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 and side events, as well as news coverage, documents and websites.
*Correction: In yesterday's summary, we erroneously stated that a pre-recorded statement by Norwegian Ambassador to United Nations (UN) Geir O. Pedersen was played during the plenary discussion on indictments of sitting heads of state. In fact, the statement was from Rolf Einar Fife, director general of the Legal Affairs Department of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We regret the error.
The third day of the ASP began with a plenary discussion on victims and affected communities, the first of its kind.
The session featured a panel entitled, “Beyond Kampala: reaffirming the value of the victims’ mandate of the Rome Statute System”, which was by Parliamentarians for Global Action's David Donat Cattin. Panelists included Fiona McKay, chief of the ICC Victims Participation and Reparations Section (VPRS); Motoo Noguchi, chair of the Board of Directors of the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV); Fidel Luvengika Nsita, Congolese victims' legal representative in the Katanga case; Francois Roux, head of Defense Office of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon; and Mariana Goetz, deputy director and director of programs for Redress.
McKay discussed the ambitious role for victims set forth in the Rome Statute, as well as whether any changes to victims participation need to be made. She noted that victims, especially victims of sexual and gender-based violence, should not be forced to collectively participate in proceedings. Noguchi touched upon the impact of the TFV's reparative work, and discussed the challenges that lay ahead in executing the TFV's mandate, with a particular focus on outreach and communications. Nsita discussed the experience of representing victims in the Katanga case, mentioning how victims in that case were split into two groups to avoid a potential conflict of interest, and described the very active role played by victims in the case. He also discussed challenges, such as building trust among victims, and highlighted the importance of being able to communicate with victims. Goetz discussed civil society's role in ensuring that victims' participation is meaningful. She noted the symbolic value of having a day in court, and called for the ICC to institute policies that take victims' needs into account. Goetz also noted the need for improved outreach, guidelines for intermediaries and the implementation of protection provisions. Finally, Roux advocated for the Court to improve its procedures for victims participation, emphasizing the need for balance between different legal traditions.
Following the panel, statements were made by states, including: France, Germany, Mexico, Liechtenstein, Colombia, Japan, Finland, Estonia, Peru, Belgium, Namibia, Lithuania (on behalf of the European Union), the United Kingdom, Australia, Chile, Costa Rica, Kenya and Nigeria.
Next, Fergal Gaynor, legal representative of victims in the Uhuru Kenyatta case, attested to the value of victims' participation, calling it empowering. He said that the TFV needs more funds so that it can begin operations in Kenya, and called the distinction between victims of a situation and of a particular case discriminatory, recommending that it be done away with.
Representatives from the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) also made statements. FIDH called for victims to be put at the center of Court proceedings and for the procedural rights to be guaranteed. NPWJ encouraged the ICC to share its expertise on victims participation with states so that they can implement domestic legislation and emphasized the importance of outreach and the need for it to be properly funded.
In the afternoon, a discussion on cooperation was held, with an emphasis on “The protection of witnesses: strengthening States’ support to the Court.” Sidiki Kaba, justice minister of Senegal, gave a keynote address, followed by a panel consisting of focus topic from their respective perspectives, namely: Herman von Hebel, ICC registrar; Fidelma Donlon, deputy registrar of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL); and Lorraine Smith van Lin, director of the ICC Program at the International Bar Association.
Von Hebel discussed the enormous burden that witness protection entails, with the ICC having to provide protection for over 750 witnesses and their families, highlighting the need for more states to sign relocation agreements or provide funding for relocations. He appealed to states to consider more contributions to the Court's special relocation fund. Next, Donlon described her experiences with the SCSL, including the creation of a residual court that is mandated to provide support to SCSL witnesses who faced bribery and intimidation as the Special Court was closing its work. Smith van Lin highlighted the centrality of victims and witnesses to the work of the ICC, but that reliance on witnesses can be precarious due to manipulation. She noted the need to strengthen the Victims and Witnesses Unit and increase relocation agreements with states, as well as the need for more consistent state cooperation and taking a flexible approach to different situations.
After the panel, statements were made by states, including: Lithuania (on behalf of the European Union), Mexico, Liechtenstein, France, Japan and the Netherlands.
Later in the day, a closed informal consultation of cooperation was also held.
State speeches from both the discussions on victims and on cooperation will be available online shortly on the ASP website
, while NGO statements will be available on the Coalition's ASP12 webpage. You can also check our Twitter feed for informal excerpts from the Assembly sent earlier in the day.
The third day of the ASP got off to an early start, with a number of morning side events. The Coalition held a meeting on cooperation with the ICC for Caribbean and Latin American states. Speakers included Norwegian Ambassador Anniken Krutnes, facilitator of the Hague Working Group on Cooperation; Brigitte Suhr, Coalition director of regional programs; Sunil Pal, head of the Coalition legal section; Antonia Pereira de Sousa, associate cooperation officer with the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP); Alexander Kordakov, ICC Registry; and Luis Toro, senior counsel at the Organization of American States (OAS) Department of International Law. Among the states with representatives in attendance were Costa Rica, Guatemala, Chile, Mexico, Argentina and Honduras.
