16th Assembly of States Parties: As the scope of the International Criminal Court increases, so do its challenges

Press release
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© MARCO LONGARI / AFP (Bujumbura/Burundi, 2/07/2015)

(Paris, The Hague) As States gather in New York from 4 to 14 December 2017 for the 16th session of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) to the ICC Statute, the main question will remain: What future do States want for the International Criminal Court (ICC or the Court)? FIDH releases today a position paper with its recommendations to the ASP. The political body overseeing the ICC will have to decide whether it gives this international independent Court the means to carry out its mandate efficiently. This involves increasing its budget in line with the Court’s needs, notably to fulfill its commitment to victims’ participation in proceedings, witness protection, to carry out proper investigations and proceedings, but also cooperating with the ICC, in compliance with States Parties’ obligations.

The issue of victims’ participation, central and even vital to the existence and legitimacy of the Court, requires commitment from States in order to ensure that the legal aid system is adequately equipped, including through funding. The same goes for the issue of reparations for victims before the ICC, which not only necessitates funds but also the consultation of victims to ensure that their views, needs and concerns are duly considered in the Court’s decisions. FIDH has recently documented the challenges of reparation for the thousands of victims of sexual and gender-based crimes in the Bemba case before the ICC for the crimes committed in Central African Republic.

In addition to its previous activities, the ICC Prosecutor has recently requested the opening of two new investigations – into the situations of Afghanistan, as well as Burundi for which the ICC judges granted the opening of an investigation. The additional funds these will require have not been taken into consideration by the ICC Committee of Budget and Finance (CBF), who is only proposing a 2% increase to the ICC’s budget for 2018 – less than half of the Court’s already low 4.4% increase proposal. This proposal by the CBF could undermine the Court’s capacity to effectively implement its mandate. Other fundings should be anticipated to answer the Court’s real needs.

“By arguing against budget increase, or by refusing to cooperate with the Court, States are hindering significantly its ability to fulfill its mandate. But it also reveals that the Court is considered a threat to some regimes and thus is in fact an effective tool against impunity.”

Shawan Jabarin, FIDH Secretary General

Other challenges for this year include committing to greater State cooperation – such as complying with arrest warrants –, addressing the jurisdiction of the ICC over the crime of aggression, amending the ICC Statute on the definition of war crimes to include the use of chemical weapons and committing to measures that will protect civil society actors such as human rights defenders who cooperate with the Court.

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