Five Myths About Victim Participation in ICC Proceedings

On the eve of the 13th session of the Assembly of States Parties to the Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) publishes a report deconstructing "Five Myths about Victim Participation in ICC Proceedings".

Over the years, FIDH has noted with concern a series of common mistakes made in relation to the purpose and exercise of victims’ rights in judicial proceedings. We have observed that only a very limited number of experts, who have direct experience in support to victims in judicial proceedings, are acquainted with the object, advantages and limitations of victim participation in the context of a criminal trial. Victim participation is a new feature in international criminal law and its contours are still in the process of being determined. Yet, we have repeatedly seen conclusions arrived at –in our view at too much of an early stage- in relation to the detriments of victim participation for ICC proceedings. We noted that observations are not always based on a direct and first-hand experience of how victim participation operates in practice, in particular in the field. They appear, rather, to be based on misconceptions or even myths.

This report collects some of the most prominent statements that we have heard and read in relation to victim participation and provides a response from our first-hand experience in support to victims of international crimes, and monitoring practice. We understand that some of our conclusions could be debatable, but we provide them with the aim to contribute to what should be a richer debate in relation to the implementation of some of most unprecedented provisions of the Rome Statute.

In developing this document, we have taken note of the discussions held by the Assembly of States Parties in relation to victims and affected communities since the Kampala Review Conference. The most recent debate was held including during the 12th session of the Assembly where a plenary dedicated to victims’ issues was organised for the first time in history. During the plenary, States Parties expressed overwhelming support to the implementation of victims’ rights and renewed their commitment to ensuring meaningful participation. In the resolution issued following the debate, States Parties recalled that they are “[d]etermined to ensure the effective implementation of victims’ rights, which constitute a cornerstone of the Rome Statute system.” When preparing this report, we have also taken into account recent initiatives that have discussed implementation of victims’ rights, including the recent expert initiative launched with the support of the Swiss government which concluded with a retreat in Glion, Switzerland. We have considered the Expert Initiative on Promoting Effectiveness at the International Criminal Court’s (Expert Initiative) report, dated May 2014. In addition, this report has been prepared at the time the ICC Registrar is undertaking a process of re-organisation and restructuring of the Registry (ReVision project). FIDH considers that the structure put at the service of victims who wish to participate in proceedings, in particular as much as it affects their legal representation, has a very substantial impact on their capacity to exercise their rights. Therefore, we have included in this report concerns and recommendations in relation to the ReVision proposals. [1]

The methodology used for this report consisted in collecting findings made by FIDH through its experience of support to victims of international crimes, as well as through its monitoring of the implementation of victims’ rights before the ICC. We also conducted supplementary research as well as interviews with judges, victims’ legal representatives (both external Counsel and members of the Office for Public Counsel for Victims) and other members of legal representation teams, representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other experts. FIDH expresses its sincere appreciation to those who agreed to be interviewed for this report.

Read FIDH Report "Five Myths about Victim Participation in ICC Proceedings".

FIDH Report "Five Myths about Victim Participation in ICC Proceedings" - December 2014 [EN]
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