Topics discussed during the meeting included the need for relocation and interim release agreements between the ICC and states; OTP work on cooperation with the UN Security Council and Latin American and Caribbean states; and OAS efforts to promote cooperation with the Court and universality in the region. Civil society in attendance welcomed the strong statements on the integrity of the Rome Statute made by Latin American and Caribbean states during the previous day's discussion of immunity for sitting heads of state.
Human Rights Watch, Costa Rica, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Senegal hosted a meeting on accountability in Syria. The meeting featured a round table discussion moderated by Human Rights Watch's Richard Dicker. Participants included representatives from the United States, Liechtenstein, Finland, Denmark and the European Genocide Network. A legal advisor from Germany participated in his personal capacity. The discussion centered around ways of moving forward to bring accountability for crimes allegedly committed in Syria, including the potential role of the ICC, how to empower fair and impartial proceedings in national courts and possible non-judicial accountability mechanisms.
Avocats Sans Frontieres (ASF) and REDRESS co-hosted a side event on "Effective and meaningful participation of victims before the ICC." ASP President Tiina Intelmann delivered opening and closing remarks. Redress Deputy Director Mariana Goetz moderated a panel that included: Mariana Pena, ASF consultant; Jean-Philippe Kot, ASF; Fiona McKay, head of the ICC VPRS; and Norbert Wuhler, chair of the expert panel on the participation of victims (read the panel's first report). Wuhler discussed possible ways to improve victims participation at the ICC. McKay described the Registry's experience with victims as well as new approaches to participation. Pena and Kot discussed victims participation and representation in the Bosco Ntaganda case.
Plan of Action, Cyprus, Japan, Romania and the Secretariat of the ASP held an event entitled, "Universality and Full Implementation of the Rome Statute: Progress and Challenges." Dr. Bogdan Aurescu, state secretary in the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, made opening remarks. Panelists included Kirsten Meersschaert, Coalition regional coordinator for Europe; Dr. David Donat Cattin, secretary-general designate of Parliamentarians for Global Action; Judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi, President of ICC Pre-trial Chamber I; Ambassador Tina Intelmann, ASP president; Baroness Vivien Stern, member of the British House of Lords; and Christian Behrmann, EU focal point for the ICC. Dr. Claus Kress of the University of Köln served as moderator.
Each speaker discussed his or her organization's plans of action and activities. Topics of discussion included the need to increase the number of ICC states parties; the role of civil society in encouraging ratification and implementation; the role of regional organizations; and the Coalition's campaign to promote ratification and implementation through the Universal Periodic Review.
As part of the event, the Coalition launched its booklet on ICC Ratification and Implementation Throughout the World. The booklet will be available shortly on our website.
The War Crimes Research Office of American University Washington College of Law, the International Bar Association and Serbia held an event on "Practice and implications of Regulation 55 of the Court’s regulations." The event included the launch of a report on Regulation 55 and the Rights of the Accused at the International Criminal Court.
Africa Legal Aid hosted a meeting entitled, "Taking the Higher Ground in the Debate on the ICC and Africa: Fostering Greater Cooperation with the Diplomatic Spheres." Speakers included William Pace, convenor of the Coalition for the ICC; Evelyn A. Ankumah, executive director of Africa Legal Aid; George Kegoro, exective director of the Kenya Section of the International Commission of Jurists; Amady Ba, head of the ICC Jurisdiction, Complmentarity and Cooperation Division; Anniken Krutnes, ambassador of Norway to the Netherlands and facilitator of the Hague Working Group on Cooperation; Roland Amoussuoga, chief of external relations and strategic planning for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda; and Hakan Emsgard, Ambassador of Sweden to the Netherlands.
Topics discussed at the event include: cooperation, the role of civil society, the lack of space in the African Union for non-state actors to express their views; public support for the ICC in Kenya; the politics of the ICC-Africa relationship; Hague Working Group activities; the need to work with civil society and other stakeholders to improve cooperation and share best practices; the ill effects of non-cooperation; and reinforcing the link between complementarity and cooperation.
In the afternoon, Kenyan civil society representatives held a press conference.
The TFV, Sweden and Finland co-hosted an event to launch the external evaluation of TFV programs in northern Uganda and the DRC, which was conducted by the International Centre for Research on Women. The event, chaired by TFV Secretariat Executive Director Pieter de Baan, included an assessment of the impact of the TFV's work, discussion of areas for improvement and recommendations for the TFV to implement for its 2014-2017 strategic plan.
Liechtenstein hosted a side event on the experiences of early ratifiers of the crime of aggression. Kenyan civil society held a press conference.
In the evening, the Coalition and the City of The Hague co-hosted a reception. ASP President Tiina Intelmann and Jozias J. van Aarsten, mayor of The Hague, delivered remarks.
