|ICC President Judge Sang-hyun Song speaking at a tenth anniversary celebration for the ICC in The Hague. ICC-CPI photo.|
The eleventh annual meeting of the ICC's governing body, the Assembly of States Parties (ASP), in The Hague began earlier this week with a celebration of the Court's tenth anniversary at the Ridderzaal (The Knights Hall) in the presence of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. The ASP session moved quickly to the ICC's business and is set for a one-day break on Sunday, November 18 before the final four days of the session. AMICC has been participating in the session and meeting with delegates here as well as fellow NGO representatives. Here are some highlights from the first four days:
Reports from the ICC: Following the opening of the session on Wednesday afternoon with a speech by Senegalese President Macky Sall, the ASP in plenary heard reports from the Court's President, Prosecutor and Registrar as well as the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Trust Fund for Victims. The UN Legal Counsel Patricia O'Brien also made a statement on behalf of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Elections: The ASP elected by consensus five members of the ICC's Board of Directors of the Trust Fund for Victims and nine members of the newly-established Advisory Committee on Nominations. The ASP held three rounds of voting for the Deputy Prosecutor (Prosecutions) on Wednesday afternoon and two more on Friday. In the last round of voting it elected James Stewart of Canada to succeed Fatou Bensouda who became Prosecutor in June 2012.
General Debate - US Statement: On Thursday, the ASP dedicated the entire day to the General Debate in which governments, international organizations and NGOs were invited to make short statements on the theme of "the challenges ahead for the ICC." US Ambassador-at Large for Global Criminal Justice Stephen J. Rapp made a statement on behalf of the US in its capacity as an ASP Observer. He reiterated US support for all of the ICC cases and outlined the ways in which the US has supported the Court and the cause of international justice. In addressing what it means for the ICC to succeed in ensuring justice for victims, and what the US has done to contribute to this project and advance shared interests and values, he made the following points:
- It is essential that the fugitives who currently remain at large in the ICC's cases are apprehended and brought to trial, and that victims and witnesses are adequately protected.
- It is crucial that members of the international community continue to reinforce the legal norms and prohibitions that led to the creation institutions such as the ICC. He made a specific reference to the US government's inter-agency Atrocities Prevention Board.
- We must strive to improve our system of international criminal justice, including building solid jurisprudence, cooperation and legitimacy.
- We must all recognize that the ICC cannot and must not operate alone, highlighting the importance of the principle of complementarity and building of national judicial capacity.
Ambassador Rapp's speech is available on the ASP's website. The State Department also issued a speech in The Hague by State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh on the State Department's website.
2013 ICC Budget: Agreement on the ICC's annual budget, which must be approved by the ASP, was expected to be the most contentious issue of this session, as it was at last year's. Through the skillful leadership of Sweden's ambassador, the ASP today achieved a compromise. While it is not expected to meet all of the ICC's needs, this deal means that there will not be a repeat of last year's effort on the part of several of the ICC's largest contributors to severely cut the budget. As such, the ASP will be able to focus on other issues, such as a substantive session on complementarity on Monday, just as it held a similar session yesterday on the question of cooperation.
When the ASP resumes its work on Monday, it will continue negotiations on several substantive resolutions, including on complementarity and cooperation, as well as of its "omnibus" resolution which serves as a catch-all for the issues that the Court and the ASP deal with. There will also be meetings and discussions on the future premises of the Court as well as possible amendments to the Rome Statute and the Rules of Procedure and Evidence. AMICC will continue to report primarily through its Twitter feed but will also share major developments through its blog.