The ICC Prosecutor Elections 2020

The International Criminal Court (ICC) on 6th August 2019 announced the vacant position of the next Prosecutor of the ICC, replacing the current Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda after her contract ends on 15 June 2021. The election of the next Chief Prosecutor of the ICC by the Assembly of States Parties in 2020 will be a significant decision impacting almost every aspect of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Rome Statute system more broadly. Each step in the process of this election is crucial to ensure a comprehensive and transparent assessment of candidates by the Committee on the Election of the Prosecutor (CEP) in an effort towards strengthening the ICC.

In order to facilitate an effective selection process, the Bureau of the ASP established a Committee on the Election of the Prosecutor, composed of five members, one per regional group, and assisted by a panel of five independent experts, one per regional group. Civil society played a key role in identifying and nominating these independent experts to best advise the CEP.

The Coalition for the ICC and civil society continue to call on States Parties to nominate and elect only the highest qualified candidates for the post of Chief Prosecutor.  

The Election Process

The Prosecutor of the ICC is elected for a nine-year, non-renewable term by the Assembly of States Parties (ASP). Ms. Fatou Bensouda (The Gambia) took office on 15 June 2012 as the second ICC Prosecutor after being elected by consensus during the 10th session of the Assembly of States Parties in December 2011. Her term will end on 15 June 2021. Mr. Luis Moreno Ocampo served as the first Prosecutor, elected in 2003.

Article 42 of the Rome Statute stipulates the only requirements for the Prosecutor: to be of high moral character, competency and experience in prosecutions and trials of criminal cases and fluency in English or French.

States Parties submit nominations for candidates for Chief Prosecutor to the ASP Secretariat, with the ASP noting a preference for nominations made with the support of multiple States Parties. States strive to elect the Prosecutor by consensus, but in the absence of consensus, elections occur by secret ballot by an absolute majority of States Parties.

Committee on the Election of the Prosecutor

At its final meeting of 2018, the ASP Bureau decided to establish a committee tasked with overseeing the election of the Prosecutor. Following consultations with States, Court officials and civil society, the Bureau adopted the Terms of Reference (TORs) on the Election of the Prosecutor, which sets out a clear mandate, timeline and composition for the Committee on the Election of the Prosecutor.

The CEP is a body, comprised of one representative per regional group, with a mandate to facilitate the nomination and election of the next Prosecutor. The Committee is assisted by a panel of independent experts, one per regional group, in order to execute its functions impartially. States and civil society put forth nominations for Committee members and experts, bearing in mind geographic and gender balance, and adequate representation of the principal legal systems of the world.

Both the Committee members and the experts were named by the Bureau in June 2019.

Committee Members:

  • Ambassador Marcin Czepelak (Poland)
  • Mr. Lamin Faati (Gambia)
  • Ambassador Andreas Mavroyiannis (Cyprus)
  • Ambassador Sabine Nölke (Canada)
  • Ambassador Mario Oyarzábal (Argentina)

The panel of Experts:

  • Mr. Francisco Cox Vial (Chile)
  • Ms. Aurélia Devos (France)
  • Mr. Charles Jalloh (Sierra Leone)
  • Mr. Motoo Noguchi (Japan)
  • Ms. Anna Richterová (Czech Republic)

After the vacancy announcement for the position, published on 6th August 2019, the CEP will now receive nominations from individuals. At this early stage, nominations endorsed by States Parties and other groups will not be encouraged.

Before the submission of an unranked shortlist of three to six of the most highly qualified candidates by the Committee to the Bureau, the panel of experts will put forth their independent assessment of the candidates to the Committee no later than June 2020. This step allows for the panel, which does not make the formal recommendation to the Bureau, to express their expert and independent views on the candidates for Prosecutor, similar to the recommendations made by the Advisory Committee on Nominations for judicial and other elections.

In an effort to identify a consensus candidate, the ASP President and Bureau will lead a consultation process, which will include hearings for shortlisted candidates with States Parties and civil society. Elections are slated to take place at the 19th session of the ASP in 2020, happening at the United Nations in New York.

The TORs prioritize transparency and confidentiality at all stages of the election process. Ensuring that the selection process is fair, inclusive and transparent will be essential in identifying the most highly qualified candidates for the role. Drawing on the lessons learned from the last election process in 2011, the TORs for the election of the next Chief Prosecutor demonstrate a welcome step forward by the ASP towards improving the process for future elections.

Role of civil society

The search for a new Prosecutor comes at a critical point for the ICC. Facing a number of recent challenges, criticism towards the Court has mounted and therefore, it has increasingly become important for the ICC to maintain its independence and impartiality during this election. The Coalition strongly rejects reciprocal political agreements, or “vote-trading” in this key election of the next Chief Prosecutor. It is essential that the next Prosecutor is not only highly-qualified, but has professional excellence in handling complex criminal cases, institutional management experience and the ability to act independently and impartially.

The Coalition and its members continue to robustly call on State Parties to nominate and elect the most highly-qualified and independent candidates to key positions in the Rome Statute system through fair, transparent, and merit-based nomination and election processes. Civil society will be there every step of the way, monitoring the process and advocating for the integrity of nomination and election processes.

The Coalition and its individual members will continue to support the efforts of the President and Bureau in establishing the most effective processes to ensure the election of the next ICC Prosecutor from the most highly-qualified candidates.

Note: Coalition for the ICC does not endorse or oppose individual candidates but the individual member organization of the Coalition may take positions on particular candidates. These positions represent the views of those respective organizations and should not be taken as representative of the Coalition’s views.