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Informal updates from the 12th Assembly of States Parties.
Coalition for the International Criminal Court
Dear Friend,

The 12th session of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) continued today at the World Forum Convention Center in The Hague. 
Please find below a summary of the ASP plenary, discussion on immunity for sitting heads of state and side events, as well as news coverage, documents and websites.

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PLENARY SESSION

The second day of the ASP continued with the General Debate in the morning and later in the evening.

States that took floor included: Italy, Uganda (on behalf of the AU), Nigeria, Poland, Mexico, Romania, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Serbia, Georgia, Namibia, Colombia, Croatia ,Spain, Sweden, Belgium, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Norway, Estonia, Uruguay, Afghanistan, Canada, Cyprus, Trinidad and Tobago, Samoa, the Philippines, 
Côte d’Ivoire, Seychelles, Austria, the United States and Russia.

Later in the evening, civil society addressed the Assembly including: Paulina Vega, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH); Gladwell Otieno, Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice; Juliette Mambu Mughole, Parliamentarians for Global Action; Nada Kiswanson van Hooydonk, Al-Haq; Elizabeth Evenson, Human Rights Watch; Jill Brumier, French Coalition for the ICC; Evelyn Balais-Serrano, Forum-Asia; Stephanie Barbour Amnesty International; and Alpha Sesay, Open Society Justice Initiative.

State speeches will be available online shortly on the ASP website, while NGO statements will be available on the Coalition's ASP12 webpageYou can also check our Twitter feed for informal excerpts from the Assembly sent earlier in the day.

DEBATE ON HEAD OF STATE IMMUNITY

In the afternoon, the Assembly held a special segment at the request of the African Union (AU), entitled the "Indictment of sitting Heads of State and Government and its consequences on peace and stability and reconciliation.” Moderated by Jordanian Ambassador Prince Zeid bin Ra'ad, the panel of speakers included AU Legal Counsel Djenaba Diarra, Professors M. Cherif Bassiouni and Charles Jallow, as well as Kenyan Attorney General Githu Muigai.

Prince Zeid began by outlining the parameters of the debate, which would focus on the impacts of the indictment of heads of state on peace, stability and reconciliation, not the subsequent judicial processes. The Assembly then watched a pre-recorded video statement by Norwegian Ambassador to United Nations (UN) Geir O. Pedersen. Having been present at the signing of the Rome Statute in 1998, he outlined the history and spirit of hope and universal ideals in which its main principles were adopted.

Diarra then welcomed the ASP’s decision to hold the debate and to accommodate the request of the AU. She highlighted Africa’s long-standing support for the ICC and the fight against impunity. However, she underlined the AU’s concerns regarding the failure of the Court to undertake prosecution outside Africa and the impact of international criminal proceedings on regional peace and security.

Jallow and Bassouini discussed the legalities of head of state immunity and international courts.

Muigai conveyed Kenya’s belief that ICC trials impact negatively on its ability to address the consequences of the 2007-08 post-election violence, as well as its role as one of the most important actors in maintaining peace and stability in Africa, citing the prevalence of terrorism and piracy in the region. He argued that immunities for sitting heads of state exist in many domestic jurisdictions and that this should also apply at the international level. He also listed a number of situations around the world where international justice has not been applied.

States then took floor, including: Congo Brazzaville, Namibia, Liechtenstein, 
Côte d’Ivoire, France, Panama, the DRC, Senegal, Argentina, the Philippines, Guatemala, Greece, Kenya, Tanzania, the Netherlands, Peru, Belgium, Romania, Mexico, South Africa, Japan, Norway, Chile, Russia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, New Zealand and Brazil.

NGOs were then invited to make interventions. Human Rights Watch's Richard Dicker discussed the prosecution of Liberia's Charles Taylor, which had been predicted to wreck ongoing peace talks, but in fact marginalized Taylor, allowing for more stability for rule of law. Dicker called on states parties to remember the victims and to not rely on worst case scenarios or reflex reactions when considering peace and justice.


