ICC Assembly of States Parties Symposium: Wrap-up

ASP final moments 2017

Final session of ASP16  Credit: CPIJ

Day 9 (14 December) was the final day of the 2017 International Criminal Court Assembly of States Parties (ASP) session. It ended in the very early morning hours of 15 December with the consensus adoption of a resolution activating the crime of aggression in the Rome Statute effective 17 July 2018, the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute. Under the compromise adopted by the ASP, the ICC’s exercise of jurisdiction over the crime of aggression only applies to nationals of ICC Member States that have ratified the amendments:

  1. Confirms that, in accordance with the Rome Statute, the amendments to the Statute regarding the crime of aggression adopted at the Kampala Review Conference enter into force for those States Parties which have accepted the amendments one year after the deposit of their instruments of ratification or acceptance and that in the case of a State referral or propio motu investigation the Court shall not exercise its jurisdiction regarding a crime of aggression when committed by a national or on the territory of a State Party that has not ratified or accepted these amendments

However, ICC judges maintain their independence in ruling on jurisdictional matters (see para 3). As well, referrals from the UN Security Council have no jurisdictional limitations.

The negotiations and country positions on the aggression compromise are discussed in more detail here by Silviana Cocan as part of this Symposium. As well, see the always excellent Dapo Akande over at EJIL Talk!.

The final day also included the adoption of a number of other resolutions on cooperation (see Milena Sterio’s excellent IntLawGrrls post on this topic), victims, legal aid (launching a consultation process for revision) and the 2018 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute.

The 2017 ASP was productive and a watershed year. Six new judges were elected, five of whom are female. Kirsten Meersschaert, Director of Programs at the Coalition for the ICC commended this outcome: “Having balanced gender representation on the ICC bench is not only conducive, but essential to ensuring more representative justice.” As well, a new ASP President was chosen, and two new Vice-Presidents.

The ASP also adopted amendments to the Rome Statute proposed by Belgium, adding to the list of war crimes:

  • Employing weapons, which use microbial or other biological agents, or toxins, whatever their origin or method of production;
  • Employing weapons the primary effect of which is to injure by fragments which in the human body escape detection by X-rays; and
  • Employing laser weapons specifically designed, as their sole combat function or as one of their combat functions, to cause permanent blindness to unenhanced vision, that is to the naked eye or to the eye with corrective eyesight devices.

However, states did not include landmines in the list of prohibited weapons.

The ASP adopted a 2018 ICC budget of €147,431.5 million, representing a small increase of 1.47% over 2017. This gives rise to concerns that the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor is not being provided with sufficient resources to increase its investigation load in line with both need and demand.

In sum, the 16th session of the ASP set the Court forward on a number of matters, but also clearly identified the challenges for 2018.

It has been a pleasure working with a team of people on this IntLawGrrls ICC ASP Symposium. Thanks are extended to IntLawGrrls Milena Sterio, Sara Wharton and Rosemary Grey for their posts. As well, I am grateful for the many blog posts prepared by the members of the Canadian Partnership for International Justice (CPIJ): Silviana Cocan, Sophie Gagné, Geneviève Geneau, Jenny Poon, Isabelle Jacovella Rémillard, Catherine Savard, Nicole Tuczynski and Annika Weikinnis. I wish to thank Erick Sullivan of the CPIJ for his behind-the-scenes coordination.


ICC Assembly of States Parties Symposium: Day 8

Day 8 of the International Criminal Court Assembly of States Parties (ASP) featured a number of important discussions. The morning plenary began with an interactive session on the 20th anniversary of the ICC, including an address by the President of the

President ICC Day 8 Plenary

Photo Credit: CICC

ICC, Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi, who asked the audience to recall the original goals of the ICC and consider how they are still applicable today. In his remarks, William R. Pace, Convenor of the Coalition for the ICC, called upon all supporters of the ICC to recommit to the Court and its mandate. He urged a wide variety of actors – states, NGOs, the ICC, the United Nations, Italy as the host country of the Rome negotiations, academia, etc. – to organize events at the domestic, regional and international levels to seriously take stock of the last two decades, to educate, and look forward to the Court’s next 20 years. The CICC will launch commemorations on 15 February 2018 with a forum and reception in The Hague. A number of states made comments on their hopes for the 20th anniversary, including Estonia on behalf of the European Union, Norway, Philippines, Slovenia, Finland, Andorra, Mexico, New Zealand (calling for more technical assistance to States Parties and those hoping to join), Japan, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Senegal, Peru, Uruguay and Korea.

