Justice Ministers conference on Ukraine is a vital opportunity for consistent and sustained support for all situations under the jurisdiction of the ICC

Coalition for the ICC
The United Kingdom and The Netherlands will convene a conference of Justice Ministers on "Supporting the International Criminal Court (ICC) and its investigation into the situation in Ukraine”, on 20 March in London. The Coalition for the ICC urges States Parties to the ICC Rome Statute to use this opportunity to reiterate their commitment to the central role of the ICC and the Rome Statute, in all situations under the jurisdiction of the Court.

The response of the international community to the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 demonstrated that more is needed to effectively deliver justice for victims of Rome Statute crimes around the world, namely genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression, and further highlighted the central role of the ICC in the international justice system. 

In March 2022, ICC prosecutor Karim Khan called on ICC States parties to provide his office with additional resources in the form of voluntary contributions and gratis personnel (i.e. outside the Court’s assessed annual budget). While the positive response of States Parties demonstrates a commitment to justice, the call for voluntary contributions by the Prosecutor and the subsequent responses by States underscored that the Court did not have the resources necessary to fulfill its mandate across all situations before it. 

The ICC receives resources through its regular annual budget, which allows it to address the increasing demand for justice in all situations under its jurisdiction and to take decisions without regard for fluctuating political or financial preferences or prejudices, thereby upholding the Court’s judicial and prosecutorial independence. 

Pledges and voluntary contributions in the context of one specific situation exacerbate perceptions of politicization and selectivity, or inappropriate bias, in the Court’s work. The perception of selectivity in the Court’s work is detrimental to its legitimacy and can undermine the credibility of the justice it renders where it does act. 

During its 21st session in December 2022, the Assembly of States Parties rightfully reaffirmed its support “for the consistent implementation of the Court’s mandate across the situations and cases under its jurisdiction in the interests of justice and the victims’ right of access to justice,” and stressed “the need for sustainable resources for all situations and cases, as well as cooperation with the Court to that end.” Unfortunately, this positive declaration did not translate into action when it came time for the Assembly to adopt the Court’s 2023 budget during that same session. 

Political support for the ICC and for international justice must be backed by concrete commitments, notably to fund the institution sustainably and securely across all its organs and programs in its regular budget, so it may deliver justice in all situations that come before it, independently and effectively. Voluntary contributions and the provision of gratis personnel may offer a band-aid solution to a pressing area of concern, which only exacerbates underlying issues, and possibly results in an imbalance of resources among the Court’s organs, parties and participants. 

25 years after the adoption of the Rome Statute, the international community has an opportunity to set the standard for a new era of accountability, and to revisit the Court’s long-term needs. The unprecedented support and commitment to the ICC as central to international justice in the situation in Ukraine provides an opportunity to make a global commitment that independent and universal justice be the norm, wherever Rome Statute crimes are committed.

Further reading

Victims could lose out with states’ double-standard on International Criminal Court resources