The ICC trials of former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo, his youth minister Charles Blé Goudé, Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda and former Lord's Resistance Army commander Dominic Ongwen continue.
The ICC has victims' reparations cases underway following convictions against Thomas Lubanga and Germain Katanga (the DRC), Ahmad Al-Faqi Al-Mahdi (Mali) and Jean-Pierre Bemba (the CAR) should the judgment be upheld on appeal. The Lubanga reparations case is already at the implementation phase, and a reparations order for Katanga's victims is delivered in March.
The ICC Registry is conducting a review of its legal aid system, which helps fund representation for both defendants and victims. The Victims’ Rights Working Group as well as individual Coalition civil society members will look to ensure the stakeholders most affected by the ICC process are heard.
The Court will present its vision for the next three years with its Strategic Plan for 2018-2020.
The Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute (ASP) agreed at their last annual session to a sub-facilitation in the New York Working Group to discuss the process of activating ICC jurisdiction over the crime of aggression. The discussions are open only to ICC member states.
The Court hopes to make its presence felt in Georgia as it prepares to open a first field office in the ICC situation country. Reporting to the ICC Registry, the Tbilisi field office should allow the Court to keep victims, members of the public, civil society and the media accurately up-to-date, as well as provide key assistance to prosecution investigators. Meanwhile, the ICC Kenya field office has shut down.
The ICC Prosecutor has indicated that the Libya investigation will be a priority – the UN has already called in 2017 for ICC suspects tried in Libya to be surrendered to the Court to ensure the international standards it claims are lacking in domestic trials and judgments.
The ICC Prosecutor has upgraded the status of the Darfur situation to an “active” investigation in 2017, with officials alluding to new investigative opportunities, ongoing crimes and the need to build up existing cases. Eight years have passed since the first international arrest warrant was issued against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
Media sources and a close reading of the ICC Prosecutor's 2016 Preliminary Examination Report have many anticipating the announcement of an investigation in Afghanistan.
The ICC’s Independent Oversight Mechanism (IOM) becomes fully operational this year. The IOM, meant to investigate reports of misconduct by elected officials, staff and other Court personnel, can now add evaluation to its investigation and inspection functions.
Barring a reversal of the decision, one withdrawal from the Rome Statute — by Burundi — could go into effect. The Gambia revoked a move to withdraw on 10 February 2017 while South Africa withdrew its own UN notice and domestic ICC Act Repeal Bill after a domestic court ruling, throwing the country's entire withdrawal timeline out the window.
1st — Crime of Aggression jurisdiction activation process becomes possible.
6th — Judges in the Bosco Ntaganda trial confirm that the ICC has war crimes jurisdiction over rape and sexual slavery committed against members within the same armed forces.
17th — First meeting of the The Hague Working Group to coordinate the year's Bureau discussions among ICC member states in The Hague.
19th — Closed working group discussions — “Article 97 Working Group” — start-up again between ICC member states on how to respond to cooperation requests (see 7 April for more).
27th — International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.
30th-31st — Head-of-State Summit during the 28th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union.
In 2016, Palestine became the 30th state to ratify the Kampala Amendments, allowing ICC member states to begin as of 1 January to consider the vote to activate ICC jurisdiction over the crime of aggression. This year a working group facilitation will explore the process — 2/3 of the ICC member states must vote to allow the amendment to enter into force. Several Coalition members have been following developments around the crime of aggression for some time, so this will be an issue to follow closely this year.
6th — International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.
10th — The Gambia's ICC withdrawal reversal notice to the UN takes effect, returning the African country fully to the ICC-fold.
12th — "Red Hand Day" plus the United Nations 20th anniversary of protecting children in armed conflict.
14th — First meeting among ICC member states in the Working Group on Amendments in New York.
16th — The ASP Bureau has the important task of appointing states and/or their representatives to serve as facilitators, focal points and rapporteurs on important issues affecting both the Court's daily and long-term work — appointments for numerous topics facilitated in The Hague, including the all-important state cooperation and budget, were finalized on 16 February.
20th — The ASP Bureau's appointments for topics facilitated in New York, including geographical and gender representation in the Court's recruitment, non-cooperation, and activation of the Court's jurisdiction over the crime of aggression were finalized on 20 February.
22nd — South African high court rules South Africa's 2016 ICC withdrawal bid "hasty, irrational and unconstitutional."
Last year was shadowed by sudden announcements from South Africa, Burundi and The Gambia of their intent to withdraw from the Rome Statute – but there was also a strong show of solidarity and support for the Court. That support continued into 2017 as a new Gambian president renounced his predecessor's decision and confirmed the country would remain in the ICC by a 10 February notice to the United Nations. South Africa's withdrawal path would take a turn in the coming weeks.
8th — International Women's Day.
