ASP 15 Day One - "Do not betray victims," says UN human rights chief

Credit: UNHRC

The 15th session of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court started today at the World Forum in The Hague, Netherlands. The Assembly will run until 24 November.

Throughout the Assembly we bring you daily summaries the plenary sessions, side events, and other key developments, as well as related news coverage, documents, and websites.

See our curated Twitter collection for highlights from ASP Day 1

Follow us on Twitter with the hashtag #ASP15 for real time updates from the Assembly.
 

PLENARY SESSION

Opening session
The Assembly's fifteenth session opened with a statement by its president, Sidiki Kaba. The ASP president recalled, following the Rules of Procedure of the ASP, the different participants to the ASP: ICC member states, observer states, and civil society. He proceeded with the adoption of the official agenda. In his opening statement, Kaba called on states to protect the independence and the integrity of the Court in the face of current challenges.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid, addressed the recent withdrawals, asking ICC member states not to turn their backs to victims. He urged the ASP to take a firm stand and not to make any compromise on Rome Statute article 27 prohibiting immunities for heads of state and government officials. He also urged states to summon their determination to support the Court.

"Today’s challenges are not the first stern test faced by the Court, and they will not be the last. A new trend of isolationist and unprincipled leadership is building up across the world. Renewed attacks on the Court may well be in the offing. It will take all the nerve and resources of the truly committed States Parties to resist such challenges. Now is not the time to abandon the post. This is the time for resolve and strength."

Full statement.

Vice-President of the ASP Sebastiano Cardi then called on states in arrears to pay their financial contributions to the ICC budget. There is a current gap of 34 million euro in the ICC budget due failures to pay among ICC member states.

ICC President
The President of the ICC, Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi, addressed the importance of communication of the ICC with civil society and victims and stressed that universality should remain a top priority. She also discussed the different ways in which the Court continues to to improve it self. She pointed to the the trial of Ahmad al-Mahdi, which was the first cultural crimes trial for the ICC and the first time a defendant pled guilty. Furthermore, the ICC aimed to reinforce the fairness and equality of arms through the establishment of the ICC Bar Association.

ICC Prosecutor
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda took the floor underlining the importance of states’ participation in the ICC system, and the need for more member states. She also addressed the issue of the recent withdrawals from the Rome Statute, stating that the ICC is more relevant now than ever and that the withdrawals are not a crisis for the Rome Statute system, but a setback. She highlighted important issues the OTP is focused on: strengthening trust in the OTP, cooperation, adopting a child-sensitive approach and funding. The OTP this week launched its Preliminary Examination report for 2016, which indicates that a decision is imminent on a possible investigation in Afghanistan.

Chairperson of the Board of Director of the Trust Fund for Victims
The Chairperson Motoo Noguchi addressed the drastic resource constraints the TFV is suffering, delaying reparations proceedings and leaving victims disappointed and despondent. He highlighted as crucial is the symbolic reparations package approved by the Trial Chamber and the collective reparations ordered by the Appeals Chamber in the ICC trial of Thomas Lubanga.

Vice-President Cardi on behalf of President Sidiki Kaba
After a number of updates of the work of the Bureau in 2016, four of the six new members of the Committee on Budget and Finance were appointed (for GRULAC and Western Europe & Other seats). Two other seats will be filled during the week.

The other ASP vice president was elected, Ambassador Sergio Ugalde (Costa Rica).

Report were presented on the activities of the Court, of the Oversight Committee on permanent premises and of the Board of Directors for the Trust Fund for Victims.

General Debate
The General Debate commenced after lunch. ASP participants used this opportunity to address issues relating to the Assembly’s work and the wider Rome Statute system of international justice.

The following states made their statement before the Assembly: Palestine, South Africa, Canada, Lichtenstein, Botswana, Bosnia and Herzegovina, DRC, Costa Rica, Finland, Cyprus, Netherlands, Bangladesh, Slovakia on behalf of the EU, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, France, Chile, Korea, Ecuador, and Luxemborg.

