Thursday, November 29, 2012

AMICC's Final Report on the ASP 11 in The Hague

US Ambassador-at-Large Stephen J. Rapp, Office of Global Criminal Justice, speaking in The Hague at the ASP's General Debate. Photo: ICC/SASP.

AMICC participated in the annual meeting meeting of the ICC's governing body, the Assembly of States Parties (ASP), in The Hague earlier this month. A final report on the session and issues important to AMICC is now available on our website.

At this session the ASP adopted a program budget for the Court for 2013, elected a Deputy Prosecutor and other officials, and held substantive meetings on the issues of cooperation and complementarity. Representatives from about 90 of the 121 States Parties, as well as observer states, including the United States, participated in the meetings. AMICC was one of many NGOs participating in the ASP. AMICC has been represented at all ASP meetings to date, in support of our advocacy as well as to inform our constituents and to engage with international civil society and Court leadership. At this session, AMICC attended official ASP meetings and relevant side events organized by NGOs, and disseminated live updates through social media outlets. These updates remain archived and available on AMICC’s Twitter feed and blog.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

ICC's Assembly of States Parties, Meeting in The Hague, Is Set for Early Conclusion of Work

The ICC's Assembly of States Parties meeting, in The Hague.
 The International Criminal Court's governing body, having moved quickly through its work at its eleventh session here in The Hague, appears ready to finish the session tomorrow, one full day early. The session, which began on November 14 and completed both elections and a budget deal in its first four days, has completed most items on its agenda. Aside from some final details of several draft resolutions which occupy the agenda this afternoon, the ASP decided today that it will meet in plenary on Wednesday, November 20 at 3pm to adopt its reports and formally bring the session to a close. Here are some of the major developments since Saturday, when we last reported:

Plenary Session on Complementarity: Inspired by the interest in the issue of complementarity - the preference for and deference to domestic criminal prosecutions for atrocity crimes - following the 2010 Review Conference, the ASP scheduled a special plenary session featuring contributions from experts, Court officials, governments and representatives from NGOs. The ASP held a similar session on the issue of cooperation on Friday, November 16. Helen Clark, the former prime minister of New Zealand and current administrator of the UN Development Program, delivered delivered a keynote address about the role international development agencies, such as UNDP and others, can contribute to domestic capacity for dealing with ICC crimes. While recognizing the expectations for justice raised by the ICC as well as its limited capacity, Ms. Clark urged governments to take responsibility to deliver justice. The attorney general of Guatemala, a judge from the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the president of the International Center for Transitional Justice also made expert interventions.

Among the statements made by governments, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Stephen J. Rapp spoke on behalf of the United States. He lauded the ASP's crucial discussion on both the policy and practice of complementarity. Ambassador Rapp highlighted the importance to governments - States Parties and non-States Parties alike - to strengthen domestic capacity in a manner that is both concerted and coordinated. Using the Democratic Republic of the Congo as an example, he emphasized that the US supports ICC prosecutions as well as national justice, in particular through:

- Funding support of complementarity;
- Using the tools of diplomacy to support complementarity;
- Providing technical and legal assistance to national systems; and
- Improving fugitive tracking efforts.

Ambassador Rapp also cited the establishment by the White House of the US government's inter-agency Atrocities Prevention Board (APB) which will ensure more accountability in US courts for atrocity crimes.

Working Group on Amendments: On Monday afternoon, the Working Group on Amendments - the ASP's standing body established to deal with proposed amendments to the Rome Statute - agreed to recommend that the ASP adopt an amendment to the Court's Rules and Procedure and Evidence. Once it is adopted tomorrow, the new Rule 132 bis will permit a single judge to perform the functions of a Trial Chamber for the purposes of trial preparation. The amendment was agreed by consensus and is expected to expedite ICC trial preparation.

2013 ICC Budget: The ASP's budget working group met this morning to finalize the agreement reached Friday on the Court's 2013 budget and to transmit the resolution and report to the ASP as a whole. Despite an effort by one government to change some language in one of the annexes of the budget, States Parties held firmly to the compromise budget of approximately 115 million Euros and refused to reopen any text for negotiation. The ASP will approve the budget at tomorrow afternoon's final plenary session.

Other Resolutions: The ASP will also adopt by consensus other resolutions, including on cooperation, complementarity, victims and the Independent Oversight Mechanism, a matter which has been deferred again until the next session. The omnibus resolution, which covers many subjects, has been pared down this year because some issues are now covered by stand-alone resolutions. According to the latest draft of the omnibus, the next ASP will be held November 20-28, 2013 in The Hague.

NGO Events and Activities: The ambitious ASP agenda has included many substantive and helpful contributions by civil society to the work of the ICC's governing body, including facilitating dialogue between NGOs and governments, and highlighting important issues such as the relationship between the ICC and the UN Security Council and a new initiative to adopt an international crimes against humanity treaty. AMICC attended and participated in many of these meetings, most of which drew significant interest and substantive discussion. In addition, several AMICC members have also been active at this ASP, including Human Rights Watch, CASIN (especially on Twitter) and the American Bar Association Center for Human Rights' ICC Project (and its delegate's article on funding international justice).

AMICC's reporting from The Hague ends today but will culminate in a final report, to be released on our website in early December.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Report from The Hague: ICC's ASP Elects Officials and Breaks Budget Stalemate

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.

Monday, November 12, 2012

AMICC Reports from the ASP in The Hague

Beginning on November 14, AMICC will participate in and report on the annual meeting meeting of the ICC's governing body, the Assembly of States Parties (ASP), in The Hague. AMICC has been represented at all ASP meetings to date, in support of our advocacy as well as to inform our constituents and to engage with international civil society and Court leadership. We will report in real time, through our blog and Twitter, and we will produce a final report on the session on issues relevant to AMICC.

There are several critical issues expected to arise at this session which are important to AMICC: the question of adequate financing of the Court by its States Parties; changes to the funding of the legal aid scheme; the election of important officials and experts; and the developing structure of and oversight by the Assembly. Because these issues are relevant to responding to criticism of the Court in the US and ultimately go to the long-term success of the ICC, AMICC has participated in the substantive drafting of many of the advocacy papers developed by thematic teams of the international NGO Coalition for the ICC (CICC). AMICC will confer with NGO colleagues on these issues in The Hague. We also plan to brief NGO colleagues on the US approach to the Court following the recent presidential election and to meet with representatives of the US government participating in the session.