22nd — Sentencing in The Hague for Jean Pierre Bemba Gombo and four associates for witness-tampering during Bemba's war crimes and crimes against humanity case.
24th — International Day for the Rights to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims.
24th — Trial Chamber II issues order for individual and collective reparations to victims in the Germain Katanga case.
23rd-29th — Arab League Summit, hosted by ICC member state Jordan. President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan (facing two outstanding ICC arrest warrants) received an invitation to attend.
On 19 October 2016, judges found Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo and four associates guilty of offences against the administration of justice. Considered a key verdict in the Court’s efforts to bolster the integrity of its cases, the conviction relates to false witness testimonies and bribery – coordinated by Bemba and members of his defence team in the Central African Republic situation’s The Prosecutor v. Bemba case. ICC member states may have their own role to play as they continue to consider procedural amendments aimed at allowing the Court to address witness-tampering allegations while continuing to bring perpetrators of the worst crimes to justice.
4th — International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.
7th — South Africa public non-compliance hearing at the ICC in relation to Sudanese President and ICC suspect Omar al-Bashir's visit to South Africa in 2015 for the African Union Summit.
7th — International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda.
14th-21st — ICC Judicial Recess.
24th — Nomination period for ICC Judicial Elections opens.
29th — International day of Remembrance for all Victims of Chemical Warfare.
At the end of March, all eyes are on Jordan, a forerunner of the Rome Statute system in the Middle East and from which ICC suspect and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir received an invitation to attend the Arab League Summit. About a week later, South Africa appears for an ICC public non-compliance hearing to determine whether the ICC member state failed in its obligation to arrest al-Bashir when he visited for the African Union Summit in June 2015. The 7 April hearing is the first real chance to observe how the ICC deals with serious issues of state non-cooperation. Civil society members involved in related domestic proceedings, like the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, submitted their views to the ICC. Meanwhile outside the courtroom, the Darfur Women’s Action Group holds a 24-hour hunger strike in D.C. to urge the U.S. to take action against genocide in Darfur.
1st-5th — ASP’s Committee on Budget and Finance’s 28th meeting.
16th-18th — Annual meeting of the Trust Fund for Victims Board of Directors.
29th — International Day of UN Peacekeepers.
With terms of a third of the 18 ICC judges expiring next year, the Coalition campaign around the 2017 judicial elections kicks into high gear after the nomination period opens on 24 April. As part of its recurring advocacy during elections’ cycles, the Coalition pushes ICC member states to nominate and elect only the most highly qualified candidates and to ensure a merit-based process leading to gender and geographical representation on the ICC bench.
With the ICC seen as a gold standard for gender parity among international judicial organizations, and only one woman among the 12 remaining judges at year’s end, much rides on states’ ability to nominate experienced female candidates. The nomination period, meant to close 17 July, can be extended to August at latest. Without endorsing individual candidates, the Coalition conducts advocacy to governments, disseminates factsheets about the elections process, scouts candidates and reinforces ASP practices intended to promote quality and transparency.
Week of 12th — ICC-NGO roundtable.
19th — International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict.
20th — World Refugee Day.
June sees the annual week-long roundtable between NGOs and officials from across the ICC organs and sections. The roundtable takes place in advance of the ICC judicial recess, scheduled from 22 July to 13 August 2017 - making the meeting an important opportunity to mutually reflect on the Court’s activities and challenges in the first half of the year, and to tailor civil society priorities and advocacy for the second half and lead-up to the December ASP session in New York.
Coordinated for civil society by the Coalition Secretariat, and hosted by the Court, the roundtable features topics like securing accountability for sexual and gender-based crimes (SGBC), among others. With a first SGBC conviction by the Court in 2016, numerous ICC situations involving SGBC allegations, and the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict set for 19 June, the roundtable represents an opportunity for civil society to obtain updates on the implementation of the Prosecutor’s 2014 policy on investigating and prosecuting SGBC; for others it may be a chance to inquire about the possibility of bringing ICC cases addressing sexual violence in places like northern Mali.
7th — Nomination period for ICC Judicial Elections closes.
17th — International Justice Day.
18th — Nelson Mandela International Day.
22nd July-13th August — Judicial Recess.
International Justice Day (IJD) commemorates the historic adoption of the Rome Statute on 17 July 1998. It marks the need to continue the fight against impunity and bring justice to victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. "On the anniversary of the adoption of the ICC Rome Statute, all states—those party to the treaty and others—should renew commitments to cooperate with this historic and still new system of international criminal justice through all available avenues, from national laws to transnational agreements," said William R. Pace, convenor of the Coalition for the ICC. IJD is a reminder for all states committed to fair and impartial justice for victims of the worst crimes around the world: to urgently ensure continued support for the international justice system. IJD is also a reminder for the Court’s strongest advocates, civil society: to stand firm in their original commitment in getting the ICC established, now to advance a Rome Statute system of international justice that works for all.