Njonjo Mue of the International Center for Transitional Justice spoke on behalf of Kenyan civil society organizations, and argued that immunity effectively means impunity. He warned that an amendment granting immunity for sitting heads of state would risk making immunity a prize to be won in elections, and said that the AU was attempting to recreate the ICC in the image of the flawed courts that it was created to complement.

Next, George Morrero of the Kenyan Human Rights Commission, a member of FIDH, addressed the Assembly. He said that victims of the post-election violence in Kenya still support the ICC process, and cautioned that provided immunity to heads of state would contravene the very reason the Court was created - to prosecute those that bear the greatest responsibility for the world's gravest crimes. He also warned that providing sitting heads of state with immunity would create an incentive for them to hold onto power, threatening to entrench dictatorship and impunity.

George Kegoro of the International Commission of Jurists-Kenya said that states parties need to be careful, as ill-thought-out amendments to the Rome Statute could compromise the ICC and render it no longer worth having. He also noted that there was no need for an amendment as the Court has already settled the issue of immunity. Kegoro also said that the Kenyan government had campaigned to get rid of the ICC cases and, having failed to accomplish that, was now seeking to change the terms on which the trials take place. 


Louis d'Or of the Club des Amis du Congo also addressed the Assembly on the issue of head of state immunity, saying that immunity would take away victims' hopes that perpetrators of grave crimes may be tried and be a cause of instability in the future.

Fergal Gaynor, legal representative of victims in the Uhuru Kenyatta case, urged the Assembly not to let down victims by recognizing immunity. He stressed that ICC judges have already worked out an excusal arrangement for the Kenyan cases, and noted that no persons at a high or mid-level in Kenya has been prosecuted by Kenyan authorities.

Kenya's director of public prosecutions also spoke during the segment.


For informal excerpts from this discussion, check out our Twitter feed or search for #ASP12.

SIDE EVENTS

In the afternoon, the Coalition held a press conference at World Forum Convention Center, with Brigid Inder, executive director of the Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice; George Kegoro, executive director of the International Commission of Jurists-Kenya; Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch; and Stephanie Barbour, head of office at the Amnesty International Centre for International Justice. The panel was moderated by Niall Matthews, Coalition communications officer.

The panelists touched upon the trials of Kenya’s leaders; proposed amendments to the Rome Statute and the Rules of Procedure and Evidence; the debate over immunity for sitting heads of state; the Independent Oversight Mechanism; the prosecution of sexual and gender-based crimes through the ICC and at the national level; the need for the universal application of international justice; the declining number of victims applying to participate in ICC proceedings; and Canada’s refusal to agree on a budget increase for the Court in 2014.

TOMORROW AT THE ASP

Tomorrow at the ASP, Kenyan NGOs will hold a press conference at 11:30 CET in the Africa Room at the World Forum Convention Center.

In the morning, the Coalition will hold a meeting on cooperation with the ICC for Caribbean and Latin American states. Human Rights Watch, Costa Rica, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Senegal will host a meeting accountability in Syria. Additionally, a side event entitled, "Practice and implications of Regulation 55 of the Court’s regulations", will be co-hosted by the War Crimes Research Office of American University Washington College of Law, the International Bar Association and Serbia.

In the afternoon, Africa Legal Aid will host a meeting on fostering cooperation between the ICC and Africa in the diplomatic sphere. Avocats Sans Frontieres and REDRESS will co-host a side event on victims participation at the ICC, and the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) will hold an event to launch the external evaluation of TFV programs in northern Uganda and the DRC. A side event on the experiences of early ratifiers of the crime of aggression will be hosted by Liechtenstein, and Plan of Action, Cyprus, Japan, Romania and the Secretariat of the ASP will hold an event entitled, "Universality and Full Implementation of the Rome Statute: Progress and Challenges".

In the evening, the Coalition and the City of The Hague are co-hosting a reception. ASP President Tiina Intelmann and Jozias J. van Aarsten, mayor of The Hague, will deliver remarks. 


In the morning session of the plenary, a discussion on victims will be held, while in the afternoon session, the topic will be cooperation. 

