From 4 to 14 December 2017, States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) gathered at the United Nations Headquarters in New York for the 16th session of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP 16).
The IBA ICC & ICL Programme, together with other civil society organisations, participated in ASP 16 to critically monitor and support the Court’s work. Prior to the ASP, the IBA ICC & ICL Programme released a paper setting out ‘Priorities and Recommendations for the 16th Session of the Assembly of States Parties’, and briefed diplomats in The Hague on IBA recommendations. The IBA addressed operational issues for the ICC’s administration of international criminal justice including issues pertaining to evidence, witnesses, and financial investigations. The IBA also highlighted the role States Parties play in achieving fair trials and equality of arms, by electing judges based on merit and competence, ensuring a principled approach to the ongoing revision of the legal aid system, and providing support in the form of cooperation and funding.
Six judges were elected at ASP 16, all of whom will begin nine-year terms in March 2018. The Assembly decided by consensus to activate the ICC’s jurisdiction over the crime of aggression, building on years of negotiations.As of 17 July 2018, the ICC will be able to prosecute individuals for acts of aggressive war, in addition to genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. States Parties also decided by consensus to add three war crimes to the Court’s jurisdiction: use of microbial, biological or toxin weapons; use of weapons that injure by fragments undetectable by X-rays; and use of laser blinding weapons.
Photo: 16th session of the ICC Assembly of States Parties, New York © CICC
At ASP 16, Judge O-Gon Kwon of the Republic of Korea took up the Presidency of the Assembly for the coming three year period. States Parties and civil society also reflected on the Court’s development, progress and challenges since the adoption of the Rome Statute in 1998, and discussed the work that will face the ICC in the coming decades. In 2018 States Parties, the Court, and civil society including the IBA will convene and participate in a number of formal reflections and events to mark the 20th anniversary of the Statute.
The annual session of the ASP provides an important forum for direct interaction between court officials, States Parties, and stakeholders. In New York, civil society representatives met with key ASP and Court officials to discuss issues of common interest related to the ASP and the work of the Court. Numerous side events also took place in the margins of the ASP, covering key issues in international criminal justice. Civil society organisations, including representatives from countries where the ICC is engaged in preliminary examinations or investigations, emphasised the importance of ensuring that the ASP remain accessible and open to civil society, to ensure the voices of all stakeholders continue to inform the work of the Assembly and the Court. Civil society reports on ASP 16 can be accessed here.