Carrots, Sticks, and the ICC: Prospects for Cooperation? Part 1

The third day of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or ‘Court’ pivoted around the issue of cooperation. A side event was organized by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and the Embassy of Ireland titled, “Cooperation with the ICC: What the Security Council and ASP Must Do.” Panelists included Allan Ngari (ISS), Phakiso Mochochoko (Head of the Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division of the Office of the Prosecutor), Matt Cannock (Amnesty International) and H.E. Ambassador Kevin Kelly (Ireland). 

The panelists argued that non-cooperation by states severely limits the effectiveness of the ICC, and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the ASP can do something about it. Matt Cannock explained that a stronger approach to cooperation is needed. The UNSC has referred two situations to the ICC – Darfur (2005) and Libya (2011) – where crimes occurred on the territory of non-States parties to the Rome Statute. In both situations, the UNSC imposed an obligation of cooperation only on the state involved(i.e. Sudan or Libya).[1]For other states who are not party to the Rome Statute, the UNSC has explicitly outlined in its referrals that there are no binding obligations in relation to the Court to cooperate, but also added language “urg[ing]all States and concerned regional and other international organizations to cooperate fully with the Court and the Prosecutor.”[2]Cannock framed this voluntary cooperation obligation under the current regime in terms of the metaphorical ‘carrot and stick.’ He posited that the current approach is ‘more carrot than stick’ and explained that a ‘sharpened carrot’ could yield better results. He explained that this can be achieved through UNSC and UN General Assembly follow-ups to acts of non-cooperation with the ICC. 

Allan Ngari and Matt Cannock both emphasized the need for the UNSC to impose cooperation obligations under all members states of the UN. This would be consistent with the procedure that was taken when the Council established the ad hoctribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The ISS provided a document at the side-event, which outlines this and other key recommendations.[3]Regarding the UNSC, some specific examples include: (1) the Council should impose cooperation obligations on all states; (2) not restrict or bar UN funding for investigations and prosecutions; (3) not seek to limit the jurisdiction of the ICC over persons relevant to the situation; and (4) it should adopt explicit language lifting any immunities that might hinder ICC prosecution, especially those involving state officials or non-states parties. With respect to the ASP, it is recommended that findings of non-cooperation be routinely responded to, and the ASP should ask the UNSC and the UN General Assembly to take appropriate measures. Both Ngari and Cannock described a relationship between the UNSC and ICC based on mutual reinforcement in order to achieve the overall goal of enhanced cooperation.     

Phakiso Mochochoko offered a different perspective and confronted the pervasive challenges that stem from the ICC-UNSC dichotomy. Focusing on cooperation with respect to arrests, he was less optimistic. The investigation and prosecution stages require little (if anything) from the UNSC. On the other hand, arrests require assistance, particularly when the referral was made by the Council. Mochochoko explained that the Prosecutor has begged and pleaded to the UNSC for help, but nothing happens. He argued that the fundamental difficulty lies with the often-cited issue that permanent members United States, China, and Russia are not members orsupporters of the ICC. This combative environment makes cooperation unlikely. While the UNSC referred the situations in Sudan and Libya to the Court, these referrals came with no substantive political support or backing. As a result, Mochochoko posited that the UNSC referrals are a ‘poison chalice,’ and the source of the attacks that the ICC is facing (i.e. effectiveness, legitimacy). Therefore, opposition from permanent members of the UNSC towards the ICC is good, since referrals will not be made. This way, the ICC can go about its work on its own, without having to rely on the UNSC.  

This blogpost and my attendance to the 17thAssembly of States Parties are supported by the Canadian Partnership for International Justice and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


[1]See: Operative paragraph 2, UN Security Council Resolution 1593 (2005); Operative paragraph 5, UN Security Council Resolution 1970 (2011).

[2]International Criminal Court, Assembly of States Parties, Report of the Bureau on non-cooperation, ICC-ASP/17/31 (28 November 2018) available at: https://asp.icc-cpi.int/iccdocs/asp_docs/ASP17/ICC-ASP-17-31-ENG.pdf, p. 23. Regarding the obligation of states parties see: Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, A/CONF.183/9 (17 July 1998), Article 89: States Parties are obliged to execute the Court’s pending orders for the arrest and surrender of a person. 

[3]Dapo Akande, “Cooperation with the ICC: What the Security Council and ASP must do,” Institute for Security Studies, (December 2018): www.issafrica.org: this is a preliminary document. The complete ISS report on how the Security Council can promote state cooperation with the ICC is forthcoming. 

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