16th Session of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Opening Plenary Main Themes

The Opening Plenary of the 16th Session of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ASP) took place earlier this morning in New York. The ASP is the management oversight and legislative body of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Several themes emerged from the opening plenary which are worthy of note. This blog post will highlight three main themes from the first plenary of the ASP. First, the President of the ASP highlighted the need for States Parties of the ICC to cooperate with the ICC. Second, as reiterated by the current President of the ASP as well as the new President-elect of the ASP, the ICC is a distinct kind of court which has not yet reached its full potential. Third, the Prosecutor of the ICC emphasized the need to foster a culture of accountability to prosecute perpetrators of international crimes.

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President Sidiki Kaba addressing the 16th Session of the Assembly of States Parties.

1. Cooperation from States Parties essential to workings of the ICC

The President of the ASP, Mr. Sidiki Kaba, in his address to the ASP, called for the continued cooperation between States Parties and the ICC in order to boost the effectiveness of the Court. This is especially important where some African States have begun to signal their intention to withdraw from the ICC. The meeting of the ASP at its 16th session is an important juncture in time when the work and value of the ICC should be safeguarded especially through increased cooperation from States Parties. Mr. Kaba reiterated that the ICC only steps in when there is a clear lack of will or an inability by a country to prosecute its nationals in accordance with the complementarity rule. This means that cooperation from States Parties is essential in order for the workings of the ICC to be effective. In addition, training should be provided to judges, lawyers, security officers and others in order to safeguard the complementarity rule. Furthermore, national determination processes must meet the highest international standards and norms. Finally, in order to ensure reparations for victims of international crimes, support for the ICC Trust Fund for Victims is necessary to support victims.

2. ICC can still reach its full potential

In his address to the ASP, Mr. Kaba further reiterated that the ICC is a distinct kind of court, where independence is essential in order to safeguard its credibility and legitimacy. The judicial independence of the ICC should not be an impediment to its efforts, which has been his main priority during the tenure of his presidency. Mr. Kaba stated that there are certain areas which the ICC should work, including the need to focus upon the legal representation of victims, and the emphasis required for reparations for victims for international crimes and the availability of legal aid for victims. As President, Mr. Kaba sought to promote a cohesive judicial culture which is vital in order to accelerate judicial proceedings and to facilitate the understanding of the parties and victims involved. Another key area is making sure that officials of the ICC uphold their integrity. Mr. Kaba announced the mapping of all relevant existing goals of ethics relating to the duties of elected officials while they are in office and after their departure. Mr. Kaba also stated that the ICC has increased its outreach efforts to victims of international crimes and that the participation and reparation of victims are central to the role of the ICC.

At the 16th session of the ASP, Mr. Kaba announced the election of Judge O-Gon Kwon from the Republic of Korea by acclamation as the next President of the ASP effective for the 17th, 18th and 19th sessions of the ASP until 2020. Judge O-Gon Kwon has vast experience in law at both national and international levels including serving as a judge for 22 years and holding senior positions in the government of the Republic of Korea. Judge O-Gon Kwon, in his address to the ASP, emphasized the need for cooperation between the States Parties and the ICC. Judge O-Gon Kwon stated that the Kampala Amendments of the Rome Statute on the crime of aggression was adopted by consensus and therefore is a milestone for the ASP. Judge O-Gon Kwon reiterated that international criminal justice is very much a work-in-progress – a project very much in its infancy. Further, it is critical that the ICC maintain its neutrality, impartiality and independence which requires the careful balancing of viewpoints. It is vital to liaise and facilitate cooperation between the States Parties and the ICC and this cooperation is indispensable for a well-functioning court. As the new President of the ASP, Judge O-Gon Kwon announced that he will reach out to those States that have not yet ratified the Rome Statute of the ICC and will work closely with the ICC and civil society to promote universality.

3. The Office of the Prosecutor is steadfast in its commitment to the Rome Statute

The Prosecutor of the ICC, Ms. Fatou Bensouda, began her address to the ASP by stating that the ICC is a firmly rooted but still evolving institution and has a potential for global impact. The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC is working jointly towards a culture of accountability for crimes of mass atrocities. The commitment of States Parties will be the key to determining the trajectories of this path. The investigations of Afghanistan and Burundi are indicators of the steadfast commitment of the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC. Ms. Bensouda emphasized that Burundi’s withdrawal from the ICC has no effect on its continuing obligation to cooperate with the ICC or the period during which Burundi was an ICC State Party of the ICC. Ms. Bensouda ended her address to the ASP by reiterating that what is needed today is the strengthening of the ICC, and it would be up to the States Parties as custodians to stand firm to safeguard its values.

As the 16th session of the ASP continues, more themes such as these will emerge, highlighting the importance of the work of the ICC as well as that of the Office of the Prosecutor. Main plenary sessions will be complemented by side events hosted by nongovernmental organizations.

Follow the IntLawGrrls symposium for periodic posts on the ASP as it is happening!

This blogpost and my attendance to the 16th Assembly of States Parties in the framework of the Canadian Partnership for International Justice was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

 

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