Civil society and the ICC

While at all times maintaining independence from both the ICC and its member states, global civil society plays an indispensable role in helping the Court deliver truly global justice.

The Coalition is both the ICC’s biggest supporter and its loudest critic. As defenders of the principles enshrined in the Rome Statute, the Court’s founding treaty, the Coalition works to ensure that ICC officials execute their mandate fairly, effectively, and independently.

From monitoring courtroom proceedings in The Hague, to liaising between the Court and affected communities in countries where it is active, to relaying information to the Office of the Prosecutor on the commission of grave crimes around the world, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) help the ICC fulfill its mandate to end impunity for the world’s worst crimes in numerous ways.

Courtroom monitoring 

Coalition members monitor ICC courtroom proceedings to ensure that the delivery of justice is fair and efficient. NGOs also monitor the development of ICC case law and jurisprudence. By promoting the visibility of ICC proceedings, NGOs ensure that the Court’s work is understood and can be followed easily. For justice to have real impact, it must be seen to be done.

Read more about making justice visible.

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Amicus Curiae

NGOs can apply to submit observations on any issue before the ICC during criminal and reparations proceedings. These observations usually provide legal analysis, policy arguments, or factual context in certain cases.

Such a legal document is called an Amicus Curiae (Friend of the Court) brief. Many Coalition members including REDRESS, Kituo Cha Sheria, No Peace Without Justice, and Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice have submitted Amicus Curiae briefs in ICC cases.

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Institutional monitoring

Coalition members monitor the development of the ICC as an institution, its policies and strategic direction, offering unique expertise in order to effect reform when necessary.

Consultations between Court officials and civil society take place in different fora and on various institutional issues throughout the year and in more formal settings. A standing forum is the annual ICC-NGO roundtable meetings. Usually taking place over a week in mid-year, these meetings promote dialogue and the exchange of information between NGOs and the Court’s various organs and officials. They help to define issues of mutual concern and strategies around common objectives, where appropriate.

The success of the ICC as an institution is intimately linked to the good functioning and decision-making of the Assembly of States Parties, the Court’s governing body composed of states parties to the Rome Statute. The Assembly sets the annual ICC budget and upholds important obligations like cooperation and complementarity (national prosecutions).

Throughout the year and during its annual session, civil society actively calls on the Assembly to improve the way it works, increase the transparency of its decision-making, and to take decisions with the best interests of the Court at heart.

Read more about civil society and the ASP

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In countries where the Court is active, local and international NGOs provide the Court with specialist information, services and expertise. They also link the Court to people and organizations in countries where it may not have a wide network.

NGOs acting as intermediaries of the Court are often active members of affected communities already working towards justice for grave crimes. They often have both a personal and professional stake in the Court’s success.  

To guide this often sensitive relationship between the Court and NGOs or individuals working as intermediaries, the ICC has developed guidelines to ensure that roles, responsibilities, and expectations on both sides are clear and manageable.

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Evidence collection and documentation

NGOs can provide the ICC Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) with information that may help trigger a preliminary examination or formal investigation. This can be information on crimes committed in a conflict situation or a report on human rights violations that may fall under ICC jurisdiction. Such information may also serve as evidence to be used during ICC proceedings. However, the ICC prosecutor makes an independent decision on whether to use such information as evidence.

NGOs also act as first responders, safely securing possible future evidence from crime scenes. Technological advances mean that evidence of human rights abuses can now be securely collected and preserved in a form that is admissible for judicial proceedings.

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Working with victims and affected communities

Civil society plays a key role in liaising between the ICC and victims and communities affected by crimes under its jurisdiction. This can take the form of identifying victims eligible to participate in ICC proceedings and to apply for reparations should a guilty verdict be rendered. NGOs also conduct a wide variety of outreach activities with, or on behalf, of the Court.

General assistance projects of the ICC Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) are typically carried out by NGOs. Funded by voluntary contributions, these projects can take the form of physical and/or psychosocial rehabilitation as well as material support. Read more about the work of the TFV

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