Issues of universality, cooperation, budget, the crime of aggression, and recent withdrawals were discussed the most. Palestine called for expedited investigation into the situation of Palestine. South Africa explained the reason of withdraw, emphasizing that its voice on Article 98 has been ignored by the ICC. Lichtenstein, Botswana, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Costa Rica, Finland, Norway, and Austria all voiced their commitment to the fight against impunity and support for the ICC. The Democratic Republic of Congo stressed that it will not withdraw from the Court, though it regretted the two-tier justice system of the Court in the face of powerful states. On behalf of the EU, Slovakia announced their full support for the mandate of the ICC and the work it is trying to achieve, Offering full cooperation with the Court to achieve its goals. 

Another issue discussed was diversity in the ICC as an institution. Several states raised their concern over the geographical diversity of hiring for professional positions. 

Support for the budgetary requirement of the ICC was expressed by the States (Switzerland, France, Chile, Luxembourg) who argued that the Court requires sufficient resources to function.

See our curated Twitter collection for highlights from ASP Day 1.

 

SIDE EVENTS

Trust Fund for Victims - launch of the annual progress report 2016
The Trust Fund for Victims launched its Annual Report Summary 2016, reviewing their work of the previous year and summarizing their strategic plan for the upcoming year. The diminishing financial donations and funds were discussed. These limits inhibits the Fund’s ability to assist victims in all areas. The Trust Fund called for voluntary contributions from ICC member states. Participants also discussed strategic and innovative approach around fundraising.

Hosts: Uruguay/Trust Fund for Victims

Parliamentarians for Global Action - Challenges for the universality and threats for the integrity of the Rome Statute system: the role of parliamentarians
The side meeting focused on the active role that parliamentarians play in promoting the role of the ICC and implementing international law at a domestic level. Full implementation of all aspects of the Rome Statute at this level is instrumental in combating global injustice and impunity. The discussion focused on the positive experiences of the Democratic Republic of Congo in implementing elements of the Rome Statute to try criminals of heinous war crimes at a national level.

General discussion also took place on how parliamentarians can best support and advocate for the universality of the Rome Statute and prevent further challenges to its integrity, such as withdrawal.

Hosts: PGA/Luxembourg/Estonia

Towards a multilateral treaty for mutual legal assistance and extradition for domestic prosecution of the most serious international crimes - state of play.
Hosts: Argentina/Belgium/Netherlands/Slovenia

Justice Rapid Response General Annual Report - Helping to fulfill the promise of ending impunity
Hosts: Finland/Justice Rapid Response

Official launch of the Office of the Prosecutor Policy on Children (Evening event)
 

STATEMENTS

FIDH - Five recommendations to strengthen the ICC
On the occasion of the 15th session of the ASP, the FIDH presents its position paper with five recommendations to the States Parties. In their recommendations, they refer to issues of universality, cooperation, complementarity, budgetary procedures, and protection of human rights defenders working towards international justice.

Latin America ICC member states
Eleven Latin American State Parties to the Rome Statute have issued a statement reaffirming of their support for the Court. The statement expressed deep regret at the recent move by some State Parties to withdraw from the Rome Statute system and was signed by Argentina, Costa Rica, Chile, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panamá, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela

Canada statement
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion stated he is deeply saddened by the decision of South Africa, Burundi, and Gambia to leave the court and he rebuts criticism that the Court has been biased against African countries.

ICC Forum launches 11th major debate
The ICC Forum launched its eleventh major debate, tackling the following question: “In recent weeks, the governments of the Republic of Burundi, the Republic of South Africa, and the Islamic Republic of the Gambia have announced their intention to withdraw from the ICC. How will this affect the emerging system of international criminal justice in the short and long term? What steps might be taken to strengthen that project?”
 

TOMORROW AT THE ASP

The ASP will pick up again tomorrow with the continuation of its general debate session, including speeches from members of civil society. Please find ASP material, information, updates on our newly launched website.

Find out more about how the ASP works here and here
Find all ASP materials and documents on the ASP 2016 webpage
Read more on the Annual Assembly
Read more about civil society and the Rome Statute

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