ASP 15 Day Three - "A crime against a child is a crime against humanity," says ICC Prosecutor Bensouda

Day three of the annual Assembly of States Parties continued in The Hague today, with the plenary discussing cooperation, an Open Bureau meeting on the relationship between Africa and the ICC and the fight against impunity. Civil society hosted a range of side events, including Coalition sides event on Europe and the role of international criminal justice in the fight against modern slavery.

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.

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See our curated Twitter collection for highlights from ASP Day 3


Special session on cooperation
This session aimed to increase awareness of various initiatives taking place at national, regional, and international levels to increase cooperation between the ICC and states parties, examining means to contribute to the effective investigation and prosecution of Rome Statute crimes. Panelists discussed the possibilities of developing cooperation and coordination networks, the challenges that cooperation and coordination efforts face such as political will or lack of capacity,  priority areas for the ICC in cooperation (financial investigations, witness protection, and arrest and surrender) and the need for harmonious and coordinated work between experts from the ICC and other organizations.  

ICC states parties including Slovakia (on behalf of the EU), France, UK, Australia, Mexico, Belgium, Chile, Norway, Argentina, Brazil, Japan, Lichtenstein, Uganda, Palestine, and Uruguay spoke during the session. Most states reiterated their support for cooperation with the Court and shared experiences of cooperative activities between their countries and the ICC in the past year. Brazil raised its concern on the potential cooperation of UN peace keeping missions with the Court. 

Civil society members Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA), Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch (HRW) also took the floor.  PGA emphasized the role of parliamentarians in enacting national cooperation laws and called for increased political will. Amnesty recommended that the ICC develop stronger mechanisms to respond to non-cooperation by member states. HRW stressed that states have interest in reviewing non-cooperation procedures.

Open Bureau meeting on the ICC and Africa relationship
This meeting focused on the relationship between ICC, Africa, and the African Union in light of the recent withdrawals. The dialogue on the fight against impunity welcomed a largely positive discussion between states parties and some NGO representatives on strengthening the ICC and Africa relationship.  Various strategies were discussed, such as a high level forum or ‘retreat’ to specifically address African concerns, as proposed by New Zealand and supported by several other state parties. All states, with the exception of Burundi, seemed willing to engage in constructive dialogue to address concerns and some of the challenges the Court is currently facing. South Africa, whilst willing to discuss their withdrawal, was critical that even though all States has professed their willingness to engage with African states, nothing concrete had been put forward. 

The main concensus was that the Court, particularly the Office of the Prosecutor, must be more responsive to concerns raised by African states. In addition, all states must strengthen their efforts to bolster the Court and engage in constructive dialogues on how the ICC can most effectively achieve its mandate of delivering justice to victims of atrocious crimes.

The discussion also focused on concerns about the referral powers of the UN Security Council. Many states highlighted that 3 out of 5 of the permanent members of the SC are not states party to the Rome Statute. Delegates urged these states to consider ratifying the Rome Statute, to acknowledge the critical role that they play in referring cases to the Court, and to not turn the Court into political instrument. 

See our curated Twitter collection for highlights from ASP Day 3


The role of international criminal justice in the fight against human slavery
Christian Wenaweser – Ambassador for Liechtenstein to the United Nations
Phakiso Mochochoko – Director of the Jurisdiction, Complementarity, and Cooperation Division
Stephen Lamony – Head of AU, UN & Africa Advocacy

This side event considered the role of international justice in the investigation and prosecution of modern slavery crimes, with a general consensus among panelists that strong ICC and civil society engagement will highlight the international and regional reach of the ICC. ICC related developments were highlighted, including charges relating to enslavement as war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Dominic Ongwen case. Panelists also discussed the role of joint government-NGO initiatives in the fight against modern slavery (specifically in Uganda), the OTP’s contemplation of a policy to deal more systematically with these crimes within ICC jurisdiction, the need to formulate international best practices and indicators, the need for more awareness and prosecution for this slavery crimes, and the possibilities for state cooperation on the issue.

Civil society participants highlighted that definitions need to be clarified in several states, and raised the role of universal jurisdiction, the consideration of sexual gender based conflict crimes.

Host: Coalition for the International Criminal Court and Liechtenstein 

Strengthening financial investigations - alternative sources of evidence for the ICC
Panelists from the the Office of the Prosecutor and the Registry of the ICC

This side event discussed the important role that financial intelligence can play in international criminal investigations. The panel  agreed that financial investigations are critical to uncovering all levels of perpetrators in criminal networks and illicit international organizations. They highlighted that while financial investigations are crucial to funding reparations, they are equally important for the purpose of gathering evidence. There was a general call for ICC member states, national organizations, and investigation units to strengthen inter-agency and cross-jurisdictional cooperation to improve financial investigation and enhance the critical role that financial intelligence can play in international crime investigations. 

