ICC Assembly of States Parties 2018: Final Day

 

ASP

[photo credit: @NLatICC via Twitter]

The final day of the ICC Assembly of States Parties was marked by highs and lows.

In positive news, Assembly attendees learned that Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona had been arrested by French authorities pursuant to an arrest warrant issued by Pre-Trial Chamber II on December 7. The warrant alleges that Ngaïssona bears criminal responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the western part of the Central African Republic (CAR) between at least December 5, 2013 and at least December 2014. The Chamber was satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that an internal armed conflict was ongoing in the CAR between the Seleka – a coalition of armed groups predominantly composed of Muslim fighters – and the Anti-Balaka – a predominantly Christian countermovement to the Seleka. The Chamber also found that there are reasonable grounds to believe that, from at least September 2013 until at least December 2014, a widespread and systematic attack was carried out by the Anti-Balaka against the Muslim civilian population and anyone perceived to support the Seleka. Ngaïssona was the most senior leader and the National General Coordinator of the Anti-Balaka.

In less positive news, the Assembly approved the 2019 budget of the ICC at €148,135,100. This represents a very small increase over 2018 of .49%. The Committee on Budget and Finance (CBF) had recommended a .6% increase, and therefore the approved budget is lower than the CBF recommendation by €150,000. For those inside and outside of the Court who felt that the CBF recommendation should represent a floor, this further cut was worrisome. The Court had requested a 2.4% increase. In real terms, this .49% increase does not keep pace with inflation, is a de facto budget decrease, and severely limits the number of preliminary examinations, situations and cases the Prosecutor can pursue on an annual basis. Ten states – Argentina, Belgium, Costa Rica, Finland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland – issued a strong statement of disappointment with the annual Assembly budgetary process as continually leading to the underfunding of key ICC roles.

States Parties also adopted the Omnibus resolution, which states:

“The Assembly of States Parties reconfirms its unwavering support for the Court as an independent and impartial judicial institution, reiterates its commitment to uphold and defend the principles and values enshrined in the Rome Statute and to preserve its integrity undeterred by any threats against the Court, its officials and those cooperating with it, and renews its resolve to stand united against impunity.”

States Parties additionally adopted the Report of the Credentials Committee and the Report on the 17th session of the Assembly. The dates of the 2019 ASP have not yet been decided, but the date and venue should be announced by January 31, 2019.

Today, Catherine Savard returns to blogging for the IntLawGrrls symposium, having also participated in 2017. Her three-part blog post focuses on the ICC Prosecutor’s preliminary examinations.

Catherine is Assistant Coordinator with the Canadian Partnership for International Justice and member of the Canada Research Chair on International Criminal Justice and Human Rights. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in international law at Université Laval (Canada) under the supervision of Prof. Fannie Lafontaine. Her research interests are international criminal, humanitarian and humanCatherine rights law. She recently represented her university at the Jean-Pictet international humanitarian law competition and will represent it again in 2019 the context of the Charles-Rousseau public international law competition. She has also been very involved with the Université Laval’s International Criminal and Humanitarian Law Clinic, for which she has completed nearly 10 research mandates. Her research focusses on modes of liability in international criminal law, sexual and gender-based violence and cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples in Canada.

A heartfelt welcome back, Catherine!

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ICC Assembly of States Parties 2018: Day Six

FIDH

[photo credit: FIDH. This image graces the cover of FIDH’s recently-released report, Victims at the Center of Justice: Reflections on the Promises and the Reality of Victim Participation at the ICC (1998-2018)]

Day Six of the ICC Assembly of States Parties began with a two hour plenary discussion titled “Achievements and challenges regarding victims’ participation and legal representation after 20 years of the adoption of the Rome Statute” organized by Argentina and the United Kingdom as co-facilitators. States Parties, Court officials and civil society representatives were invited to share their views on questions such as: at what stages may victims participate, which victims may participate, what does participation mean in practice, and how does legal representation work? Themes emerging from this discussion included the ethical and legal obligations owed to victims, ensuring that victims do not feel used by the ICC, calls for the re-establishment of a focal point for victims, and the streamlining of the ICC’s victim participation process. A number of side events on victim-related issues were also held today, summarized here by the Coalition for the ICC.

