NGOs enter the fray, justice policy talks ahead of Rome Statute 20th

Assembly of States Parties 2017

8 December 2017

Civil society has its turn in General Debate

The General Debate resumed and concluded on Friday, with civil society taking the floor after the remainder of ICC member states, observer states, international organizations, and representatives of the legal profession (International Criminal Court Bar Association) delivered their statements.

Among remaining member states to speak were Nigeria, which noted that the ICC is becoming an increasingly relevant global institution for peace and development; and Tunisia, one of three member states from the Middle East-North Africa region, which called international justice "a vehicle to lasting peace."

Observer states Ukraine, China, Iran, and the United States (US) also made statements before the Assembly. The representative from Ukraine, which is not yet a member state but has accepted the jurisdiction of the ICC over the situation in its territory, noted that the state is working to remove legal obstacles to ratification and implementation of the Rome Statute. Ukraine additionally declared support for activation of the Court's exercise of jurisdiction over the crime of aggression as well as proposed war crimes amendments.

The US, meanwhile, rejected any exercise of jurisdiction over US personnel absent the government's consent or a UN Security Council referral, including in any potential investigation into US troop conduct in Afghanistan, among other alleged crimes.

Civil society took the floor at the end of the General Debate. The Coalition's Convenor, Mr. William Pace, opened the civil society segment by insisting that the ICC is one of very few alternatives capable of filling gaps that the Security Council has left in global peace and security, and reminding that states must be proactive rather than reactive.

Both the Burundian Coalition for the ICC, which later presented its views during a dedicated side event, and Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice (KPTJ) underlined the significance of the ICC for upholding human rights and rule of law in domestic jurisdictions. KPTJ called for the South African government to revisit its decision to pursue withdrawal from the Rome Statute, while adding that "Burundi may have left, but the door for its return is not shut."

Other NGOs to speak during the General Debate were International Federation for Human Rights together with Al-Haq; Human Rights Watch; the American Bar Association; and the Moroccan, Nigerian, and Ivorian national Coalitions for the ICC.

International justice policy - not resources - on the ASP table

Day five began with the consideration of the ICC's 2018 programme budget request. Before ICC member states take negotiations on the budget behind closed doors in week two of ASP16, the Court's Registrar Mr. Herman von Hebel presented the 2018 request based on the respective needs of the various ICC organs. The Chair of the ASP's Committee on Budget and Finance (CBF), Mr. Hitoshi Kozaki (Japan), followed the Registrar with the CBF's recommendations to the ICC member states in considering the Court's request.

The Registrar acknowledged that the ICC is a publicly-funded institution - by member states - and that the Court should be accountable for its resource use and the quality of its justice proceedings. However, he also noted that the Court itself has initiatives underway to maximize its limited resources while tackling an ever-increasing workload, including in relation to witness protection costs and maintenance of the independence and integrity of proceedings.

As a number of NGOs, including Human Rights Watch and the Ivorian Coalition for the ICC, highlighted in their General Debate statements on day five, the ICC has significant outstanding resource needs that do not seem to be adequately taken into account in ASP budget negotiations, and that investing in justice today will mean savings tomorrow in terms of global peace and development costs. And as the Burundian Coalition for the ICC pointed out, the stakes are immediate, underlining the need for ICC member states to honor their cooperation commitments, including with respect to resources, to the new ICC investigation in Burundi. 

Later in the day, states gathered for the first informal consultations on the ASP's 2017 Strengthening the ICC and the ASP resolution - otherwise known as the 'omnibus' resolution. Multiple consultations have taken place since the beginning of October 2017 to discuss numerous text proposals put forward by states relating to universality, cooperation, Secretariat of the ASP, legal aid, victims, and participation in the ASP among others.

An issue of particular concern this year in omnibus consultations has been the use of the language “within existing resources” – language that threatens to reaffirm zero growth policy on ICC resources and would prove detrimental to a number of ongoing initiatives within the Court to improve its efficacy in the delivery of international justice. One such initiative many have their eyes on, in particular NGOs within the framework of the Victims’ Rights Working Group, is the Court’s ongoing review of its legal aid policy.

Read up on the entire 2018 ICC budget request (147.9 million euro, an increase of 4.4% over the 2017 ICC programme budget), as laid out by Mr. von Hebel on day five, as well as the CBF recommendations (total reductions in the amount of €3.4 million, or 2.0% growth).

2018 ICC Budget request

Amendments discussions turn to war crimes

The member states met today to continue discussions on amendments proposed to Rome Statute including four amendment proposals to 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.

Side event spotlight: NGOs stand up for rights in Burundi

The Coalition for the International Criminal Court, The Netherlands, the Burundian national coalition for the ICC, the “Justice for Burundi” Collective of Lawyers of Plaintiffs, and the International Federation for Human Rights organized a side event entitled, "Burundi in the aftermath of the opening of an ICC investigation.” Panellists considered the history of the situation in Burundi, the desire of victims for justice, the activities of the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor, and the potential role the international community can play to improve cooperation with the Court.

The Tweets from Day Five

Side event central: Day five

Another full day of side events took place on day five of the ASP including the launch of the study on "Congolese Jurisprudence under International Criminal Law: An Analysis of Congolese Military Court Decisions Applying the Rome Statute.'' The event was co-hosted by the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA). 

The Launch of the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) Report on Preliminary Examination Activities (2017), which was co-hosted by Finland, Niger, Norway, Peru, Senegal, Slovenia, Switzerland and the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP), drew a large attendance from both civil society and state representatives.

France, Senegal, the United Kingdom co-hosted the event highlighting the ICC Bar Association (ICCBA) titled "ICCBA, an invaluable partner of the ICC."

Day five wrapped up with a Wayamo Foundation event on "Immunities Under International Law," co-hosted by Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Uganda at the Millennium Hotel. 

Next Week at ASP

Stay tuned for information on meetings and events taking place during the second and final week of the 16th session of the Assembly.