Host: Liechtenstein

Global civil society and European states: what can be done to advance international justice?
Mr. Metod Spacek – Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic
Christian Behrmann – European External Action Service (EEAS)
Virginie Amato – Coalition for the International Criminal Court
Speakers from several NGO organizations including Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights, SALC, Burundi Coalition for the ICC, Georgian Young Lawyers Association, and International Commission of Jurists Kenya

The speakers covered a range of topics concerning the role of EU, gloval civil society, and the ICC. These included the EU’s dedication to existing cases and investigation through outreach and communication strategies, enhancing EU’s capacity to deliver justice to victims in non-state parties, the promotion by EU states of increased funding and resources, a focus on EU reinforcement of the imperative principle of complementarity, and finally the role of the EU in helping to counter misperceptions of the ICC through promoting communication and narrative between the EU and African states.  

NGO meeting with Trust Fund for Victims Executive Director
Pieter de Baan - Director of the Trust Fund for Victims 
TFV Board members:  Motoo Noguchi, Baroness Arminka Helic, Felipe Michelini, Mama Koite Doumbia,
William Pace - Convenor of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court

The panellists appealed to NGOs for assisitance in addressing issues such as funding for the Trust Fund, the importance of promoting the Fund's assistance mandate in addition to its reparations mandate, the problem that reparations programs start many years after crimes are committed.

Civil society called for the TFV to expand its communication and outreach activities, increased consultations in strategies and plans of the TFV, and strategies to increase funding for the Fund.

Domestic Accountability for Crimes Against Humanity in Mexico
Mariclaire Acosta – Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights
Michael W. Chamberlin – Deputy Direction of Diocesan Center for Human Rights Fray Juan de Larios
Eric Witte – Senior Project Manager of National Trials of Grave Crimes, Open Society Justice Initiative

This side event involved the discussion of the situation of violence and impunity in Mexico, as well as a report recently published by the OSJI on the subject. The report found that there was a reasonable basis to believe that crimes against humanity had been committed by cartels since 2006 with the complicity and involvement of state and non-state actors. Panelists favored the creation of an independent investigative mechanism with international involvement over an ICC Preliminary Examination or investigation at this point in time. Further discussions included the aggravation of the situation in recent years, the appropriate jurisdiction of such a mechanism and the likelihood of this being enacted. Civil society members debated the pros and cons of ICC involvement.

Host: Open Society Justice Initiative

Crimes against humanity, sex crimes, and command responsibility: development in international crime practice

H.E. Ambassador Martin Sorby (Norway)
Stephanie Barbour - Commission for International Justice Accountability
Dr. Jose Guevara - Mexican Commission for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights

Dr. Emilie Hunter - Case Matrix Network

Prof. Daryl Robinson - Queens University, Canada

Prof. Kim Thuy Selinger - Human Rights Center, University of California, Berkley, School of Law

Patricia Viseur Sellers - Special Adviser on International Criminal Law Prosecution Strategies

Ania Salinas Cerda - ICC Pre-Trial Chambers

Panelists, including from the UC Berkeley School of Law Human Rights Center, the Case Matrix Network, Queens University (Canada), and the ICC, touched on issues including the evolution of sexual and gender-based crimes (SGBC) and command responsibility in national investigations and prosecutions, as well as the significance of the 2016 ICC judgment against Jean-Pierre Bemba for such prosecutions. The Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA) further gave an overview of its investigative work in the Middle East region, such as in Syria, as well as their acquired expertise in investigating and documenting SGBC while the Mexican Commission for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights discussed crimes against humanity committed by public servants in Mexico overs the past decade.

Hosts: Norway, the UK, and Centre for International Law Research and Policy

Child soldiers: prevention and accountability 
Samuel Emonet – Director of Operations at JRR
Romeo Dallaire – Founder of Child Soldiers Initiative
Sabine Nolke – Canadian ambassador to the Netherlands
Fatou Bensouda – Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court

This side event discussed the ways to create accountability and to prevent the recruitment and use of child soldiers, specifically focusing on the role of the ICC and civil society in combining resources and efforts to address this issue. Panelists outlined the enduring problems regarding child soldiers, while also highlighting international normative advancements. They then discussed a range of issues, including the gap between international efforts and national implementations, the moral dilemma experienced by soldiers and policemen who have to face child soldiers, challenges faced during the rehabilitation of former child soldiers, the role of the ICC- OTP, Justice Rapid Response, and Child Soldiers Initiative in addressing the issue, and the OTP’s policy on children launched on Wednesday.  

The newly-launched ICC Policy on Children was commended by all panelists as a groundbreaking initiative that will serve as focus for the prosecution and prevention of child related ICC crimes for years to come. ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda stated that  "A crime against a child is a crime against humanity." 