28th — Latest the nomination period for ICC Judicial Elections can be extended by the ASP president.
30th — International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.
The ICC typically releases its annual budget proposal in August of the preceding year. The 2018 proposal will as usual be based on self-assessed needs for investigations, proceedings and operations of the Court. The proposal will then be submitted to the Committee on Budget and Finance (CBF) for its recommendations, which usually propose savings related to over-lapping activities, and anything else the CBF assesses in its capacity as the Assembly’s elected and independent financial expert body. The budget is then submitted a few months later to the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) to review and vote on.
During last year’s Assembly session, the Coalition for the ICC was distressed by reports that, while many member states supported an increase of the Court’s activities, a small minority once again demanded a “zero nominal growth” budget - or similar budget cutting proposals. Obvious needs for an increase in Court funding in 2017 may have been frustrated, but ICC member states have another chance to put politics aside and align themselves with one of the highest priorities: responding to global demands for justice, which states cannot expect and demand the Court to do while reducing its resources.
18th-29th — 29th session of the ASP’s Committee on Budget and Finance.
18th — Advisory Committee on Nominations (ACN) for the 2017 ICC Judicial Elections begins, which takes place in The Hague for minimum of six days. States are urged to ensure judicial candidates make themselves available during this time for face-to-face interviews.
21st — International Day of Peace.
CICC public panel interviews with ICC Judicial Elections nominees.
For effective and efficient justice, we campaign for ICC member states to nominate and elect only the most highly qualified candidates to the ICC and its governing body, the ASP. Starting in April and May, the Coalition for the ICC campaigns for this to be achieved through fair, transparent, informed, and merit-based nominations and elections processes. The nomination period this year runs from 24 April to 17 July, with limited possibilities for extensions into August.
27th — Burundi’s Rome Statute withdrawal slated to take effect - one year on from its 2016 notification to the UN Secretary-General.
Many were expecting to see the ICC withdrawals of three African states take effect beginning in October: Burundi; South Africa; and then The Gambia in November. By March 2017, only Burundi remained on the watch-list (see February and March). Taking effect one calendar year from a state’s submission of its intention to withdraw notice to the UN, withdrawal does not erase pre-existing obligations as an ICC member state. In the case of Burundi, members of local civil society have viewed the year leading up to 27 October 2017 as a ticking clock for the ICC Prosecutor to open a formal investigation and create some such obligations around the situation in the country.
Killings, imprisonment, torture, forced disappearances, rape and other forms of sexual violence that followed the Burundian president’s decision to run for a third term in 2015 have already become the subject of an ICC preliminary examination. After engaging with the Committee Against Torture about alleged government abuses, the Burundian national Coalition for the ICC was dissolved, and its coordinator Lambert Nigarura and several colleagues disbarred. For human rights defenders like the Burundian national Coalition, the plea for justice in Burundi has become a truly personal one.
2nd — International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.
25th — International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
The Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) is an independent institution working in tandem with the ICC and largely known for its mandate to help fund and administer Court-ordered reparations to victims covered by ICC convictions. Prior to and after a conviction, however, the TFV has another important mandate toward communities affected by ICC crimes in investigation countries: to enable physical and/or psychological rehabilitation or material support. To administer these programs, which are currently only operating in the DRC and Uganda, the TFV works with local – often grassroots – implementing partners. The last of those programs operating at the beginning of 2017 are slated to conclude in November. It will be more crucial than ever this year for international justice stakeholders, and foremost states, to contribute to the close-to-depleted voluntary fund to ensure that this support not only remains available, but that it can extend further – especially with depleted funds also expected to go to reparations cases in the DRC, CAR and Mali situations.
- Elections of six new Judges
- ASP will put forward recommendations on election of ICC Registrar
- Appointment of new ASP President and two Vice-Presidents
- Possible: decision on activation of ICC’s jurisdiction over the Crime of Aggression
In addition to the all-important ICC judicial election, this year’s ASP session marks the election of the new ASP Bureau, a group of 18 ICC member states led by a president and coordinated by two vice-presidents, as well as preparations for the 2018 election of the ICC Registrar. The geographically balanced Bureau is responsible for ICC governance, including ensuring the Court remains independent and impartial; the ICC Registrar is meanwhile central to the Court’s administration and coordination between the three organs: the Registry; the Office of the Prosecutor; and the Judiciary. In the case of the Registrar, the ASP this year decides on recommendations for how to conduct the election in early 2018, which it then submits to the 18 ICC judges to inform their vote – making the candidates emerging from the ICC judicial elections all the more vital. Each of these changes has potential to significantly impact the policies of the ICC and its member states moving forward.