With demands for accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide growing around the world, International Criminal Court (ICC) member states meeting next week must acknowledge their shared responsibility to make international justice effective, the Coalition for the ICC said today.
The 14th annual session of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP)—the ICC’s governing body with a current membership of 123 states—takes place in The Hague from 18-26 November. Global civil society attending the Assembly is urging governments to strengthen many aspects of the Rome Statute system of international justice. Focus areas at this Assembly include cooperation between states and the ICC, the efficiency and effectiveness of ICC proceedings, and national prosecutions, including of sexual and gender based crimes.
“The ICC is undertaking necessary reforms to strengthen investigations and prosecutions, address sexual and gender-based crimes, speed up trials, bring justice closer to affected communities and streamline administrative processes,” said William R. Pace, convenor of the Coalition for the ICC. “But governments meeting at ASP 14 must acknowledge their shared responsibility to make international justice effective. With one hand states enhance the ICC; with the other they inhibit the Court. Budget constraints, failures to arrest and isolate fugitives, and limited take up in national prosecutions and voluntary agreements, all contribute to delays in the delivery of justice.”
ICC member states have the responsibility to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of grave crimes nationally first, a key feature of the Rome Statute system known as complementarity.
“The ICC will never be able to take on all of the potential cases that could come before it. This is why governments at ASP 14 must recommit to undertaking a greater number of national prosecutions of perpetrators of grave crimes to make the ICC system effective,” said Oby Nwankwo, executive directorm Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre Nigeria. “With the special debate at this Assembly on domestic investigations and prosecutions of sexual and gender-based crimes, states can make a clear statement of intent to stamp out this egregious weapon of war.”
Governments will also decide the ICC’s budget for 2016. The Court proposed a budget of €153.32 million for 2016 to cover additional investigations and prosecutions—a €22.66 million (17.3%) increase on the Court’s 2015 approved budget. However, an ASP subsidiary finance body has recommended that the Assembly approve a budget of €139.96 million for 2016—a €9.295 million (7 %) increase on 2015.
“The ICC’s resources are falling behind what is needed for the court to keep pace with expectations for justice. With some states still insisting on zero-growth in the court’s budget, member countries appear unwilling to come to terms with the resources needed to ensure the ICC does not fall short in meeting the significant demands it faces,” said Elizabeth Evenson, senior international justice counsel at Human Rights Watch. “Member countries should consider carefully what consequences their decisions in setting next year’s budget for the court may have on its mandate. They should work with ICC officials to establish a dialogue around the court’s long-term resource needs that will see it achieve the capacity it really needs to deliver justice for victims.”
The annual ASP meeting is an important opportunity to keep victims’ concerns, including their participation in Court proceedings and reparations awards, at the center of discussions on the ICC.
“It is imperative that states parties provide the ICC the diplomatic and financial support it needs particularly now, as the Court is expanding its international reach. Victims of the crimes that fall under the ICC jurisdiction deserve no less,” said Shawan Jabarin, vice president of the International Federation for Human Rights and director of Al Haq.
“It is essential that the ICC and state parties make a strong commitment to effective outreach and to increase the ICC’s field presence, which in the past decade was sadly lacking,” said Alison Smith, director of the international justice programme at No Peace Without Justice. “Efforts underway in the ICC Registry to strengthen the Court’s presence in the field are critical to ensuring that it can have a useful and positive impact with victims and affected communities in countries where it works. But there is a real danger that it will flounder without sufficient funds. States attending ASP 14 must strongly support a victim-centered ICC.”
Three requests by ICC member states have been made for supplementary agenda items at ASP 14, one by South Africa and two by Kenya. While the Coalition as a whole does not take position on these supplementary agenda requests, several Coalition members have expressed opposition to their inclusion as they relate to cases ongoing before the ICC and could impact upon the independence of the proceedings.
ASP 14 will also see elections for three important bodies, the Board of Directors for the Trust Fund for Victims, the Committee on Budget and Finance, and the Committee for the Nomination of judges. Civil society monitors these elections to ensure they are fair, transparent and lead to election of the most qualified candidates.
The ICC is the world’s first permanent international court to have jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Central to the Court’s mandate is the principle of complementarity, which holds that the Court will only intervene if national legal systems are unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
There are currently nine active investigations before the ICC: the Central African Republic I & II; DRC; Darfur, Sudan; Kenya; Libya; Uganda; Côte d’Ivoire and Mali. A prosecution request to open an investigation in Georgia is pending. The ICC has publicly issued 33 arrest warrants and nine summonses to appear. Three trials are ongoing. There have been two convictions and one acquittal. Seven preliminary examinations are currently ongoing, including into situations in Afghanistan, Colombia, Guinea, Palestine, Iraq, Nigeria and Ukraine. The Office of the Prosecutor has concluded preliminary examinations relating to Honduras, Venezuela, Palestine, the Republic of Korea and the Comoros referral, declining in each case to open an investigation.
WHO WE ARE
The Coalition for the International Criminal Court is a global network of civil society organizations in over 150 countries working in partnership to strengthen international cooperation with the ICC; ensure that the Court is fair, effective and independent; make justice both visible and universal; and advance stronger national laws that deliver justice to victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
Join us in the fight for global justice at coalitionfortheicc.org.