The ICC Judicial Elections 2020

Image Credit: ICC

In 2020, six judges will be elected to fill one-third of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) 18 judicial seats during the nineteenth session of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP). The judicial elections mark a pivotal moment for the ICC’s future as it looks towards an almost complete turnover of leadership at the 2020 session. Following the regular three-year election cycle, the six newly elected judges will each serve for a nine-year term from 2021-2030.

In electing new judges, it is significant that State Parties ensure a fully representative bench; in addition to judicial qualifications, and should take into account representation of the principal legal systems of the world, geographical representation and gender balance, and mainly be “persons of high moral character, impartiality and integrity”.

The Coalition calls upon State Parties to nominate and elect only the most highly-qualified candidates, and not to engage in reciprocal political agreements (“vote-trading”) in any ICC/ASP election.

Nominating and electing only the most highly-qualified judges

During the nomination period, State Parties, along with states that have started the process of ratification, may put forth candidates who are later assessed by the Advisory Committee on the Nomination of Judges (ACN). The ACN was activated in 2011/2012 to facilitate the nomination and election of the most highly qualified judges, assessing candidates to determine whether or not they are qualified to serve on the bench of the ICC.  The ACN puts out formal recommendations following their assessment of the candidates, published in a report in the weeks leading up to the elections.  While the Coalition as a whole does not endorse or oppose individual candidates, we strongly urge States Parties to give their full support to the work of the ACN and to pay due regard to its findings and recommendations.

The election of the ninth and final member of the ACN will take place at the eighteenth session of the ASP in 2019, following a recommendation by the Bureau by consensus. At the previous session of the ASP, there was no consensus on the final candidate, and the election was pushed to 2019. To ensure geographical representation on the ACN, it is notable that eight other members are nationals from Palestine, Romania, France, United Kingdom, Kenya, Botswana, Bolivia, and Brazil. However, the members must act in their personal capacity, not with their own state’s interests in mind. The nomination period for the final ACN member began on 3 June and will end on 25 August 2019.

In order to ensure that only the most highly qualified candidates are selected as ICC judges, political factors should not play a role in these elections. The Coalition strongly opposes reciprocal political agreements, otherwise known as “vote-trading,” in all ICC/ASP elections.

Ensuring a Fully Representative Bench – the Minimum Voting Requirements (MVRs)

To ensure a fully representative bench, the election process accounts for the composition of the outgoing judges.  The newly elected judges will fill the vacancies of the six outgoing judges, who will complete their own nine-year terms on 10 March 2021. The outgoing judges are:

  • Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji (Nigeria) (ICC President)
  • Judge Robert Fremr (Czech Republic) (ICC First Vice President)
  • Judge Howard Morrison (United Kingdom)
  • Judge Olga Herrera-Carbuccia (Dominican Republic)
  • Judge Geoffrey Henderson (Trinidad and Tobago)
  • Judge Raul Cano Pangalangan (Philippines)

The Rome Statute outlines several considerations for a fully representative bench, including minimum criteria for geographic representation, gender balance, and representation of the principle legal systems of the world, not to mention expertise on specific and relevant legal issues. Another consideration in identifying judges are list A, which refers to nominees with criminal law expertise and experience, and list B, nominees with relevant international law expertise and experience.

These factors are taken into account through minimum voting requirements (MVR), which looks at the criteria of the judges remaining on the bench. During the 2020 election, the following MVRs will be in place:

  • Two candidates from Eastern Europe
  • Two candidates from Latin America and the Caribbean
  • One candidate from Asia-Pacific
  • One candidate from list A
  • One candidate from list B
  • One female candidate

An Important Moment for the Future

In 2020, the nineteenth session of the ASP will include the election of not only six judges, but the election of a new Prosecutor. While the Prosecutor plays a critical role in the ongoing and successes of the ICC, a successful judicial election cycle is a necessary step in ensuring that justice is granted to victims of grave crimes. The nomination and election of the most highly qualified candidates is essential in order to protect the Court's standards, independence, and impartiality as a judicial institution.