ASP 15 Day Five - Eliminating rape as a weapon of war

On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, a panel at ASP 15 today discussed the significance of the first ICC conviction for sexual and gender-based crimes in conflict, in the trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba earlier this year.

The start of the second week of the Assembly today saw plenary sessions on the ICC 2017 budget, and several side events, including on the role of accountability in Ukraine, North Korea and The Philippines, the significance of the first ICC conviction for sexual and gender-based crimes in the trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba earlier this year, the activation of the Crime of Aggression, and much more.

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.

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

See our curated Twitter collection for highlights from ASP Day 5



Consideration of the budget
In today’s plenary session on the budget, the ICC registrar, external auditor, and CBF Chair Fernandez presented their reports to the Assembly. The following discussion centered around the Registrar’s report on the ReVision Project of the Registry, which aimed at overhauling the Registry structure. Several states called on the Court to optimize its resource allocation and cost efficiency; other states raised concerns over gender and geographical representation at the highest levels in the Court's staff. The Registrar reiterated his committment to enhancing efficiencies and synergies within the Registry and to ensure staff gender and geographical representation.

Working Group on the budget
With discussion ongoing, a small but influential group of ICC member states are insisting on damaging cuts to the International Criminal Court 2017 budget. The Coalition today called on the silent majority of ICC member states, each with an equal vote in the Assembly, to make themselves heard to ensure justice for victims the world over.

Over the past week, the very same states have made powerful statements calling for a strengthening of the ICC's ability to deliver justice to victims of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes worldwide. The "Zero Nominal Growth" budget being pushed by certain states means that the Court would get the same budget as last year, with no increase even for inflation. Put simply, this amounts to a cut in the Court's resources. States have mandated the Court to enforce the Rome Statute and to respond to demands for justice from victims and the global community. They cannot expect and demand the Court to do more each year with less. This double-standard means victims of the most heinous crimes will lose out, undermining the Prosecutor’s ability to open new investigations and cases and for the Court to carry out a whole range of critical activities. 

Read our statement

Working Groups on Amendments
Norway (facilitator) read the latest report of the working group on amendments (WGA). There were discussions regarding the Kampala amendments, the amendments to the ‘language cluster’ (Rules 76(3), 101(3), 144 (2)(b)) and the amendments to Rule 165 (procedures for cases related to Article 70 of the Rome Statute). The report will be presented in plenary tomorrow. Belgium made a proposal regarding the provision on the Kampala Amendment to article 8(2)(e).



NGO meeting with ASP President, Mr. Sidiki Kaba 
The ASP President Sidiki Kaba responded to a number of questions from civil society organizations regarding the recent ICC withdrawals, proposals to reduce the Court’s requested 2017 budget, and the role for civil society to play in responding to these challenges.

Liability for public statements: the case of the Philippines
Ms. Alison Smith - Legal Counsel and Director of International Criminal Justice Program at No Peace Without Justice

During this side event, No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) presented its study on liability for public speeches, and in particular those made by the president of the Philippines in the context of a recent statement by the ICC prosecutor on an alleged policy of extra-judicial killings in the country. The NPWJ study explores whether incidents in the ongoing “war on drugs” in the Philippines could constitute the crime against humanity of murder. Topics covered included the principle of complementarity, cases in Philippine courts, the ICC prosecutor's preliminary examination of the situation, and universality of the Rome Statute in the Asia-Pacific region.

Hosts: No Peace Without Justice

The role of the ICC in promoting accountability for crimes committed in Ukraine 
Roman Romanov - Human Rights and Justice Program Initiative Director, International Renaissance Foundation (moderator)
Dariya Svyrydova - Lawyer, Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
Sergiy Zayets - Lawyer, Regional Center for Human Rights
Pavel Dykan - Advocacy Advisory Panel (Euromaidan victims legal representative) 
Markiyan Halabala - Advocacy Advisory Panel (Euromaidan victims legal representative) 
Oleksandra Matviychuk - Center for Civil Liberties (Euromaidan SOS), The Coalition “Justice for Peace in Donbas” 
Simon Papuashvili - Project Manager, International Partnership for Human Rights

This event highlighted the ongoing efforts of civil society organisations to gather evidence to tackle impunity related to gross violations of human rights and international crimes allegedly committed in Ukraine during the protests of 2013-14 and the consequent armed conflict in Crimea. NGO representatives from NGOs argued that the alleged acts amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity that fall within the ICC’s jurisdiction. The panelists also argued that through the evidence collected, a clear link could be drawn between the combined law enforcement and government crackdown of the peaceful protests in 2013 and 2014, and the consequent Russian annexation of Crimea.

