The 18th session of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) was held in The Hague, The Netherlands, from 2 to 7 December 2019.
States Parties to the Rome Statute, observer States, invited States, international and regional organisations and representatives from civil society discussed key challenges facing the Statute.
In their opening remarks, key representatives of the Court outlined some of the key challenges the court is currently facing, how these challenges can be addressed, as well as recent successes.
Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji, President of the ICC, stated that “during the past 15 months, the ICC has been subjected to unprecedented threats in a very public way”, including being undermined and threatened with economic sanctions by the US Government following the Court’s Prosecutor requesting authorisation to conduct an investigation into the situation in Afghanistan.
Judge Eboe-Osuji further reiterated that “the States Parties to the Rome Statute must do all that it takes – and be prepared to do more – to counter these threats, in all their ramifications.”
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda emphasised how “international criminal justice and efforts to address gross human rights violations are under assault”, and that “we are witnessing a clash and crisis of fundamental values”.
Some other key challenges identified by Prosecutor Bensouda include an ever increasing workload with insufficient resources, prioritisation challenges, failures to arrest, finalising prosecutions and the turn-around time for preliminary examinations to reach conclusion.
H.E. O-Gon Kwon, President of the Assembly of States Parties, stated that “notwithstanding the challenges, the Court continues to have strong renewed support as shown by the recent addition to the Rome Statute family with the accession of Kiribati on Tuesday, 26 November 2019.”
Judge Eboe-Osuji illustrated how the Court has had an effect in reducing election violence in several African countries, whilst Prosecutor Bensouda said that “the revised and refined approaches to investigations and prosecutions we have adopted since 2012 are producing tangible results”.
H.E. Mr Felipe Michelini, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Trust Fund for Victims, stated that there has been progress in delivering reparations awards to victims, and in “making reparative justice a reality for victims and fulfilling the promise of the Rome Statute.”
The road ahead
H.E. O-Gon Kwon stated that “the Assembly faces key decisions on the way forward in view of the anticipated review of the Court, one that would ultimately strengthen the Court and enable it to successfully confront the challenges that it faces today, twenty-one years after adoption of the Rome Statute.”
President Eboe-Osuji urged all States Parties to do what is necessary to defend the ICC against ongoing threats made against the institution, and stressed that no one should take the Court’s existence for granted. “We must guard against complacency about the monumental achievement that we have in this Court. […] If the ICC had not been created when it was possible, it is highly unlikely that we could create it today, on the divided international stage that we are currently witnessing. Let us all cherish and protect this Court with the greatest zeal and passion”.