All you need to know about the 21st session of the Assembly of States Parties of the ICC

The 21st session of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC or the Court) took place from 5–9 December 2022, in The Hague, the Netherlands. After two years of ASP sessions with limited physical access, the 21st session benefited from participation in The Hague from states parties, non-states parties, international organizations, and nearly 300 individual civil society representatives. The in-person session allowed for a robust civil society presence, dozens of side-events, and opportunities for meaningful engagement between delegates.     

Key Decisions at ASP21 

The ASP took a number of key decisions related to the effective functioning of the ICC and to states parties’ responsibilities towards the Court and in the context of the Rome Statute. States engaged in consultations to achieve consensus on the rich agenda, which entailed negotiations until the final hours of the session. Alongside, civil society monitored these engagements, recalling states’ obligations as parties to the Rome Statute, and ensuring that the lived experiences of victims and the communities the Court serves remain central in discussions.   

  • After several months of intense closed negotiations, the Assembly adopted a programme budget of €173,234,300 for the Court in 2023, which represents an increase of 12.2%, or €18,379,300, compared to the Court’s 2022 approved budget of €154,855,000. For 2023, the Court had requested a budget of €186,826,400, or an increase of 20.7%. The increase requested amounted to €31,971,400 more than in 2022, of which €8,400,000 represented the cost of inflation (around 8.9% in The Netherlands, where the Court is located). The remainder of the increased amount sought to reflect the growing workload of the institution, with trials in three cases taking place simultaneously, two cases expected to reach the deliberations phase, reparations proceedings in five cases and 17 situations and two publicly opened preliminary examinations. While this limited increase is a welcome development, the chronic underfunding of the Court continues to limit its ability to deliver justice as effectively as possible.  

  • This session's “Omnibus” resolution (formally titled Strengthening the International Criminal Court and the Assembly of States Parties) included a new paragraph reaffirming States’ support “for the consistent implementation of the Court’s mandate across the situations and cases under its jurisdiction in the interests of justice and the victims’ right of access to justice,” and stressing “the need for sustainable resources for all situations and cases as well as cooperation with the Court to that end.” 

  • Building on civil society advocacy and the consensus on the need for vetting of ICC elected officials, the Assembly decided to establish a due diligence process for candidates to the upcoming judicial election in 2023. The mechanism will be developed throughout 2023 by the Bureau of the ASP1 in consultation with the Independent Oversight Mechanism (IOM) and the Advisory Committee on Nomination of Judges (ACN). Additionally, the Assembly decided to continue consultations in 2023, alongside civil society and experts, towards the development of a permanent vetting process for all ICC elections, which the Assembly shall adopt at its 22nd session to be held in December 2023.  

  • The Assembly decided to extend the mandate of the Review Mechanism, chaired by Ambassador Paul Van Den Ijssel (Netherlands) and Ambassador Michael Kanu (Sierra Leone), for one more year. As the majority of recommendations made by the Independent Experts in 2020 have been assessed, in 2023, the Mechanism will focus its work on the implementation of positively assessed recommendations.  

  • Through the Assembly’s adoption of the report of its Bureau, it approved the procedure implementing Recommendation 169 contained in the Independent Expert Report, by which the Assembly responds to threats and attacks on the Court, its officials and those cooperating with it, which include civil society and human rights defenders.  

All decisions taken by the Assembly can be found on the CICC’s ASP21 Day 5 summary, available here.


More than 300 representatives of civil society attended the 21st session of the Assembly. As customary, civil society had the last slot in the General Debate segment, which opened with the Coalition for the ICC’s statement. Civil society highlighted key issues such as the situations in Afghanistan, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Georgia, Libya, Palestine and the Philippines; the ICC’s resource needs; ICC elections; civil society space and the challenges faced by human rights defenders; as well as the need to guarantee adequate outreach to affected communities and ensure meaningful victim participation.  

All civil society statements delivered at ASP21 can be found here.


Plenary sessions on the ICC Review & Cooperation 

On 7 December, there was a plenary session dedicated to the Review Mechanism. Numerous states parties welcomed participation and contributions by civil society in the Review Process, in particular the engagement of civil society from ICC situation countries, and which provided key information on the impact of the current shortcomings related to communications and outreach, as well as on victims’ participation and external political measures against the Court. During the session, the Coalition Review Team took the floor to provide recommendations on the future of the Review process, recalling the fundamental principles which should continue to guide the process. Human Rights Watch, the CICC Review Team co-leader, then also took the floor to recommend further principles by which the process should be led in 2023 and beyond.  

