanimously amended the Rome Statute to include the war-crime of starvation in a non-international armed conflict.

 

Today during the 18th Session of the Assembly of State Parties (ASP) to the International Criminal Court (ICC) there was a historic vote on the amendment of the Rome Statute tabled by Switzerland, to include the crime of starvation as a war crime in non-international armed conflicts (NIAC).

 

In August 2019, the Government of Switzerland submitted a proposal to the UN Secretary General to amend the Rome Statute. As the Swiss proposal mentioned “starving civilians is already a war crime under the Rome Statute in international armed conflicts. However, the vast majority of contemporary armed conflicts are non-international in nature.” The successful passing of the amendment today closes that accountability gap, removing the distinction between the two conflict designations.

 

Global Rights Compliance (GRC) have been engaged on the issue of starvation since 2017 and lead a series of projects with The Netherlands’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Welt Hunger Hilfe. GRC and the World Peace Foundation’s project “Accountability to Mass Starvation: Testing the limits of the law”, has actively supported the amendment. In particular, GRC have collaborated with the Swiss throughout 2019, and the Amendment has underpinned all of GRC’s starvation outputs, such as: high-level panel events, including co-sponsoring with the Swiss the only side event during ASP 18 which focussed on the starvation amendment; policy papers, advocacy interviews, and analysis.

 

The current scale of suffering and death as a result of the use of starvation is unprecedented in modern history, with a number of present conflicts embroiled in acute food insecurity that has threated famine, or breached that threshold already. Yet recognition of the deliberate nature of famine, attribution of fault and accountability has remained, until now, elusive.

Thus, the importance of this amendment cannot be overstated, its adoption:

  1. enhances the protection of civilians in conflicts;
  2. aligns the Rome Statute with the position in International Humanitarian Law and Customary International Law which prohibits starvation in both types of conflict designation; and
  3. pushes the accountability envelope, encouraging states to mirror these legal provisions in their domestic laws.

GRC are privileged to have worked alongside Switzerland and the Netherlands on these issues, who have tirelessly and deftly achieved a remarkable international consensus, at a time where there is more division than ever.  We need to continue to work cooperatively to ensure that starvation is not viewed as an inevitable consequence of war. Today’s unanimous amendment will act as a much-needed catalyst in changing the public perception of starvation. A significant debt is owed to Switzerland for championing this cause and successfully tabling this vital amendment.

 

For more information on GRC’s starvation projects and expertise, please see www.starvationaccountability.org

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