Press Release: 11 April 2003

ICC - Swearing-in ceremony

Press Release

Swearing-in ceremony


The swearing-in ceremony is a deliberately symbolic occasion: the intention is to give a physical presence to what is essentially an abstract concept.

A solemn commitment

The swearing-in ceremony has always marked the occasion on which a Judge actually takes up office. Thus, in accordance with the Statute of the International Criminal Court, the 18 individuals elected by the Assembly of States Parties in February will not formally become ICC judges until they have taken the oath in a public session.

In the West, the oath used to be taken before God. Nowadays, it is taken publicly as a sign of a commitment taken before the community, in this case the international community. The judge may be reminded of his oath at any time, and it signifies above all that the power he holds is external to him.

As regards the ICC, the oath sworn is as follows: "I solemnly undertake that I will perform my duties and exercise my powers as a judge of the International Criminal Court honourably, faithfully, impartially and conscientiously, and that I will respect the confidentiality of investigations and prosecutions and the secrecy of deliberations". The wording of this oath to be taken by the ICC judges is based on the general principles of the oaths taken by judges all over the world. The key word is impartiality. Irrespective of the case before him, the Judge must place himself, and allow himself to be placed, in a position so that he can assess it with a completely open mind. The question facing all judges is: does any of the parties have reasonable grounds to believe that he has not received justice? Furthermore, respecting the confidential nature of the deliberations makes the judges truly independent.

As the oath is taken publicly, the ceremony becomes a hearing, and the President of the Court or its senior member will be required to preside over it. He will be in charge of its timing and organisation and, as a result, will determine who is to address the Court. However, the opening of the ceremony will be presided over by the President of the Assembly of States Parties, Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein.

Associated symbolism

The first act of the judiciary in every society has always been to set aside an area, to delineate a suitable place in which to dispense justice. The judicial area is sacred and by this token it defines the lay area. It is commonly symbolically protected by the presence of a "bar" or barrier in the courtroom, which ensures that the law cannot be attacked. In this court, the bar has been replaced by a symbolic empty space, between the front row of the public and the members of the Court.

This bar also symbolises the division between the public and the Court. Public time is on one side and judicial time on the other - a space for justice distinct from common time and which follows the rhythm of the proceedings, setting aside affects and giving doubt a chance. In this space, differences in rank between individuals are suspended; a different order prevails, replacing the chaos created by the crime which has been committed.

During the inaugural ceremony on 11th March, in order to enact this progression, the 18 individuals elected will initially be seated to one side of the room, like spectators. Once they have taken the oath, and have thus become judges, they will pass behind the bar and sit on a podium. The judges will then overlook the public area, with their elevated position indicating the relationship between the judges and the heavens, and the hierarchical structure of the judicial area.


13.00 - 14.00
Arrival of guests at the Hall of Knights, Binnenhof

Arrival of Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands

Welcoming address by the Prime Minister of the Netherlands (the Host State), Dr. Jan Peter Balkenende

Statement by the President of the Assembly of States Parties, His Royal Highness Prince Zeid Raád Zeid Al-Hussein, Permanent Representative of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to the United Nations

Swearing in of the Judges by the Secretary General of the United Nations, H. E. Mr. Kofi Annan

Closing of the session

Reception in the Oude Zaal hosted by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, Mr. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer