ICC: Ahead of 19th ASP, FIDH Issues Recommendations to Strengthen Court

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The Hague, Paris – The 19th session of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) to the Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) will begin on 14 December 2020. The 2020 gathering of the 123 countries party to the ICC Statute and other key stakeholders differs from past years, with pandemic-related adaptations and highly anticipated elections and decisions aiming to strengthen the Court. As an organisation striving to eradicate impunity for the most serious crimes, FIDH remains committed as ever to amplifying voices of human rights defenders and those who survived atrocities – people who consider the Court a last resort for justice.

Read FIDH’s position paper here.

The ASP serves as a forum to discuss and take stances on issues vital to the functioning of the Court and the Rome Statute system. This year’s ASP will be divided into two sessions: one in The Hague, taking place 14 to 16 December 2020 and focusing on general political statements, discussions around the Independent Expert Review (IER) of the Court’s performance, cooperation with the Court, and the Court’s 2021 budget; and a second one in New York from 17 to 23 December, entirely dedicated to elections. At this year’s ASP, FIDH’s and its member organisations’ presence will be largely virtual, conveying recommendations at side events and ASP plenary discussions.

How to strengthen the Court in the face of threats?

Decisions taken during the ASP will have great sway on such high-stakes issues. This influential annual event comes at a time of increasing attacks, including an escalating intimidation campaign led by the US administration, against the Court’s legitimacy, independence and mandate. This is why FIDH underscores in its position paper the need for States Parties’ support and cooperation to an independent and strengthened institution capable of delivering justice to millions of victims.

In our position paper, we make five key recommendations to States Parties for this year’s ASP:
1. The findings and recommendations made by the Independent Expert Review must be carefully assessed and promptly implemented.
2. A fair and transparent process for the election of the most suitable judges and prosecutor must be upheld.
3. States Parties must publicly reaffirm their fundamental support to and cooperation with the ICC and condemn threats and acts of non-cooperation.
4. The Court must receive the budget it needs to carry out its mandate.
5. The central position of victims in ICC proceedings must be guaranteed.

This year’s ASP will indeed see plenary discussions focused on the Review of the ICC and the Rome Statute system and the next steps to take, after the Group of Independent Experts issued their report and recommendations on 30 September 2020 for improved performance of the Court. While it is important that the independence of the Court and the integrity of the Rome Statute be safeguarded throughout the review process, States Parties must capitalise on the opportunity the IER presents to strengthen the performance of the Court, by seriously assessing the final report and contributing to the development of a comprehensive and goal-oriented implementation plan, involving all stakeholders including civil society.

A pivotal election year

Key to carrying out the ICC mandate are the 18 judges on the Court’s bench. Nineteen candidates are running for six seats to be filled in elections held in New York, a key part of this year’s ASP. The election of the next Prosecutor is also supposed to take place in this ASP New York session, with the aim to select the successor of Fatou Bensouda, whose nine-year mandate ends in June 2021. The election of six new judges to the ICC’s bench and of the third ICC Prosecutor is of crucial importance for the Court’s performance. It is essential that States Parties elect these ICC officials based on merit only, and not on political considerations. States Parties must in particular ensure that all elected judges are of high moral character and have proven expertise on victims’ rights, as they play a crucial role in making sure that victims are properly represented, protected and informed, and participate fully at all stages of criminal proceedings.

"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

Side events put communities’ concerns on the agenda

The participation of civil society organisations enriches the ASP by raising key concerns of affected communities and helping put them on the agenda. Adapting to the hybrid format of this year’s ASP, civil society groups are coming together the week leading up to the Assembly (8-11 December) to ensure that these communities’ voices are heard. With the support of the ASP and some States Parties, civil society leaders are holding various side-events focusing either on key recommendations to this ASP’s agenda items, or on situations of international crimes lifting up voices from the field. FIDH and its members will particularly be involved in the following side events:

International Expert Review of the ICC: Civil society perspectives on next steps. (hosted by FIDH, Human Rights Watch, & Liechtenstein, Spain, Switzerland, and Sierra Leone)
Tuesday, 8 December 2020 - 17:00-19:00 (The Hague) / 11:00-13:00 (New York)
Recording available in English: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gEfGiGMKS0Q&t=18s
Political Transition and Combating Impunity in Mali. (hosted by FIDH, Lawyers without Borders Canada, & Belgium)
Tuesday, 8 December 2020 - 17:00-19:00 (The Hague) / 11:00-13:00 (New York)
Recording available in French: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvzN-Swj0TU
Crimes Against Humanity and Complementarity in Latin America. (hosted by FIDH, Coalition for the International Criminal Court, Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de Derechos Humanos, Comisión Colombiana de Juristas, Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo, & Reporters Without Borders)
Wednesday, 9 December, 2020 - 18:00-20:00 (The Hague) / 12:00-14:00 (New York)
Recording available in Spanish: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0aq5ya9punc
and English: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmGxDDrKWWc
Justice and Accountability for Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes Against the Rohingya. (hosted by FIDH, No Peace Without Justice, Amnesty International, the Association against Impunity, Fortify Rights, Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, Global Justice Center, Human Rights Watch, Parliamentarians for Global Action and the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice (WIGJ) & the Embassy of Bangladesh to the Netherlands)
Friday, 11 December, 2020 - 17:00-19:00 (The Hague) / 11:00-13:00 (New York)
Impunidad en México: Corte Penal Internacional ¿Alternativa Viable?
Hosted by Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CDMDPDH), FIDH, Reporters Without Boarders (RSF), IDHEAS
Tuesday 15 December 2020 - 17:00-19:00 (The Hague) / 10:00-12:00 (Mexico City)
Recording available in Spanish: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QlpxyFWUzZs
Addressing the Independent Expert Review Report’s Findings and Recommendations on Victims’ Rights: The Perspective of NGOs
Organised by the VRWG and PGA, sponsored by FIDH, REDRESS and ICMGLT.
Friday 18 December 2020 - 19h15-20h45 (The Hague) / 13h15-14h45 (New York)

Find out about all side events here: https://www.coalitionfortheicc.org/asp19-side-events-ngovoices

Due to the covid-19 pandemic, restrictions have been implemented. This 19th Assembly of States Parties will see a reduced number of people participate in person, with events spread between The Hague and New York and a strong online component. Among the eight in-person places reserved for representatives of civil society, a member of FIDH’s permanent representation to the ICC will attend the session held in The Hague. While adaptations have been made to ensure the impacts of restrictions remain limited, FIDH is concerned that this format may hamper ability to engage with the Court and the States Parties, thus maintaining a sense of remoteness regarding the Court’s actions.

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