Other sessions of the day were closed and focused on the Court’s 2018 budget, the overarching ‘omnibus’ resolution, the proposed war crimes amendment, and intense negotiations on the activation of the crime of aggression. Day 9 is the final day of the ASP. We will see adoption of ASP resolutions on cooperation, the 2018 Court budget and the omnibus resolution, as well as recommendations to the ICC’s judges on the qualifications to take into account in electing the ICC’s Registrar in March 2018. We may also see a resolution on amendments to the Rome Statute. Of course, all eyes will be on the outcome of the discussions on activation of the crime of aggression.

On Day 8, I was very pleased to organize and speak at a side-event on “Prosecuting Sexual and Gender-based Violence at the Special Court for Sierra Leone”, which will be the subject of a separate post.

Sophie Gagné joins the IntLawGrrls ICC ASP Symposium today with a blog post in French on judge-elect Kimberly Prost. Sophie graduated in 2016 from an Integrated Bachelor in Public Affairs and International Relations (hon.) at Université Laval. She is currently both a full-time LL.M. and part-time LL.B. candidate at Université Laval. Her LL.M. research project, which she is completingPhoto_Sophie Gagne under the supervision of Prof. Fannie Lafontaine and Julia Grignon, is about qualification of the end of armed conflicts by international criminal judges. She participates in the work of the Canada Research Chair on International Criminal Justice and Human Rights, as well as of the Interdisciplinary Centre on Africa and Middle East. Since 2015, she has been working closely with the Clinique de droit international pénal et humanitaire, as well as with the Canadian Partnership for International Justice since its creation in 2016.

Heartfelt welcome, Sophie, to the IntLawGrrls Symposium!

ICC Assembly of States Parties Symposium: Day 7

The official schedule of Day 7 of the International Criminal Court Assembly of States Parties (ASP) included the presentation of reports by Coordinators and the introduction of draft resolutions – a signal that we are entering the final days of the ASP. As well, States Parties participated in a closed Working Group discussion on the budget, as well as a (lengthy) closed evening discussion on the activation of the crime of aggression.

While not formally part of the ASP, much attention was focused on the Prosecutor’s 26th report to the United Nations Security Council on the situation in Darfur, Sudan. TheProsecutor UNSC Security Council referred the Darfur situation to the ICC in 2005, through Resolution 1593, but has done little to assist the ICC since that time, while still requiring her to report twice yearly on the Court’s progress in the related cases and investigations. The Prosecutor’s frustration was evident. She expressed deep concern regarding States Parties’ inaction on arresting Sudan’s indicted President, and the Security Council’s inaction both on funding the ICC’s Darfur investigation and in dealing with states failing to cooperate with the Court.

The Prosecutor highlighted the argument made by some states that the law is unclear about their obligation to arrest and surrender a sitting Head of State. She rejected these arguments: “For those who may have entertained doubts about the legal obligations of States Parties and the Republic of the Sudan to arrest and surrender Mr. Al Bashir, all such doubts have since been dispelled following the decision of Pre- Trial Chamber II of the 6th of July, earlier this year … The Chamber found that South Africa failed to comply with the Court’s request to arrest and surrender Mr. Al Bashir, contrary to the Rome Statute, and that this failure prevented the Court from exercising its functions and powers under the Statute … there can be no justification for States Parties to fail to arrest a suspect against whom an ICC warrant of arrest has been issued, irrespective of that person’s official status.”

She concluded by saying that it is her Office’s hope “that this Council will do its part to enforce decisions by the Court in relation to situations which the Council itself has referred to the Court.  This specific inter-institutional role is clearly envisaged by the Rome Statute and codified, as negotiated during the Rome Conference, which also saw the participation of permanent members of the Council.”

Tomorrow, the ASP will begin with a plenary meeting to plan for the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute. Closed meetings on the budget and on the activation of the crime of aggression will continue. Informal consultations on the ‘omnibus’ resolution will resume, for adoption on the last day of the ASP.

I am pleased that Isabelle Jacovella Rémillard joins us today to contribute a post on side-events at the ICC ASP focused on sexual and gender-based violence.

Isabelle is a Project Coordinator at theIJR-Portrait-Copy Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ). She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Conflict Studies and Human Rights at the University of Ottawa and her double degree in civil law and common law at McGill University. She also holds a professional certificate in Disaster and Humanitarian Response from the McGill Humanitarian Studies Initiative.

