IBA redoubles call for increased State cooperation for the International Criminal Court as Rome Statute commemorated
As December 2023 comes to a close and marks the end of the Rome Statute’s 25th anniversary, amid much global turbulence, the International Bar Association intensifies its call for greater support by states for the International Criminal Court (ICC) – founded in 1998 following the adoption of the Statute by 120 countries.
IBA Executive Director, Mark Ellis commented, ‘States Parties should always endeavour to fortify and expand their national frameworks to ensure full collaboration with the ICC. The only way the ICC can operate as intended is if State Parties provide the Court with diligent and committed cooperation. States Parties must support the ICC by carrying out cooperation requests, such as those pertaining to the arrest and surrender of suspects, as the court is under increasing pressure to investigate additional conflicts and regions.
The recently concluded 22nd session of the ICC Assembly of States Parties (ASP) – the management oversight and legislative body of the ICC comprised of representatives of States that have ratified or acceded to the Rome Statute – provided an opportunity to reflect on the ICC’s mandate, the challenges facing the Court, the Rome Statute system and the vision for the Court’s future.
The ASP gathering took place during a time of continued concerning threats for the ICC, including a recent cyberattack and the issuance of arrest warrants by Russia for senior ICC officials. Ahead of the meeting – held from 4–14 December 2023 at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York, United States – the IBA ICC and International Criminal Law (ICC & ICL) Programme issued a briefing paper setting out Priorities and Recommendations for the 22nd ASP Session. The headlines and text included:
Responding to threats and attacks against the ICC and those cooperating with it
The IBA strongly condemns threats and attacks against the ICC, its officials, and those cooperating with it, which risk undermining the Court’s delivery of justice. States Parties should express publicly their support for the ICC and its work in all situations, and should enhance their support to the Court, its officials, and those cooperating with it in the prevention and response to threats and attacks.
Promoting effective state cooperation
All States Parties, if they have not done so, should put in place effective national frameworks to cooperate fully with the ICC, including developing and enacting national implementing legislation, entering into cooperation agreements with the Court, and ratifying or acceding to the ICC Agreement on Privileges and Immunities.
Ensuring the adoption of a revised ICC Legal Aid Policy to establish a comprehensive system of legal aid that is accessible, sustainable, and credible
The Assembly of States Parties should adopt the draft legal aid policy reform, and in consultation with the legal profession and other relevant stakeholders, should ensure a more regular review in order to address and resolve the issue of income taxation for defence and victims’ teams and eliminate the disparity between the remuneration of external counsel and team members and their counterparts in the Office of the Prosecutor.
Ensuring a thorough vetting process for all candidates to ICC elections
States Parties should support the adoption by the 22nd ASP session of a permanent vetting process that it is fair, independent, professional and thorough, and should agree on a concrete plan for implementing the vetting process after its adoption.
The IBA further presented these priorities and recommendations in a statement submitted to the ASP General Debate on 7 December 2023.
The Assembly adopted eight resolutions by consensus on the following topics: cooperation; the Review of the International Criminal Court and the Rome Statute system; the 2024 budget of the Court; amendments to the Rules of Procedure and Evidence; an amendment to article 39 of the Rome Statute in relation to the permanent unavailability of judges; the implementation of a tenure policy; the election of members of the Committee on Budget and Finance; and the ‘omnibus’ resolution which, inter alia, included the adoption of the revised ICC legal aid system and of the due diligence procedure for candidates for elected officials of the International Criminal Court.
Kate Orlovsky, Director of the IBA ICC and ICL Programme commented: ‘The ASP’s creation of a permanent vetting (due diligence) procedure to assess the high moral character of candidates in ICC elections is an historic first for international institutions. Together with the adoption of a revised legal aid policy they represent key advances in the development of the ICC. Made possible by strategic partnerships, their adoption also represents a shared success of the IBA, civil society, States Parties, and the Court. Civil society plays an essential role in support of the Court and Rome Statute system, and it remains vital to ensure that the ASP and Court remain open to civil society input, as well as protect civil society representatives and human rights defenders cooperating with the ICC.’
Notes to the Editor
The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.
The IBA acts as a connector, enabler, and influencer, for the administration of justice, fair practice, and accountability worldwide. The IBA has collaborated on a broad range of ground-breaking, international projects with the United Nations, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, The Commonwealth, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, among others.
The IBA commenced the International Criminal Court and International Criminal Law (ICC & ICL) Programme in 2005. The Programme monitors issues related to fairness and equality of arms at the ICC and other Hague-based war crimes tribunals and encourages the legal community to engage with the work of these courts. The IBA’s work includes thematic legal analysis of proceedings, and ad hoc evaluations of legal, administrative, and institutional issues which could potentially affect the rights of defendants, the impartiality of proceedings and the development of international justice.
The Programme also acts as the interface between the Courts and the global legal community. As such, special focus is placed on monitoring emerging issues of particular relevance to lawyers and collaborating with key partners on specific activities to increase engagement of the legal community on ICC and ICL issues.
Based in The Hague, the IBA ICC & ICL Programme consults and interacts with court officials, civil society organisations, academics, and international lawyers.
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