On 8 December, there was a dedicated plenary session on the topic of cooperation, entitled “New ways to improve cooperation regarding witness protection and respond effectively to the new challenges ahead,” which was divided into two segments. The first session consisted of a high-level panel with remarks from ICC officials, interventions from states parties, and the signing of a voluntary cooperation agreement on sentence enforcement between the Court and the government of Spain. The second session focused on the technical aspects of witness protection, during which Coalition members Al Haq and the Moroccan Centre for Peace and Law took the floor to address the plenary.

Elections at ASP21: #ElectTheBest 

In advance of the election of the next registrar by ICC judges on 10 February 2023, the Assembly adopted a series of recommendations for the election: the need to ensure high standards of efficiency, competency and integrity, and assigning high priority to equitable geographical and gender representation, amongst others. These recommendations were directed to the Judges of the Court, who, through an absolute majority vote, elected on 10 February 2023, Osvaldo Zavala Giler as Registrar for a renewable period of five years. Osvaldo Zavala Giler succeeds Peter Lewis, whose five-year mandate ends on 16 April.  

In addition, the Assembly elected members for six vacancies at the Committee on Budget and Finance (CBF) during its 21st session, for a period of three years: Jasleen Chaona Chirembo (Malawi) and Sahr Lahai Jusu (Sierra Leone) (both candidates will split the term), Urmet Lee (Estonia), Daniel McDonnell (United Kingdom), Klaus Stein (Germany), Pascual Tomas Hernandez (Spain), and Ana Patricia Villalobos Arrieta (Costa Rica). The Africa Group decided to elect two candidates and split the term, with the candidate from Malawi serving for the first year and a half of the three-year term, and the candidate from Sierra Leone for the remainder of the term. 

The CBF, composed of 12 members, is a technical expert body tasked with the examination of documents submitted to the Assembly that contain financial or budgetary implications or any other matter of financial, budgetary, or administrative nature and makes recommendations to the Assembly, including the annual proposed programme budget. 

The Assembly also amended some elements of the procedure for the nomination and election of ICC judges as well as the Terms of Reference of the Advisory Committee on Nominations of Judges (ACN), taking into account some of the recommendations made by the Independent Experts. In particular, the Assembly requested states parties to provide, starting with the 2023 judicial elections, information on their national nomination processes when they nominate a candidate judge, and requested the ACN to develop a set of non-binding guidelines for judicial nomination procedures by the 23rd ASP session in 2024.  


Civil society closes ASP21 after ASP president resolves to #Stand4HRDs 

During the final plenary session, ASP President Fernández de Gurmendi addressed the issue of threats against human rights defenders for their work related to the ICC, which came into sharp focus during the session. The ASP President took note of the concerns raised by states parties and civil society during the week and in particular during the Coalition’s side event dedicated to “Countering the Global Crackdown on Human Rights Defenders and Civil Society: What Role for the ICC and States Parties?”. 

The President reiterated that the Assembly and the Court have a shared responsibility to protect from any threat or attack against its officials and those cooperating with it, expressing her intention to identify appropriate measures to enhance the security of those participating in subsequent ASP sessions, including by offering a secure space where risks, including reprisals, against participants are minimized.  

The Coalition for the ICC delivered a closing statement to reflect on the session and share its priorities for the Rome Statute system, looking towards its 25th anniversary in 2023: the need for the Court and the Assembly to safeguard the participation of civil society and human rights defenders, and them against threats or reprisals;  the necessity of adequate and sustained resources for the Court to effectively execute its mandate; the central role of victims in the Rome Statute system; and the need to develop a permanent vetting mechanism for ICC and ASP elections.   

The next session of the ICC-ASP will take place from 4 -14 December 2023 at United Nations Headquarters, in New York, USA.  


Additional resources: 

  • Visit our ASP21 webpage to check out the Coalition’s daily summaries of the session, recommendations from civil society, information on side events and other ASP21 resources. 

  • ASP21 official webpage and ASP21 resolutions

  • The ASP21 plenary sessions are available to watch on the ICC’s YouTube channel.