Hosts: International Partnership for Human Rights and International Renaissance Foundation

The Bemba ruling and beyond: prosecuting conflict related sexual violence
Kelly-Jo Bluen – Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (moderator)
Dieneke de Vos – PhD candidate International Criminal Law and Gender at European University Institute
Gloria Atiba Davies – Gender and Children unit (OTP)
Dr. Yassin Brunger – Queen’s University of Belfast

This panel discussed the first ICC conviction for sexual and gender-based crimes (SGBC) in conflict, namely the judgment against Jean-Pierre Bemba, who was convicted in 2016 of rape as a war crime and crime against humanity for his failure as a military commander to ensure his troops' actions in the Central African Republic. Topics discussed included the specific legal findings of the Bemba judgement; the importance of accountability for SGBC; the work of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor's Gender and Children Unit in SGBC investigations; how to discuss the topic of SGBC and sensitively interact with all parties involved; constructing a narrative of victims; and entrenching notions of rape as an unjustifiable practice during warfare, of states' responsibility and accountability, and of the importance of the SGBC issues in international criminal justice. Civil society members raised questions about the recent OTP policy's applicability to male victims of rape, about how civil society can address SGBC issues to help the work of the Court, and about what lessons were learned from the Bemba case.

Host: Institute for Justice and Reconciliation

Strengthening ICC Cooperation through Legislation and Access to Legal Sources: The Cooperation and Judicial Assistance Database
Mr. Klaus Rackwitz – Director of the International Nuremberg Principles Academy
Mr. Matthew Cannock –Head of Office, Amnesty International
Mr. Gerard Dive – Federal Coordinator of Belgium with International Institutions
Ambassador Paul Wilke – Permanent Rep of NL to OPCW and ICC, Convenor of HWG on Cooperation
Mr. Amady Ba – Head of International Cooperation Section OTP ICC
Prof. Morten Bergsmo – Director of Centre of International Law and Policy
Prof. Olympia Bekou – Deputy Director of Case Matrix Network and Head of International Criminal Justice Unit at Nottingham University Human Rights Centre

This side event introduced the Cooperation and Judicial Assistance Database (CJAD), a newly developed legal tool. Questions from participants focused on the actual reach of the database, the use of the platform, and how this platform can facilitate the work of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor.The purpose of the tool is to create a platform where legal documents can be shared in order to facilitate the development of cooperation legislation and to enable the drafting of domestic legislation that willconform to states' international obligations. It was noted that by providing access to legal documents, CJAD could democratize learning in the field of international criminal law, enhance access to knowledgeequally in underdeveloped countries, and simply procedures for the incorporation of domestic legislation by observing the work of other states. The event further presented the benefits of this new platform from the perspectives of the Court, states, and civil society.  The meeting concluded with the official launching of the CJAD.

Activation of the Kampala Amendments on the crimes of aggression
Ms. Athaliah Molokomme – Attorney general of Botswana 
Mr. Stefan Barriga – Author of The Traveaux Preparatoires of the Crime of Aggression
Mr. Claus Kress – Author of  The Traveaux Preparatoires of the Crime of Aggression
Mr. Don Ferencz – Visiting Professor at Middlesex University School of Law and Convenor of the Global Institute for the Prevention of Aggression.

This side event focused on the activation process for the Kampala Amendments on the crime of aggression. The discussion started with an overview of the negotiations in Kampala and the eventual agreement on the definition and conditions for exercise of jurisdiction of the crime of aggression. The authors of the Traveaux Preparatoires of the Crime of Aggression, including Stefan Barriaga of Liechtenstein, explained the relative positions of parties on ratification in Kampala, and explained the emergence of a restricted understanding of the crime of aggression. He further explained the principle of ‘opting out’ of ICC jurisdiction over the crime of aggression under the amendment to the Rome Statute, which has now received 32 ratifications. The event paid particular attention to the future of the ICC once the crime of aggression is activated, stressing that the move will further strengthen the Rome Statute system.

