LRWC delegate attends International Criminal Court 2021 Assembly of States Parties | News

From 6–11 December 2021, the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) convened the 20th session of the ASP, which meets annually at the World Forum in The Hague. Over the course of six days, the Assembly – including States Parties to the Rome Statute, observer and invited States, civil society, international and regional organizations – discussed a number of issues including the administration and functioning of the Court, its activities and the Trust Fund for Victims.

Attendance at the 20th session was lighter than usual as many attendees presented virtually due to COVID-19. All side events, often the highlight of the ASP during which civil society attendees are given a platform to discuss current issues in the field of international justice, were also moved online.

As a member of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), LRWC was invited to attend plenary sessions on 8 December 2021, one on “Cooperation” and the other a “Review of the ICC and Rome Statute System.” LRWC board member Melissa Tessler attended.

The session on cooperation commenced with a discussion on the difficulty the Court faces enforcing sentences without the availability of States willing to receive convicted persons. This was followed by a discussion on cooperation in financial investigations.

“We cannot step foot in a State without cooperation of the State Party…” emphasized Chief Prosecutor Karim Kham, “and that cooperation is dynamic.” The Prosecutor raised the need to compel social media information for investigations as well.

The ICC registrar spoke about the need to protect witnesses which cannot be done without the support of States who have signed cooperation agreements. This year, the Court was able to relocate only five of the 21 families that were at risk. The remaining 16 had to resort to ad hoc measures which are not only expensive for the Court to achieve on short notice but add stress to victims who have already been traumatized and require a smooth transition to a safer location.

The Session focusing on the Review of the ICC and Rome Statute System recognized the urgent need to improve the wellbeing of staff working at the Court and to end harassment and intimidation. The CICC was given a platform to make a statement summarizing its own Review of the Rome Statute System. The Review was co-led by Human Rights Watch and the International Federation for Human Rights.

The CICC statement listed the following as key priority areas for improvement:

…gender equality; safety and respect in the workplace; the highest standards of fair trial and completion of the legal aid policy; better cooperation by States Parties with the Court, particularly in the face of politicized attacks; merit-based nominations and elections of highly qualified Court officials; improved and strengthened methodologies of the Office of the Prosecutor; adequate and sufficient resources to carry out the Court’s mandate, consistent with its workload; as well as all the recommendations aiming at placing victims and affected communities at the heart of ICC proceedings and at ensuring the respect of their rights, including early and direct engagement with victims and affected communities, better outreach and public information strategies; increased field presence; and meaningful participation, including through chosen and effective representation during all stages of the proceedings.

Outside the 8 December session, other significant issues raised during the week included:

  • the desire to bring crimes against the environment under the purview of the Court, or to establish a crime of “ecocide.”
  • budget constraints, with countries including Canada urging all States Parties to pay their dues on time to allow the Court to fulfil its mandate;
  • how the Security Council’s veto system prevents accountability; and
  • the ongoing need for access to justice for victims.

In its statement during the General Debate, the CICC implored the Court “to explore ways to ensure that the 21st Session of the ASP can proceed… with prior consultation with civil society representatives to ensure full participation of all.”

See more information on this year’s ASP, including statements made by States’ Parties and NGOs.