Prior to working at CCIJ, she was involved in immigration and refugee law work, both as the Coordinator of the Oppenheimer Chair in Public International Law, where she worked alongside the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, and at Solidarity Across Borders, where she provided assistance to asylum seekers.

As the Project Coordinator of the Community Engagement in International Justice project, Isabelle coordinates the implementation of the project, which includes new multimedia that showcases CCIJ’s clients and their access to justice efforts. She is also responsible for coordinating CCIJ’s digital outreach and organising legal education workshops with affected communities as part of this project.

 Heartfelt welcome, Isabelle, to the IntLawGrrls ICC ASP Symposium!

ICC Assembly of States Parties Symposium: Day 6

Day 6 of the International Criminal Court Assembly of States Parties (ASP) focused on various aspects of state cooperation.ICC

The main event of the day was a plenary meeting on cooperation. The first part of the plenary focused on the tracking, freezing and recovery of financial assets, a topic the ASP has identified as a priority focus. This topic was not new to the ASP: in October, France and Senegal (as facilitators of the Working Group on cooperation between the International Criminal Court and States Parties) co-sponsored a meeting in Paris on asset recovery. That meeting resulted in a set of non-binding recommendations and actions for both States Parties and the ICC on asset recovery, which are now under consideration at the ASP. The plenary itself considered ways in which state capacity can be increased in the conduct of asset investigations.

The second part of the plenary was forward-looking, focused on the future of state cooperation with the ICC. It was during this session that nongovernmental organizations presented a joint statement. This statement was delivered by Stella Ndirangu of Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice on behalf of 11 organizations, and included this plea: “When states do not cooperate with the Court, victims are denied justice. Women, men and children who look to the Court for justice are denied that opportunity. We regret, therefore, the Assembly’s limited attention to addressing non-cooperation.”

Day 6 contained a very full schedule of side-events. Geneviève Geneau contributes a blog post today on one of those side-events, on the topic of the ICC’s investigations in Mali.

Geneviève is a PhD student in international criminal law at the University of Ottawa (Canada), under the supervision of Professor Muriel Paradelle. Her research subject Photo_Geneviève Geneauconcerns critical analysis of the concept of gender justice with regard to sexual violence committed in furtherance of the crime of genocide. Her research interests are primarily sexual and gender-based violence in international criminal law and feminist legal theories. As part of her doctoral studies, she has held a position of lecturer in legal drafting at the Faculty of Law, Civil Law Section, University of Ottawa. She is also involved as a research professional with the Research Chair in law on food security and diversity at Laval University (Canada). She has been a lawyer and a member of the Quebec Bar since 2013.

 Heartfelt welcome, Geneviève, to the IntLawGrrls ICC ASP Symposium!

ICC Assembly of States Parties Symposium: Day 5

The General Debate concluded today – Day 5 of the International Criminal Court Assembly of States Parties (ASP) in New York. The last of the Member States made statements, including Nigeria and Tunisia. Nigeria urged dissatisfied states not to withdraw and, rather, to recall the reasons underlying their states’ original support for the Court.

Observer states Ukraine, China, Iran and the United States also made statements. The United States rejected any ICC exercise of jurisdiction over US personnel absent the government’s consent or a UN Security Council referral, including in any potential investigation into US troop conduct in Afghanistan. China implicitly critiqued the Court, for example in statements such as “It is necessary for the Court to strike a balance between its two core values, namely, peace and justice. Justice should not be pursued at the expense of peace and reconciliation” in conflict zones.

The General Debate ended with statements by civil society groups. The Convenor of the

HRW at Genral Debate

HRW Speech at General Debate

Coalition for an ICC, Bill Pace, urged states to be proactive rather than reactive. Among the many NGOs to speak was Human Rights Watch, which pointed out that “in this Assembly, there has been too little attention to addressing non- cooperation and we urge strengthened efforts in this area next year.” Human Rights Watch also expressed concern about the budget discussions: “Human Rights Watch is deeply concerned that the current budgeting process for the ICC will continue to result in inadequate funding for the effective implementation of the Court’s mandate.”

Day 5 also included consideration of the ICC’s 2018 programme budget request. Registrar Herman von Hebel presented the 2018 request (147.9 million Euro, up 4.4% from 2017) based on the needs of the various ICC organs, and the Chair of the ASP’s Committee on Budget and Finance presented the CBF’s recommendations on the budget request (2% growth over 2017). States also participated in informal consultations on the ASP’s omnibus resolution, titled Strengthening the ICC and the ASP.