Hosts: Canada, OTP, Romeo Dallaire, Child Soldiers Initiative and JRR)

National Jurisdiction in the Front Line of Fighting Impunity
Henrik Attorps – Senior public prosecutor, international public prosecution office Sweden
Christian Ritscher – Federal Prosecutor, head of war crimes unit, Federal Public prosecutor general Germany
Lars Buengener – Public Prosecutor, war crimes unit at Federal Public Prosecutor General, Germany Aurélia Devos – Head of the unit for crimes against humanity and war crimes, Prosecution Office France
Richard Dicker –  Director of international justice program, Human Rights Watch
Matevz Pezdirc – Head of the Genocide Network Secretariat

During this side events, panelists from Sweden, Germany, and France presented recent cases in relation to the conflict in Syria and Rwanda. The presentations highlighted the EU’s role in the international justice system, the role of social media in assisting prosecution, especially in areas of restricted access, the importance of specialized units and staff, the need of international cooperation for funding and resources, and the issue of blurred line between terrorism and international crimes. Panelists specifically addressed the fact that international crimes may seem far away from Europe, but terrorism is relevant to Europeans. Therefore, complementarity and outreach need to be focused on.

Innovation of Extraordinary African Chambers for the Prosecution of Habré
H. E. Mirjam Blaak-Sow (moderator) – Ambassador representing Uganda in The Hague
Hon Mbacké Fall – EAC General Prosecutor  
Reed Brody – Counsel and spokesperson for Human Rights Watch
Jacqueline Moudeina – Chadian lawyer and human rights activist

Panelists at this side event discussed the how the extraordinary African Chambers in Senegal can serve as an example of Rome Statute principles in practice at the state and regional level. AFLA asked “what can Africa actually do to contribute to the ICC and international justice generally?” and provided the Extraordinary African Chambers in Senegal (EAC) as an example to the rest of Africa and the world that justice is not just a national concern, but crosses borders, referring to the main added-value of former Chadian leader Hissène Habré’s trial – a trial of many firsts – in ensuring that due process was observed without turning a blind eye to the plight of victims. The EAC general prosecutor highlighted that it is the responsibility of states to proactively set up courts like the EAC, which follow the ICC example in providing victims access to justice for their leaders’ crimes, while calling for the creation of a fund to help African states prosecute and judge international crimes. Human Rights Watch meanwhile illustrated the instrumental work NGOs can do in collecting evidence for the trial while highlighting Senegal’s and Belgium’s cooperation as well as victims’ crucial activism in bringing Chad’s ex-leader to justice. In the question and answer segment, civil society members raised the question if there weren’t alternative methods of addressing the issue of prosecuting a sitting head-of-state.

Hosts: the Netherlands, Uganda, AFLA, the Hague Institute for Global Justice

ICC withdrawals: Is Africa running away from justice?
Evelyn Ankumah - Executive Director at Africa Legal Aid
Angela Mudukuti - South Africa, Lawyer with Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC)
Justice Goldstone - South Africa
Lambert Nigarura - Burundi, Chairman of the Burundi National Coalition for the ICC

During this side event panelists discussed the imbalance in the jurisdiction of the ICC, which the panelist saw as the fault of powerful states refusing to support the Court, rather than the foult of the institution itself. Panelists from South Africa and Burundi shed light on the situation in both countries, with SALC presenting its cases against the government of South Africa, and Burundi Coalition explaining how the judicial system is used as a tool of repression. SALC also mentioned the possibility that the South African withdrawal notice itself may be declared null for the manner in which it was delivered, namely without consulting Parliament. The discussion focused on understanding the motivations behind the withdrawals and considering what we can do to address them. 

Hosts: Africa Legal Aid and the Southern African Litigation Centre 


Minister of Justice of South Africa visits the International Criminal Court, meets with Court President
During the visit, President Fernández gave Minister Masutha a tour of the permanent premises of the Court, which were officially opened earlier this year, and briefed the Minister on legal and technical issues concerning the functioning of the Court.

Statement by William R. Pace, Convenor of the Coalition
In this statement delivered yesterday, the Convenor addressed states delegations to the Assembly of States Parties session to call on the importance of the International Criminal Court and the Rome Statute system. Promoting the ICC's mandate towards victims and urging states to understand that justice and peace are mutually reinforcing.

Statement by the Nigerian government to ASP 15


Tomorrow, the plenary sessions continue with informal consultations on the omnibus resolution.

Civil society also has the following side events planned:

  • Justice in Kenya after the International Criminal Court (hosted by OSJI and the International Commission of Jurists - Kenya)
  • Moving reparations forward, some lessons learnt (hosted by REDRESS)
  • Accountability options for Syria (co-hosted by Canada, Liechtenstein and No Peace Without Justice)
  • The ICC children’s policy: an essential response to child victims (co-hosted by the State of Palestine and the Institute for Security Studies)

Tomorrow concludes the first week of the annual Assembly of States Parties 2016, which will continue on Monday 21 November after a one-day break.

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