TOMORROW AT THE ASP
Tomorrow at the ASP, the Coalition will be hosting regional meetings with civil society and government representatives from Africa, Europe and Asia-Pacific. The meeting with European governments will be co-hosted by Lithuania and the European External Action Service.
FIDH and the Kenyan Human Rights Commission will hold a side event entitled, “Kenya and the ICC; Ensuring redress for victims and upholding the rule of law.” Italy and NPWJ will co-host a meeting on accountability in Syria. Germany and Kenya will co-host a side event entitled, “Complementarity in practice- examples from Kenya,” and Belgium, the United Kingdom and Switzerland will hold an event entitled, “Enquiry and fact-finding commissions- a potential role for the IHFFC?”.
In the morning, the Bureau will hold a closed meeting. African group and EU coordination meetings are also scheduled. The Plenary will feature elections to fill a judicial vacancy, as well as the election of six members of the Committee on Budget and Finance (CBF). Yesterday, Uruguay withdrew the candidature of Dr. Leslie Van Rompaey for election to fill the current judicial vacancy on the Court. Justice Geoffrey Henderson of Trinidad & Tobago is the sole remaining candidate for the vacancy, which is from the Latin American and Caribbean Group. Additionally, Burkina Faso withdrew the candidature of Mr. Noumoutié Herbert Traoré for election to the Committee on Budget and Finance.
Closed informal consultations on the omnibus resolution will be held after the morning Plenary session.
In the afternoon, the Plenary schedule includes consideration of the budget, with presentations by the ICC registrar and the chair of the CBF, as well as consideration of audit reports. A closed meeting of the Working Group on Amendments will follow.
RELATED NEWS COVERAGE
Coalition members quoted
Kenya told to stop piling pressure on Africa over ICC, Lilian Ochieng', Daily Nation, 22 November
"Kenya should stop piling pressure on African states to back amendments to the Rome Statute, civil rights activists gathered at The Hague have said. [...] Ms Gladwell Otieno of the Africa Centre for Open Governance (Africog) said that Kenya was aware of the difficulties in amending articles 134 and 27 of the Statute. 'Majority of African states are against the proposal by Kenya and this means that it will fail,' Ms Otieno said. Mr George Kegoro, the executive director [of ICJ-Kenya], said that a significant number of African states did not support the possibility of amending the articles. [...]"
Hague meeting debates Kenya, Mathews Ndanyi, Nairobi Star, 22 November
"[...] Human Rights Watch's Richard Dicker and Amnesty International's Stephanie Barbour are among those who hit out at the Kenyan government over the way it has been handling the ICC issue. 'President Uhuru and Deputy President William Ruto have managed to turn round upside down and appear to be victims in the ICC cases while making the court look like the perpetrators,' Dicker said. He said it is wrong to ignore the cries of Kenya's PEV victims and treat the court as a political organ. George Kegoro from the International Commission of Jurists Kenya said many Kenyans support the ongoing trial of Uhuru and Ruto. He said attempts to frustrate justice are unacceptable. [...]"
AU's Rome Statute Amendments Opposed By NGOs at ICC Meeting, Joel Iregi, Nairobi Star, 21 November
"Civil society groups have opposed proposals by the African Union 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 meeting at the Hague and said the amendments amounted to supporting impunity."
Reject efforts to shield Presidents from prosecution, NGOs tell ICC, Lilian Ochieng', Daily Nation, 21 November
"International Criminal Court (ICC) State parties should reject efforts to provide immunity from prosecution to sitting government leaders, Human Rights Watch said Thursday. Senior International Justice Counsel at the HRW Elizabeth Evenson said the security council was right to reject the suspension of the Kenyan cases before the ICC explaining that 'giving immunity to the two Kenyan leaders could create preserve incentives for them to hold onto power.' [...] 'We hoped that the Kenyan delegation would take the lead in assisting with investigations yet they have turned against their own people,' said Ms Stephanie Barbour an Amnesty International official. [...] 'Kenya has been trying to get cases to fail and to change the manner of trials to their liking, this is what Kenya wants, and it is what is being attempted now,' said [ICJ-Kenya Executive Director George] Kegoro."
News and opinion
Civil Society Opposes Push for ICC Amendments, Cornelius Mwau, Nairobi Star, 22 November
Victim Participation at the ICC – What’s the Deal?, Nick Tenove, Justice in Conflict, 22 November
Nigeria Expresses Concern Over Trial of Sitting Heads of State By ICC, Tobi Soniyi, This Day, 22 November
Sidiki Kaba at the plenary session of the assembly of states parties to the ICC: "Impunity is the main cause of conflict and tragedy in Africa", Le Soleil, 22 November (in French)
Push and pull over presidential immunity from ICC trial, Bernard Momanyi, Capital FM News, 21 November
Foreign minister says Kenya will push ahead with international court reform effort, Associated Press, 21 November
Kenya to demand change to ICC rules over president's case, Thomas Escritt, Reuters, 21 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