Annika Weikinnis contributes a blog post today on side-events concerning the Prosecutor’s preliminary examinations and the aftermath of the Burundi withdrawal. Annika  is currently enrolled in the Graduate Studies in Law program at the University of Ottawa (Canada) and conducts research in the field of international criminal law, inAnnika particular the involvement of transnational corporations in international crimes. She holds a Master’s degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Aberdeen and a Master’s degree in Law and Politics of International Security from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Attending the ASP16 is an invaluable experience for her, academically and professionally, and she hopes to gain further insights in the organisation, processes and issues concerning the ICC. Heartfelt welcome, Annika, to the IntLawGrrls ICC ASP Symposium!


ICC Assembly of States Parties Symposium: Day 4

The General Debate continued on Day 4 of the ICC Assembly of States Parties (ASP). Many countries made statements, including France and Switzerland. France condemned the mistreatment of migrants in Libya as conduct that could amount to crimes against humanity. Switzerland responded: “We find it inconsistent to ask the Court to investigate crimes against migrants in one room of this building [i.e. the UN Security Council], only to propose cuts to the budget of that very same Court in another room [i.e. at the ASP]”.

Other speakers today included Canada, which, like many states, expressed disappointment with Burundi’s withdrawal from the ICC, and Botswana, which called on the permanent members of the Security Council to refrain from the use of the veto in the referral of atrocity situations to the ICC.

The General Debate was followed by a closed door meeting on the activation of the crime of aggression.

Among the many side-events taking place on Day 4 was the global launch of the Gender Justice Legacy Wall, a project designed by the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice to celebrate 15 years since the establishment of the ICC and the approach of the 20thGender Justice Wall anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute. The Legacy Wall honours and celebrates groups and individuals who have contributed to the field of international gender justice as practitioners, advocates, judges, prosecutors, grassroots and other organisations, survivors, witnesses (by number for anonymity), academics, diplomats and others. The Legacy Wall is intended to be a living legacy with more names to be added at future significant anniversaries of the Rome Statute, as the gender justice field continues to evolve, as others are recognised and as future generations join and contribute to this endeavour. The launch was co-sponsored by the Women’s Initiatives, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the UK.

Silviana Cocan joins the IntLawGrrls ICC Assembly of States Parties Symposium with a post on another side-event which took place on Day 4 – in this case, on a new proposed treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance concerning genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Silviana is a Ph.D student in international law at Laval University (Canada) under joint Silviana Cocan - photosupervision at Bordeaux University (France). She is currently writing a thesis on the dialogue between jurisdictions and quasi-jurisdictions protecting human rights. More specifically, she is studying judicial dialogue in direct relation with the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment. Her research fields are public international law, human rights law, international humanitarian law and international criminal law. Silviana is also participating as a student at Laval’s University’s International Criminal and Humanitarian Law Clinic.

Heartfelt welcome to the IntLawGrrls ICC ASP Symposium, Silviana!

ICC Assembly of States Parties Symposium: Day 3

Day 3 of the International Criminal Court Assembly of States Parties (ASP) was a day of transition from the judicial elections, which dominated the previous two days, into the General Debate.


ICC ASP16, photo credit: ICC

The day began with the election of Mr. Rosario Salvatore Aitala (Italy) as the sixth and final ICC judge elected at this ASP session. As well, an election was held to fill the four seats allocated to the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States (GRULAC) on the ASP Bureau. Bureau members are usually elected by acclamation after consensus is reached within the regional groups, but GRULAC could not reach consensus. Thus, voting took place today, electing Argentina, Ecuador, Mexico, and Colombia to 3 year terms on the Bureau.

The General Debate also began today, during which states presented their positions on various ICC-related issues. Of note was South Africa’s statement affirming its intention to withdraw from the ICC and announcing that it would repeal its Rome Statute implementing legislation. This statement stood in contrast to Gambia’s indication that it planned to stay within the ICC due to the current government’s staunch support for international justice.

There were many side-events held today at the ASP, including one on the ICC Prosecutor’s work on the Libya situation. This side event is described in detail in an IntLawGrrls post today by Nicole Tuczynski. Nicole is an LL.M (Common Law) candidate at the University of Ottawa in Canada. Additionally, she also enjoys working in the field of politics on Parliament Hill in Ottawa,Nicole a position she has held for the past two years and in which she continues to stay active. Her research interests predominately revolve around the intersection of law and politics, International Criminal Law and Canadian Health Law and Policy. Her specific research focus is currently on the ICC and one of the specific aims of the institution – to put an end to impunity for perpetrators who have committed genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Given this, she is intrigued by the rules outlined in Rome Statute, and, further, how those rules get defined and/or determined in practice. Nicole also holds a M.A. in Political Science, including a designation from the Collaborative Graduate Program in Transitional Justice and Post-Conflict Reconstruction, and a B.A. Honours Specialization Degree in Political Science, all from Western University. Her previous Master’s Major Research Paper also focused on international justice by way of studying the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and assessing its mandate.