Following the plenary discussion, States Parties adopted three resolutions. One resolution addressed the amendment of Rule 26 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence – which addresses the receipt of misconduct complaints against ICC judges, the Prosecutor, Deputy Prosecutor, Registrar or Deputy Registrar – to make the Rule fit better with the mandate of the Independent Oversight Mechanism. The other resolutions focused on cooperation and remuneration of the judges. States Parties also discussed the budget, and introduced a draft resolution on the budget in the afternoon. States Parties additionally considered a draft of the omnibus resolution in the afternoon.

I extend a heartfelt welcome to Marie Prigent, who joins the IntLawGrrls symposium with a post on the Assembly, which she is attending with the Canadian Partnership for International Justice.

Marie holds a Master’s degree of International and Comparative Law from Toulouse 1 Capitole University in France. She studied international law abroad, at the Complutense University of Madrid and Université Laval in Quebec. She then joined Université Laval’sPHOTO CV International Criminal and Humanitarian Law Clinic in January 2018 and continues her work as a research intern. Her researches focused on transitional justice, amnesty laws, victims’ participation and rights of human rights defenders. Her fields of interest include criminal, humanitarian and human rights law. She will prepare for the Quebec bar exam from January 2019.

 

ICC Assembly of States Parties 2018: Day Five

UNDR

Photo credit: United Nations Archives. A group of visitors from Japan look at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights during a visit to the UN’s temporary headquarters at Lake Success in February 1950.

Today – December 10, the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the 2018 ICC Assembly of States Parties resumed after a one day break. The main focus of the day was on the ICC’s budget. The ICC’s Registrar, Peter Lewis, and the Chair of the Committee on Budget and Finance (CBF), Hitoshi Kozaki (Japan), both presented. The Assembly then considered the audit reports.

The organs of the ICC have jointly presented a budget request for just over 151 million Euros, while the CBF recommended a budget of 144.87 million Euros. A number of NGOs, including the Coalition for an ICC, have urged states to consider the CBF recommendations as the bare minimum  budget for the 2019 budget discussions, as opposed to the starting point from which to cut.

An important side-event took place today titled “Call it what it is: Campaign to define sexual violence”. It was organized by the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice (WIGJ) and co-hosted by Argentina, Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and WIGJ. Melisa Handl is contributing two blog posts today to this IntLawGrrls symposium on this topic. Melissa is attending the ICC Assembly of States Parties with the Canadian Partnership for International Justice (CPIJ).

Melisa is a lawyer from Argentina and a Ph.D. student in the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa (Canada). Her research interests include international law, gender, development, qualitative research, and international human rights. Melisa holds a Master of Arts in International Affairs with specialization in “International Institutions and Global Governance” from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (Canada). Melisa also holds a Master of Laws from the University of Ottawa with aDSC_0316 specialization in Human Rights and Social Justice. She is currently investigating whether conditional cash transfers are contributing to greater gender equality in the context of Argentina, and intends to connect a top-down approach to international human rights with the experiences of actual beneficiary women on the ground. She is part of a Canada-Mexico project which involves training Mexican judges on issues related to international human rights and is in charge of the “Violence Against Women and Gender” workshop. She is working with Professor and CPIJ Co-Researcher Penelope Simons on corporate accountability, gender, and the extractive industry and specifically, writing about gendering the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights from a socio-legal feminist methodology.

A heartfelt welcome to Melisa to this IntLawGrrls symposium!

