General Debate dominates, talks continue on aggression

Assembly of States Parties 2017 

7 December 2017

Member states' segment of General Debate hits full steam

The General Debate continued on day four of ASP16 after a number of states delivered their statements in the afternoon on day three. The Philippines, represented by the Presidential Spokesperson Mr. Harry Roque, was the first to speak on Thursday, with much speculation about what the government's representative would include in his statement following a year of reports on alleged extrajudicial killings in the country and combative rhetoric toward the ICC from the Philippines President. A day after the South African government announced its intent to introduce a new bill repealing Rome Statute implementing legislation, ICC member states instead heard from the Philippines largely on the government's interest in the principle of complementarity, or national level prosecutions of core international crimes.

The permanent representative of France to the UN decried the mistreatment of migrants in Libya as conduct that could amount to crime against humanity. However, as the representative from Switzerland pointed out during her statement, certain governments have said, in meetings of the UN Security Council, that they want the ICC to pursue international crimes against migrants in Libya while simultaneously, within the ASP framework, denying the Court the budget it needs. As the Costa Rican Permanent Representative to UN later stated, that economic sacrifice of ensuring international justice is not in vain.

The Canadian representative noted in his statement that the ICC has made landmark judgments on the most serious criminal acts, and that 20 years after the adoption of the Rome Statute the Court has grown out of infancy into a well-balanced institution. Brazil meanwhile underlined its concern with the death penalty, which is not allowed under the Rome Statute, and encouraged the Court to request reassurance of the punishment's non-application in domestic prosecutions of ICC crimes.

For its General Debate statement, the government of Botswana followed up on years of vocal support for the work and mandate of the Court in the African region by highlighting that though the workload of the ICC has increased over the years, there has been no corresponding increase in resources allocated to it. The Botswanan Permanent Representative to the UN also called on the permanent members of the Security Council - France, the United Kingdom, the United States, China, and Russia - to refrain from the use of their veto rights in the referral of atrocity situations to the ICC.

Crime of aggression: From the General Debate to closed door meetings

Following the trend from day three, numerous governments voiced their support for activation of the Court's exercise of jurisdiction over the crime of aggression during the General Debate, including ICC host state The Netherlands and Palestine. Later in the day, states entered their second set of closed consultations on the topic of activation.

Side event spotlight: Civil society and the European States

On day four, the Coalition together with the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) and the EU delegation to the UN organized a side event on “Global Civil Society and European States: How to advance international justice?” The panelists discussed a number of topics including the existing hostile environment surrounding international justice, the relationship between EU and the Court, and the ongoing preliminary examinations of alleged ICC crimes in Palestine and Ukraine as well as the investigations into situations in Georgia and Burundi.

Virginie Amato from the Coalition Secretariat, Peter Pedak, director of the International Law Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, and Eric Chaboureau, Head of Legal Section for the EU Delegation to the United Nations (UN) spoke on behalf of the organizers. 

The panelists included included Nino Tsagareishvili, co-director of Human Rights Center (HRIDC) and Chair of the Georgian National Coalition for the ICC; Roman Romanov from the International Renaissance Foundation (IRF) in Ukraine; Shawan Jarabin, Director of Al Haq-Palestine; Lambert Nigarura, President of Burundi National Coalition for the ICC; Chino Edmund Obiagwu, Chairman of the Nigerian National Coalition for the ICC; Olga Guzman from the Mexican Commission for the Defence and Promotion of Human Rights; and Angela Mudukuti, International Criminal Justice Lawyer from the Wayamo Foundation. 

Side event central: Day four

On the day that the Philippines presidential spokesperson addressed the ICC member states during the General Debate, Help Not Handcuffs and Students for Sensible Drug Policy held an event on The Need for International Criminal Court Intervention in Extrajudicial Killings for Drug Offences.

Meanwhile, the principle of complementarity was at the center of discussions in Victims of Hissène Habré: The Struggle for Reparations Continues – co-organized by Africa Legal Aid, Association tchadienne pour la Défense du Droits de l’Homme, Human Rights Watch, and REDRESS Trust – as well as in Weaving the Strands: Domestic, Regional, Hybrid and ICC Justice – co-hosted by Switzerland, The Netherlands, Norway, Finland, the United Kingdom (UK), and Germany.

Argentina, Belgium, Mongolia, The Netherlands, Senegal, and Slovenia presented their mutual legal assistance (MLA) initiative in an event called Towards a new Multilateral Treaty for Mutual Legal Assistance and Extradition for Domestic Prosecution of the Most Serious International Crimes.

With discussions on budget key to the future of the Court, the Centre for International Human Rights and Northwestern Pritzker School of Law Event presented a proposal on Augmenting Funding for the ICC.

Recalling achievements in international justice was an event co-organized by Germany and the International Nuremberg Principles Academy, featuring among others, Coalition Convenor Bill Pace, as well as the global launch of the Gender Justice Legacy Wall, a project designed by Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice (WIGJ). The launch was co-organized by WIGJ, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the UK.

Open Society Justice Initiative, together with support from Liechtenstein, closed the day with Options for Justice: Designing Accountability Mechanisms for Grave Crimes.

The Tweets From Day 4

Tomorrow At ASP

Day five will begin with the consideration of the the 2018 ICC budget, with the ICC Registrar Herman von Hebel presenting the ICC's budget request and the chair of the ASP's Committee on Budget and Finance presenting their recommendations on the request following their September 2017 session. The morning meeting will also consider audit reports. The General Debate will meanwhile resume with statements by Observer States, regional and international organizations, and civil society members.

Later in the day the ICC member states will begin ASP16 consultations on their policy resolution Strengthening the ICC and the ASP - otherwise known as the omnibus resolution. The member states will also pick up discussions from earlier in the year on an amendments proposal for Rome Statute Article 8 (war crimes), submitted by the government of Belgium in its national capacity to the UN Secretary-General following a lack of consensus in the Working Group on Amendments during the year around submission of the proposal for consideration by the ASP.

Meanwhile, the Coalition for the ICC (CICC), together with The Netherlands, the Burundian National CICC, the “Justice for Burundi” Collective of Lawyers of Plaintiffs, and the International Federation for Human Rights will hold a side event to consider issues confronting the OTP investigaiton in Burundi following the government's withdrawal from the Rome Statute (16:00-18:00 EST, Conference Room 6). 

A number of additional side events are on the agenda for day five:

  • Launch of the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) Report on Preliminary Examination Activities (2017), co-hosted by Finland, Niger, Peru, Senegal, Slovenia, Switzerland, and the OTP (13:15-14:30 EST, Conference Room 11)
  • Launch of the study, "Congolese Jurisprudence under International Criminal Law: An Analysis of Congolese Military Court Decisions Applying the Rome Statute," co-hosted by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (13:15-14:30 EST, Conference Room 8)
  • ICCBA, an invaluable partner of the ICC, co-hosted by France, Senegal, the UK, and the International Criminal Court Bar Association (13:15-14:30 EST, ECOSOC)
  • Immunities Under International Law, co-hosted by Uganda and the Wayamo Foundation (18:00-19:30, Millenium Hilton Hotel)