Shortlisted Candidates for ICC Prosecutor Announced: Election Process Must be Transparent and Merit-Based

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Yesterday, a committee specifically appointed to screen applications for the position of the next Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) published a shortlist of four candidates. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) calls on ICC States Parties to commit to a fair, transparent and merit-based election and reiterates that consultation among States Parties over candidates must be guided by merit and the high moral character of candidates. Any political agreements and vote trading would undermine this process and the future of the ICC and its delivery of justice for grave international crimes.

The election of the third ICC Prosecutor comes at a critical juncture for the Court and will have a bearing on almost every aspect of its work, including current and future investigations and cases. The shortlist produced yesterday by the independent Committee on the Election of the Prosecutor, following a screening process of all applicants, can be a step towards identifying and electing the most competent candidate for the position of Prosecutor. The shortlisted candidates are: Morris A. Anyah (Nigeria), Fergal Gaynor (Ireland), Susan Okalany (Uganda), and Richard Roy (Canada).

The publication of the shortlist is the starting point for a consultation process among States Parties in an effort to reach consensus on one candidate. If a consensus candidate is identified, he or she will be the only candidate nominated for elections at the upcoming session of the ASP and appointed by an ASP decision. Without consensus, the election will be held by secret ballot to elect among various nominated candidates. A public roundtable is tentatively scheduled for September 2020 in which key stakeholders, including civil society organisations, will have the opportunity to address questions to candidates. In these hearings, candidates are expected to demonstrate their relevant experience, most notably in the investigations and prosecution of complex criminal or mass crimes cases, and their vision for the Office of the Prosecutor.

"States should vote for the most qualified candidate, based solely on merit and high moral character, driven by nothing more than ensuring that the Office of the Prosecutor is in the most capable hands. The consultation process and public roundtable preceding States’ votes will be an opportunity to hear the main concerns of both civil society organisations and affected communities. Candidates will also have the opportunity to present their vision and strategy."

Alice Mogwe, President of FIDH

The vacancy position of ICC Prosecutor was published on 2 August 2019, and 144 applications were submitted from all regions of the world. Unlike judicial candidates, candidates for Prosecutor can apply individually without a state nomination, and do not have to be nationals of an ICC member state. Regrettably, a gender disparity was observed in the applications received with two-thirds of the applications coming from men. After closing the application period in November 2019, the Committee on the Election of the Prosecutor, assisted by a panel of experts, carefully reviewed all applications and identified a longlist of 16 candidates to be interviewed. Competency-based interviews were conducted in the months of May and June via video-conference, due to the covid-19 pandemic, based on which the four candidates were shortlisted yesterday for the position.

The Committee was open to receiving information in confidence on allegations of sexual harassment and other misconduct of potential candidates. Several civil society organisations, including FIDH, sent an open letter urging a vetting process that excludes candidates that commit, condone, or ignore sexual harassment. Consequently, the Committee established a vetting process that included reference checks, checks of publicly sourced information, including social media accounts of candidates, and security and criminal record checks. That said, the Committee itself acknowledged that this vetting process was limited and not comprehensive, due to lack of legal authority or framework, as well as other limitations to its mandate and capacity. The Committee therefore recommended that future election processes include a provision for the vetting of candidates with clearly outlined parameters, modalities and timing.

The Committee on the Election of the Prosecutor is composed of five members—one per regional group—serving in their individual and independent capacity, assisted by a panel of experts appointed by the Bureau of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP). The next Prosecutor is to be elected in December at the 19th session of the ASP and will serve a nine-year mandate starting in June 2021.

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