Carrots, Sticks, and the ICC: Prospects for Cooperation? Part 2

The contributions discussed in part one may be used to frame an analysis of the Court’s recent request to Belarus to cooperate in the arrest and surrender of al-Bashir. The ICC has issued two arrest warrants for al-Bashir, one in 2009 and one in 2010, for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Since the arrest warrants were issued, al-Bashir typically travels to non-states parties, who are under no obligation to arrest him. Indeed, Belarus has neither signed nor ratified the Rome Statute. However, he has also visited states partieswho do have an obligation to arrest, including (but not limited to) Chad, Kenya, Djibouti, Malawi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jordan, Uganda, and South Africa. Despite the Court’s request to these states parties for cooperationin the arrest of al-Bashir, national governments such as those of Chad, Jordan, and South Africa have refused to comply, using the justification that al-Bashir’s status as head of state provides him with immunity from arrest. This opinion is also promoted by the African Union, which has asked for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the issue of immunities of heads of state and government within the Rome Statute system.  

The relations between Belarus and Sudan are strengthening in several key areas. Al-Bashir and Belarus’ President, Alexander Lukashenko, signed agreements on ‘friendly relations and cooperation’in 2017 emphasizing dynamic trade and joint projects in the industrial and agricultural sectors. Al-Bashir’s speculated travel to Belarus is for the purpose of finalizing trade deals and enhancing bilateral relations. However, the link between the two countries is long(er)standing. Belarus is a Sudanese armament provider. In 2006, a military cooperation protocolwas signed by the two countries covering training, exchange of experiences, and military science. Belarus has a reputation as an arms exporter to rogue states. Since Belarus is under no legal obligation to cooperate with the ICC, the arrest and surrender of al-Bashir highly unlikely. The high probability that Belarus will ignore the Prosecutor’s request contributes to a culture of impunity and staunch criticism of the Court.  

Inasmuch as states pursue political and economic (self) interests, the UNSC expressed a need for accountability for the atrocious crimes committed in Darfur under the leadership of President Omar al-Bashir at the ICC. The majority of states agree that the gravity of the crimes covered by the Rome Statute are so abhorrent that they are an offence to humankind and should not go unpunished. It is necessary to question the elusiveness of state cooperation in the situation concerning al-Bashir and consider what can be done to facilitate a different, more just outcome. Relying on Belarus is insufficient without the political backing of the UNSC to oblige all member states to enforce their referral and facilitate cooperation by all states to this end.   

Political strategizing for the majority of states requires a balance of hard and soft power; this includes the promotion of international criminal justice and the use of international institutions, which creates a sense of solidarity among Member States. Expectations of behaviour establish trust. The rules-based order in the Rome Statute system contributes to a shared commitment to these goals. The referral of the situation in Sudan to the ICC by the UNSC signals that the perpetration of atrocious crimes is unacceptable, even for states who have neither signed nor ratified the Rome Statute. Appeals to sovereign power, interests, or status as a head of state are irrelevant. This could be a significant moment for the international criminal justice project, but the transfer of political power (UNSC) to legal action (ICC) has been weak and haphazard. The lack of organizational support and state cooperation to see justice done devalues international criminal law and subjects the ICC to a serious legitimacy crisis.  

The lack of credible commitment on the part of the UNSC to enforce this referral, or to provide the necessary political support has undermined (and continues to undermine) the ICC’s ability to see justice done. The UNSC has failed to take measures against states who choose not to execute the arrest warrant, which ought to be an obligation that emanates from the referral itself. The need for the UNSC to take a bigger role in the enforcement of its own resolutions remains an important focal point in the discussion on cooperation more broadly.  

The obsequious attention paid to al-Bashir and his disregard for the indictment by the ICC has led to increasing frustration on the part of those who oppose impunity and demand justice and accountability for the victims in Sudan. The role of civil society is particularly important in this regard. Depending on states such as Belarus to cooperate with the execution of an arrest warrant in the absence of political or legal obligations is fundamentally flawed. How persuasive is a sharp carrot when the states involved have the stick? 

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.

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. 

