20 candidates under full scrutiny: ICC judges must be elected on merit alone

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On 30 September 2020, the Advisory Committee on Nominations of Judges (ACN) published its report assessing the suitability of 20 candidates to fill six vacancies on the bench of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2021. FIDH welcomes the conclusions of the Committee and calls upon States Parties to seriously take into account the ACN’s determination in their final vote, and consider only the qualifications, expertise and experience of the candidates in the upcoming ICC judicial elections.

To take a closer look at the process of electing ICC judges, check out our Q&A

The ACN’s report constitutes an independent assessment of the expertise and qualifications of each candidate, conducted to reflect their competence in accordance with the requirements of the Rome Statute – the treaty that established the Court – and to ensure a merit-based election process.

“The strength and legitimacy of the ICC heavily rely on its bench. For the future of the Court, its work, and the thousands of victims for whom it delivers justice, it is crucial that States cast their votes for judges based on merit rather than political alliance and refrain from any vote trading."

Delphine Carlens, head of FIDH’s international justice desk

To reach its conclusions, the Committee considered the candidates’ resume and background (including a security check), their responses to the ACN questionnaire and, most importantly, the responses given by the candidates during the interviews conducted with members of the Committee. The ACN divided the candidates into four categories: (1) highly qualified (excellent experience and knowledge of the ICC and who are very likely to make an important contribution to the Court); (2) qualified (some relevant experience and knowledge of the ICC and could contribute to the Court); (3) only formally qualified (candidates who only meet the requirements of the Rome Statute); and (4) not qualified (do not meet the formal requirements of the Rome Statute).

While most candidates were deemed “qualified” or “highly qualified” by the Committee, FIDH is very concerned that seven were classified as “only formally qualified” and showed a very limited understanding and knowledge of the Rome Statute and the practices, procedures and jurisprudence of the Court. Just as concerning is some candidates’ extremely insufficient experience on victims’ rights and participation – when it comes to a Court delivering justice for thousands of victims of the most serious crimes. This sheds light on the discrepancies existing between the kind of judges that the Court needs – ones who are experienced and elected for their merits – and the judges that some States wish to see elected, based on political alliances likely to reflect their own perspective of international justice.

Public roundtables with the candidates will be held mid-October, presenting a valuable opportunity for States Parties and civil society to directly engage with the candidates, evaluate their knowledge of the Rome Statute system and raise potential concerns about their qualifications. States Parties should carefully consider the ACN’s report as well as the candidates’ responses to the ACN questionnaire and to the questionnaire prepared by civil society.

As indicated in the final report of the Independent Exert Review of the ICC and the Rome Statute System published on 30 September 2020, “States Parties should accord utmost respect to the assessments in the ACN Report and should not cast their votes in a way that is inconsistent with any aspect of an assessment.” (Recommendation 378)

To learn more about the judicial election process, we invite you to read our Q&A

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