States Must Step Up To Protect and Strengthen International Criminal Court

Press release
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With the States Parties of the International Criminal Court (ICC) set to gather next week in The Hague for the annual Assembly of States Parties, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) highlights the urgent need to bolster the Court’s work and defend it from politically-motivated efforts to intimidate and undermine it.

At a time when the Court is subjected to external threats as well as legitimate concerns about its performance, FIDH calls on States Parties to allocate an adequate raise to the 2020 ICC budget to allow it to fully carry out its mandate—more critical than ever—and to pass a resolution ensuring that next year’s judicial elections are merit-based. FIDH welcomes the proposed resolution for a review of the ICC and the Rome Statute system and urges States Parties to adopt it, while underlining the necessity for civil society to participate in this process and to ensure a victim-centered approach.

FIDH will participate in the Assembly with a delegation headed by two of its board members, Guissou Jahangiri and Drissa Traoré. This delegation will include representatives of FIDH’s member organisations and partner organisations from Afghanistan, Burundi, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Georgia, Guinea, Libya, Mexico, Palestine, Sudan, the United States.

This year’s Assembly of States Parties (ASP) will be held before a backdrop of ongoing, blatant political threats against the Court and its officials. Earlier this year, the United States revoked the visa of ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda—a retaliatory move aiming to punish the Prosecutor for moving to open an investigation into alleged war crimes committed in Afghanistan, including by American forces and the CIA. US officials repeatedly announced that additional measures, such as economic sanctions, could be taken if the Court were to investigate the situations in Afghanistan or Palestine. Such acts amount to a blatant attempt to impede the Court’s work.

Hearings on whether the ICC will investigate the situation in Afghanistan will take place simultaneously with the ASP session; there are concerns that US officials could use this as an occasion to undermine the Court’s work or to announce additional measures against the Court or its personnel. Anticipating this risk, FIDH calls on States Parties to not be timid in affirming their support for the Court and to respond explicitly to any threats that may arise from these hearings. FIDH urges States to demonstrate that they will cooperate with the Court fully in all situations it looks into, including the situation in Afghanistan.

Another area of crucial importance for the Court’s performance is the upcoming 2020 election of six new ICC judges and of the next ICC Prosecutor. In our position paper, FIDH welcomes the proposed resolution and further recommends strengthening the process of judicial nominations and elections, ahead of next year’s elections of six of the Court’s 18 judges. FIDH emphasises that the process should be more fair and allow the best-qualified candidates to be elected on merit, rather than mired by political considerations.

This Assembly will also serve as a key occasion to discuss the performance of the ICC and the Rome Statute system. The Court’s jurisprudence over the past two years has understandably spurred questions and concerns over whether the Court is meeting its full potential in delivering truth, justice and reparations to victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Following calls by FIDH, civil society organisations and other stakeholders, a process aimed at strengthening the ICC is to be formalised through a resolution tabled at the ASP session next week. The resolution primarily establishes an independent expert review and appoints such experts to conduct the review starting January 2020. It also requests States Parties to address specific issues through the existing working groups and facilitations of the ASP. It is imperative that this review be fully independent, transparent, broadly inclusive, and victim-centered.

As in every ASP session, States Parties will also debate States’ cooperation with the Court and the Court’s annual budget. FIDH believes that external factors, including States’ limited cooperation and limited financial resources, have affected the Court’s performance particularly because the Court depends on States’ cooperation and support for the realisation of its mandate. Cooperation is needed in a range of areas and includes cooperation in: the arrest and surrender of suspects, evidence sharing, witness protection and tracing and seizing of assets. The 15 pending arrest warrants pertaining to cases in the situations of Sudan, Libya, Kenya, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have frustrated progress in holding those allegedly responsible for atrocities to account. Lukewarm cooperation with the Court in the conduct of its preliminary examinations and investigation negatively affects their success and speed.

The ICC needs sufficient funds to carry out its crucial mandate to attain accountability for some of the world’s most serious crimes. The current budget has proven insufficient to support the Court in carrying out its work; with additional caseload expected for 2020, the Court will sorely need additional resources; the meager 1.8% increase it has requested should receive the full support of States Parties. They must not perpetuate the “zero nominal growth” budgeting model which leaves the Court with inadequate means. The non-increase in the annual budget of the Court affects not only the advancement of the ICC’s cases and investigations, but also its interactions with and outreach to victims and affected communities.

The Assembly of States Parties—a crucial forum to discuss and take stances on issues fundamental to the functioning of the Court and the Rome Statute system—is enriched by the participation of civil society organisations. FIDH and other such groups participate in ASP sessions to engage on these issues and to highlight obstacles to justice at national and international levels.

In our position paper, we make five key recommendations to States Parties for this year’s ASP.

• 1. Guarantee an independent expert review of ICC performance and functioning that is purposeful, transparent and inclusive;
• 2. Reaffirm fundamental support to and cooperation with the ICC;
• 3. Amend Article 8 of the Rome Statute as proposed by Switzerland to codify the crime of starvation as war crime in non-international armed conflicts;
• 4. Allow the Court the financial resources needed to carry out its mandate;
• 5. Ensure that the election of the next prosecutor and judges are based on merits only and that these processes remain transparent.

On this occasion of important institutional momentum, FIDH has planned a series of side events :
Attend our side events at #ASP18:

“A Civil Society Conversation on ICC Review: Towards a Victim-Centered Assessment of ICC Performance” (hosted by FIDH, Human Rights Watch and the American Bar Association ICC project)
Monday, 2 December 2019, 13:00-15:00, Kilimanjaro 1&2 Room

“Should the ICC open a preliminary examination in Mexico? Discussion about allegations of crimes against humanity in Mexico” (co-hosted by Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos - CMPDHD, Id(H)eas, Litigio Estratégico;
FIDH, the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), and Reporters Without Borders (RSF))
Monday, 2 December, 13:00-15:00, Antarctica Room

“Towards Ethical and Equitable Engagement: Formalising a mutual guided relationship between the Court and intermediaries” (hosted by FIDH and Lawyers for Justice in Libya)
Tuesday, 3 December 2019, 18:00 - 20:00, Africa Room

“Colombia: the role of the ICC in the context of an unfinished transition” (co-hosted by Comisión Colombiana de Juristas, Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear
Restrepo, Sisma Mujer, Colombia Diversa, Corporación Humanas, Avocats Sans
Frontieres- Canada, FIDH, and the CICC)
Wednesday, 4 December 2019, 13:00-15:00, Africa Room

• “Guinea: A decade Later, victims of 2009 massacre still being denied justice” (hosted by FIDH, the Organisation guinéenne de défense des droits de l’homme et du citoyen OGDH, Mêmes droits pour tous MDT and Association des victimes, parents et amis du 28 septembre 2009 AVIPA)
Wednesday, 4 December 2019, 18:00-20:00, Africa Room

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