Assembly of States Parties 2018

Coalition calls on states to unite against impunity

5 December 2018

First Plenary Meeting 

On 5 December 2018, the 17th session of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) kicked off in The Hague. During the ASP, the greatest challenges the ICC faces will be discussed. The states that are part of the ICC system, civil society, international organisations and other states will be in attendance. Key items on the agenda are cooperation – including executing arrest warrants; the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute; and victim’s participation and representation in ICC proceedings. Closing out the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute – the treaty that created the Court – the ASP session provides an important opportunity to take stock of the past 2 decades of international justice and consider how to addresses deepening challenges to the system in the years to come.

Opening of the Session

ASP17 started with a moment of silence in remembrance of Kofi Annan and to commemorate victims of mass atrocities.

This was followed by a Key Note Address by ASP President O-Gon Kwon of South Korea. President Kwon reinforced the importance of the Rome Statute system and addressed the challenges facing the Court. It was mentioned that the Working Group on Amendments has recommended that the Assembly adopt amendment to Rule 26, and that recent contributions by States have helped with the liquidity shortfall. However, the President urged states in arrears to pay their outstanding contributions. Finally, President Kwon adopted the agenda for ASP17, after urging states to not just “adopt resolutions and declarations”, but to take“more concrete action” on the most serious crimes.

ASP President Chile Oboe-Esuji of Nigeria addressed the recent criticisms against the Court and went on to highlight the healthy working relationship between the judiciary, the OTP, and the Registrar, but emphasised the importance of separation of functions and independent execution of mandates. Furthermore, he addressed the equality of arms between the prosecution and the defence. The ASP President spoke on the issue of budget, saying that justice is a worthy investment and alluding to annual military spending being roughly ten thousand times larger than the budget of the ICC. Finally, on the issue of victims, the ASP President pledged to personally contribute to the TFV.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of Gambia talked about Preliminary Examinations (PE) and mentioned that the OTP will launch its report on PEs during a side-event on Monday 10 December. Prosecutor Bensouda went on to discuss the need forarrest warrants to be executed, and urged states to consider the budget proposal carefully - so that the OTP can face challenges and demands in 2019 with the resources it needs. Finally, the Prosecutor reaffirmed her “unshaken resolve” to prosecute ICC crimes and alleviate “the suffering of victims and affected communities,” despite formidable challenges."

H.E. Mr Motoo Noguchi, the departing Board Chair of the Trust Fund for Victims reiterated the importance of the assistance mandate, and stressed the need to make reparations proceedings simpler, so as not to raise undue expectations.

In a move lauded by civil society, the Netherlands announced that it would make a volontary contribution of €1 million to the Trust Fund for Victims. The donation is earmarked for victims and affected communities in the DRC and in CAR, in the hope that this will enable the TFV to ensure continuity of activities under its reparations and assistance programming, delivering reparative justice to victims of crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC.

General Debate

During the general debate the following states spoke:

Ireland, State of Palestine, Gambia, Georgia, Nigeria, Austria (on behalf of European Union), The Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, Australia, Czech Republic, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Andorra, Uganda, Sweden, Slovakia, Republic of Korea, Finland, Costa Rica, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Panama, Norway, South Africa, France, and Ecuador.

Germany announced a donation of 300 000 Euros to the Trust Fund for Victims. Czech Republic pledged to contribute 20 000 Euros to the Fund, while Slovakia also pledged to make a contribution. In light of the focus of the cooperation plenary scheduled for Friday 7 December, Costa Rica pledged to conclude a cooperation agreement with the ICC in the future.

States Parties elected five members to the Trust Fund for Victims Board: Sheik Mohammed Belal (Bangladesh), Arminka Helic (United Kingdom), Mama Koite Doumbia, (Mali), Gocha Lordkipanidze (Georgia), Felipe Michelina (Uruguay).

States also elected eight members to the Advisory Committee on Nominations: Ahmad Barrack (State of Palestine), Corneliu Birsan (Romania), Bruno Cotte (France), Adrian Fulford (United Kingdom), Lucy Mothoni Kambuni (Kenya), Sanji Mmasenono Monageng (Botswana), Sylvia Helena de Figueiredo Steiner (Brazil), Enrique Eduardo Rodriguez Veltze (Bolivia).

H.E. Ambassador Jens-Otto Horslund of Denmark was elected Vice-President of the ASP.

States Parties affirmed, as per prior agreement, that a Bureau seat-sharing configuration would see Bangladesh and Japan join the Bureau starting the day after the conclusion of the 17th ASP session until the conclusion of the 18th session.

Side Events

Avocats sans Frontieres and Canada hosted a side event on the “Reconcilliation et lutte contre l’impunite au Mali: un faux dillemme” (“Reconcilliation and the fight against Impunity in Mali: a false dilemma”.)

Another side event on “The initiative for a new multilateral treaty on mutual legal assistance and extradition domestic prosecution of the most serious international crimes” was hosted by Argentina, Belgium, Mongolia, the Netherlands, Senegal and Slovenia. A video was projected which emphasizes crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes as the most grave crimes; the obligations of States not only to prosecute and punish but also to prevent these crimes; the need for cooperation and difficulties that arise in extradition due to the absence of a Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance and Extradition. 60 States and International Organizations (UN, ICC, ICTR and ICTY) support the initiative. During the side event Spain, announced it is joining the initiative.

“Lessons learned fairness and access to justice in hybrid tribunals and specialised Chambers” co-hosted by Australia, Lichtenstein, Romania, international Bar Association (IBA) and International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ).

“Commemorating 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute” was co-hosted by the Netherlands Uganda and Africa Legal Aid. The event focused on the launch of their publication, the lessons learnt from 20 years of experience of International Criminal Court, and finally the challenges ahead in the advancement and achievement of international justice and peace.

“Investigating and Prosecuting for Sexual and Gender-based crimes at the ICC and Beyond”, co-hosted by Canada and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

An exhibit was launched entitled “Trauma Healing and hope”.

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