Heartfelt welcome, Nicole, to IntLawGrrls’ ICC Assembly of States Parties symposium!


ICC Assembly of States Parties Symposium: Day 2

Voting filled the second day of the 16th International Criminal Court (ICC) Assembly of States Parties in New York. The voting procedures for the ICC are intentionally complex – see the explanation by Stefan Barriga over at EJILTalk! – and are designed to result in a Court with a fair representation of female and male judges, as well as a collection of judges with the depth of experience necessary to try serious international crimes.

On the first day of the Assembly, two judges were elected during two rounds of voting: Ms. Tomoko Akane (Japan) and Ms. Luz del Carmen Ibañez del Carmen (Peru). Today saw three more judges elected, from Benin, Uganda and Canada.

Before the third round of voting began, Mr. Dragomir Vukoje (Bosnia) withdrew his candidacy. While no candidates emerged with the required 2/3 majority of states present and voting in the third round of voting, the fourth round resulted in the election of Ms. Reine Alapini-Gansou (Benin) and Ms. Solomy Balungi Bossa (Uganda).

The fifth round was inconclusive. At the end of that round, the candidates from Lesotho and Uruguay withdrew. Canadian candidate Ms. Kimberly Post successful garnered the required 2/3 majority in the sixth round and was elected.


Kimberly Prost Photo Credit: Thomas Fricke

The candidate from Croatia withdrew prior to the seventh round, which then involved only the candidate from Italy, Mr. Rosario Salvatore Aitala, and the candidate from Ghana, Ms. Henrietta Joy Abena Nyarko Mensa-Bonsu. That round was inconclusive. The eighth, and likely final, round of voting will take place tomorrow morning.

After the elections, ICC member states participated in an informal consultation on the activation of the Court’s jurisdiction over the crime of aggression.

With this post, I am pleased to welcome Catherine Savard, who is attending the Assembly. She is contributing a post today on the role of the nongovernmental Coalition for an ICC within the Assembly.Catherine

Catherine is currently completing her Bachelor in Law at Laval University (Canada). She is the assistant coordinator of the Canadian Partnership for International Justice and is a member of the Partnership delegation for the 16th Assembly of the ICC. Her research interests are international criminal and humanitarian law and human rights. She recently completed a year of schooling at Åbo Akademi University’s Institute for Human Rights in Finland. At Laval University, she is involved in the International Criminal and Humanitarian Law Clinic and has undertaken research concerning the crime of aggression and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

Heartfelt welcome to Catherine!

ICC Assembly of States Parties Symposium 2017

I am pleased to introduce a new IntLawGrrls symposium on the International Criminal Court (ICC) Assembly of States Parties. The 16th session of the Assembly runs from December 4 to 14 in New York.

ICC ASP 16 Opening CPIJ

Photo Credit: CPIJ

It will be a very interesting and active Assembly this year. The Assembly will discuss activation of the Court’s exercise of jurisdiction over the crime of aggression, including negotiation on jurisdictional questions. Six new judges will be elected. The Assembly will make its recommendation on the election of the Registrar, as the term of the current Registrar expires in April 2018. Discussions will occur around the fact that 2018 marks the ICC’s 20th anniversary. The IntLawGrrls symposium will discuss these – and many other – issues over the next ten days.

For an excellent overview of the issues being considered by the Assembly, please see the Backgrounder prepared by the Coalition for an ICC.

The first post in the symposium is by Jenny Poon.


Photo Credit: University of Western Ontario

Jenny is a Ph.D. Candidate at the Faculty of Law of the University of Western Ontario (Canada) and a qualified Barrister & Solicitor in Ontario. Jenny’s research focuses on examining the principle of non-refoulement as a norm in international and European law. Her thesis includes a comparative analysis of the United Kingdom and Germany.

A heartfelt welcome to Jenny to this IntLawGrrls symposium!

Thanks are extended to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for funding Jenny’s attendance at the Assembly through the Canadian Partnership for International Justice.