Host: Liechtenstein

The ICC and crimes against humanity in North Korea
Nevenka Tromp – University of Amsterdam (moderator)
Kim Hyeong Soo – North Korean defector who used to work Kim’s Family Health Care and Longevity Institute
Eunkyoung Kwon – Secretary General of ICNK
David Hawk – Member of ICNK Steering Committee and author of Hidden Gulag
Nicolai Sprekels – Giordano Bruno Foundation
Sir Geoffrey Nice – Prosecutor of Milosevic at the ICTY / Co- founder of Geoffrey Nice Foundation

The discussion during this side event centered on alleged crimes against humanity committed by DPRK authorities and any potential role of the ICC and the Assembly of State Parties in holding authorities to account. The event featured testimony on systematic grave human rights abuses such as enforced disappearance, forced labor in detention centers and political prisoner camps, torture, and murder; accounts of punishment for attempts to defect or access foreign media such as news, music, and television provided an insight into the severe reality of escaping isolationism in North Korea. Referral of the situation to the ICC was offered as one potential avenue to justice and accountability, but some participants stressed that there are still lessons to be learned in documenting evidence of these widespread human rights violations. Panelists also discussed the the role for informal tribunals as another potential avenue and substitute of international criminal proceedings.

Hosts: Republic of Korea and Geoffrey Nice Foundation, Giordano Bruno Foundation and International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea 

Draft convention on the prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity 
Sean Murphy - Special Rapporteur on crimes against humanity (Moderator)
Justice Goldstone - South Africa
Judge O-Gon Kwon - South Korea, International Criminal Court
Solomon Sacco - Senior Legal Advisor Amnesty International
Judge Christine van den Wyngaert - Belgium, International Criminal Court
Leila Nadya Sadat, United States - Director Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute

Special Rapporteur on crimes against humanity Sean Murphy introduced the draft convention on crimes against humanity (CAH) by outlining the drafting process, ten articles that have already been agreed upon, and the expected timeline for the draft's finalization. Panelists discussed the need for such a legal convention in the international justice framework and touched on developing national capacities to criminalize CAH, improve existing laws, provide robust bases of jurisdiction, and cater to stronger cooperation between states in fighting this crime. The discussion highlighted the convention's aim to complement and remain consistent with the Rome Statute by placing an explicit obligation on states to prosecute CAH or extradite suspects. The side event also underscored the draft convention's progressive nature in regards to corporate liability, while Judges Goldstone, O-Gon Kwon, and Van den Wyngaert expressed their strong support for the convention, as did Amnesty International.

Hosts: Germany, the Republic of Korea and the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute

Through the looking glass - Imagining the future of international criminal justice
Hosts: Africa Group for Justice and Accountability and Wayama Foundation with the art exhibition, "Weights and Measures: Portraits of Justice"



The ASP will pick up again tomorrow with plenary sessions on the permanent premises, the presentation and discussion of the progress report, and the APIC pledging ceremony. 

Have a look at some other side events of our members and civil society taking place tomorrow:

  • The ICC in Kenya: Lessions learnt, loose ends and legacy (hosted by Kenyans for Peae, Truth and Justice)
  • Victims' rights and complementarity: paving the way towards transition in Colombia, Uganda, and the Central African Republic (hosted by Avocats sans Frontières Canada, Advocats sans frontières, REDRESS and Canada)
  • Climate justice (hosted by the Republic of Vanuatu and the Institute for Environmental Security)
  • Protecting human rights defenders: what can state parties do? (hosted by Institute for Security Studies)
  • Evidence in international criminal trials: developments and challenges (co-hosted by Switzerland and the International Bar Association)
  • The future of the ICC: Facing the challenges and strengthening its legitimacy (co-hosted by the Netherlands and Public International Law & Policy Group) 
  • The Heart of Nuba: screening and reception for new documentary film on Sudan (hosted by the International Justice Proejct)


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