Position paper: Judges seeking to join ICC’s bench must have proven expertise on victims’ rights

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In a position paper issued today, FIDH argues that expertise on victims’ rights is an indispensable condition for judges seeking election to the bench of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Virtual public roundtables will be held this week with the 20 candidates nominated to run in the upcoming judicial elections at the ICC, that will see one third of its bench renewed. These meetings are an opportunity for nominees to demonstrate their fitness to hold the position of judge at the ICC.

While the participation of victims is a cornerstone of the Rome Statute system, little guidance is given by the founding texts as to how such participation should be organised. Judges thus play a crucial role in making sure that victims are properly represented, protected and informed, and participate fully at all stages of criminal proceedings. FIDH underlines the importance of candidates proving their expertise in victims’ rights, in addition to criteria such as experience and expertise in criminal proceedings and international law, integrity, impartiality and high moral character.

“Due to the nature of the ICC’s jurisdiction, judges must balance the rights of hundreds of victims to participate in proceedings with the rights of the defense. Unfortunately, this balance has frequently been achieved to the detriment of victims,” said Delphine Carlens, head of FIDH’s international justice desk.

"Candidates have an opportunity this week to demonstrate their track record showing respect and fulfillment of victims’ rights, so that States Parties may elect judges who are committed to implement the needed victim-centred approach throughout the ICC justice process."

Delphine Carlens, head of FIDH's international justice desk

FIDH believes it is thus imperative that States Parties elect six new ICC judges who will ensure the central role conferred to victims by the Rome Statute system. Victims’ procedural rights should not be narrowly interpreted but instead harmonised and guaranteed throughout criminal proceedings, from the pre-trial to the appeals stage.

After the publication of the final report of the Advisory Committee on Nominations of Judges (ACN) on 30 September, [1] these virtual public roundtables are the final step in the candidates’ evaluation before the elections of six new ICC judges, scheduled to be held in December. These roundtable meetings, held from 3 to 6 November, will allow the 20 nominees to share their background, individual expertise and to present their vision for the ICC and its bench, as well as providing a forum for open interaction with States and civil society, who will be able to directly present their questions and concerns to the candidates. It will also be an opportunity to follow up on candidates’ written responses to questions asked by the ACN and by civil society. [2]

For more information, read FIDH’s position paper, available here.

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