ICC Assembly of States Parties 2018: Day Four

Yesterday, the fourth day of the ICC’s Assembly of States Parties, was focused on consulations on the annual ‘omnibus’ resolution, which is titled “Strengthening the International Criminal Court and the Assembly of States Parties”. This resolution is usually quite lengthy, as the 2017 resolution shows – and covers a wide range of issues. It addresses the goal of universal ratification of the Rome Statute, and invites states not yet parties to the Rome Statute to ratify. It also reiterates the obligations of States Parties under the Agreement on the Privileges and Immunities of the ICC. It calls upon States Parties to cooperate – legally, politically and diplomatically – with the Court, including on arresting individuals for whom a warrant of arrest has been issued. Other issues it tends to cover are: the relationship of the ICC with the United Nations and other international organizations, the relationship with the Netherlands as host state, the activities of the Court (such as the Prosecutor’s implementation of her office’s Policy Paper on Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes), upcoming elections, working methods, issues related to victims, staff recruitment, complementarity, the Independent Oversight Mechanism, the budget, amendments and participation in the Assembly. Negotiations on this resolution will continue on Monday, December 10th.

A number of side-events also took place on the fourth day of the Assembly, including sessions on the prosecution of war crimes in Iraqi Kurdistan, the situation in Georgia, the role of Latin America and the Caribbean in the adoption of the Rome Statute, transitional justice in Mexico, and the link between the ICC and environmental law.

With this post, I introduce Sarah Nimigan, who is blogging for IntLawGrrls today. She is currently at the Assembly as a delegate of the Canadian Partership for International Justice. Sarah is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Western Ontario (Canada) with specialization in Transitional Justice and Post-Conflict Reconstruction. Her dissertation addresses the problems facing the International Criminal Court through the African experience. More specifically, her research traces theSarah Nimigan active role taken by various African delegations in negotiating the Rome Statute from 1993-1998 to better explain and situate the criticisms levied against the ICC today. She holds an LL.M. in International Human Rights Law from the University of Exeter (United Kingdom) and a Master of Arts in Political Science with specialization in Migration and Ethnic Relations. Both her LL.M. and M.A. degrees focused on sexual and gender-based crimes within the contexts of international criminal law and transitional justice.

Heartfelt welcome to Sarah!

Syria and Domestic Prosecutions: Upholding hope, one case at a time (Part 2 of 2)

National Prosecutions based on Universal Jurisdiction: the cases of Germany, Sweden, and “France”

Last June, Germany’s chief prosecutor issued an international arrest warrant for Jamil Hassan, head of Syria’s powerful Air Force Intelligence Directorate, and one of Syria’s most senior military officials. This move comes as a 2017 Human Rights Watch report mentioned [p.36] that, so far, very few members of the Assad government had been the subject of judicial proceedings in Europe based on universal jurisdiction.

At the time these charges (based on command responsibility) were filed with Germany’s Federal Court of Justice, Patrick Kroker (European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, hereinafter “ECCHR”) commented that this moment was“historical”, adding: “That this arrest warrant has been signed off by the highest criminal court in Germany shows that they deem the evidence presented to the prosecutor is strong enough to merit urgent suspicion of his involvement.”

N.N., a Syrian activist present at the side-event held today mentioned in Part 1 of my post, underlined several times the importance of these arrest warrants. Until their issuance, he said, many Syrians never would have thought that high-level representatives of the Syrian regime would have charges laid against them. For many this is a great sign of hope, a demonstration that we are “not only listening to stories but also doing something about it.” He mentioned this point in part as an answer to a participant at the event who wondered what it could mean to the people still in Syria to see prosecutions happening in Europe, but not in Syria or before the ICC.

Mr. Patrick Kroker, Legal Advisor& Project Lead for Syria at the ECCHR (Berlin) explained the work done by his organization to initiate prosecutions in Germany linked to the Syrian conflict. With regard to Germany, the progress over the past few years has been spectacular: 11 cases have been brought to trial. As well, three were brought to trial in Sweden, one in Switzerland, and another in Austria (for an excellent overview of proceedings linked to Syria, see the Amnesty International page “Justice for Syria” here).

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