RELATED NEWS COVERAGE

Coalition members statements and op-eds

The International Center for Supporting Rights and Freedoms Urges Arab States to Join the International Criminal Court, International Center for Supporting Rights and Freedoms, 20 November

"The International Center for Supporting Rights and Freedoms (ICSRF), a member of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, urges Arab states to join the ICC as an affirmative action towards the realization of international justice and the implementation of progressive steps to improve their human rights records. The organization is participating in the twelfth session of the Assembly of States Parties of the ICC, which takes place in The Hague from 20-28 November 2013. [...]"


The ACIJLP condemns all terrorist practices and demanding the Egyptian authorities to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Professions, 20 November

"[...] The ACIJLP believes that the repetition of the terrorist attacks taking place in Egypt at this time can be described as systematic operations, stooping the country to the ranks of crimes against humanity, which fall within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and within the most serious crimes that concerned the international community as a whole. Thus, the ACIJLP calls upon the Egyptian authorities to ratify and accede to the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court, on the grounds that these crimes fall within the scope of the necessary actions and measures to combat terrorism and crimes against humanity in general."

Coalition members quoted

NGOs oppose AU's Rome Statute Amendments at ICC meeting, Matthews Ndanyi, Nairobi Star, 21 November

"Civil Society groups have opposed proposals by the African Union (AU) to amend the Rome Statute in order to shield sitting heads of state from trial. The NGOs who are members of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court have met at the ongoing Assembly of State Parties (ASP) meeting at the Hague and said the amendments amounted to supporting impunity. The ASP will deliberate on the amendments today. George Kegoro from the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) Kenya said many Kenyans support the ongoing trial of President Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto and that attempts to frustrate justice were unacceptable. Human Rights Watch has also opposed the amendments being pushed by AU"


Lobby Groups oppose Amendments to Rome Statute, Macharia Wamugo, Nairobi Star, 20 November

"[...] Coalition for the ICC says the amendment proposed by Kenya to exempt serving heads of state or their deputies from prosecution contravenes what  the Rome Statute stands for. The coalition further says  state parties should not be distracted by the efforts of certain leaders to portray themselves as victims when the court guarantees fair trial rights."


International Criminal Court summit opens amid strained relations with African Union, Associated Press, 20 November

"[...] 'Giving immunity to sitting leaders would create perverse incentives for them to hold onto power,' said Elizabeth Evenson, senior international justice counsel at Human Rights Watch. [...]"

News and opinion

Kenya warns of ICC threat to Eastern Africa's stability, Thomas Escritt, Reuters, 21 November  
The Battle Over the Future of the ICC Continues in The Hague, Kimberly J. Curtis, Foreign Policy Association,  
21 November 
Lobby urges panel to probe ICC Prosections, Bernard Momanyi, Capital FM News, 
21 November 
Debate on AU Rome Statute amendments starts at ICC Assembly, Mathews Ndanyi, Nairobi Star, 
21 November 
AG Muigai argues Kenya's case at ICC Assembly, Mathews Ndanyi, Nairobi Star, 
21 November 
ICC: Kenya on the spot over trial via video link, Daily Nation, 
21 November 
Ban calls for universal ratification of Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, UN News Centre, 20 November
Kenya Urges Africans To Support ICC Changes, Bernard Momanyi, Capital FM News, 20 November
Kenya: AU Bid to Bar Charging Sitting President 'Will Take Time', Judie Kaberia, Capital FM News, 20 November
Kenya: ICC Investigations Undergoing Metamorphosis – Bensouda, Michael Mumo, Capital FM News, 20 November
Prosecutor wants gag on Kenya's Ruto discussing case at ICC meet, Agence France-Presse, 20 November
ICC Wants More Money For The Prosecutor, Bernard Momanyi, Capital News, 
20 November  
Proposals for RPE 134 — and an Unsuccessful Defence of Trial By Skype, Kevin Jon Heller, Opinio Juris,  20 
November 

RELATED DOCUMENTS AND WEBSITES

Coalition ASP press release
Coalition comments and recommendations to ASP 12
Coalition background paper
Coalition ASP 12 webpage
Official ASP webpage
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