Editor’s note: This post is Part I of a three-part series.
I was fortunate enough to attend the 18th International Criminal Court Assembly of State Parties (ASP) in The Hague for four days from 2-5 December.* A number of themes were apparent in the general debate as well as other panel discussions in plenary. External political challenges to the Court were widely noted (and in especially dramatic terms by the President of the Court). There was an obvious and high degree of consensus around the (successful) Swiss amendments on intentional starvation as a war crime in non-international armed conflict, the importance of the Court maintaining a focus on sexual and gender-based violence, the need to achieve greater equitable geographic representation and gender balance across the Court’s staff, and the importance of strengthening the process for the election of judges and the next Prosecutor. A significant resolution on the nomination and election of judges was passed which introduces recorded public roundtable discussions with judicial candidates, open to State parties and other stakeholders. There was also a call from Vanuatu to acknowledge the climate change crisis and add ecocide to the Rome Statute and a sobering moment as South Africa noted it was still contemplating withdrawal. The African Union and Kenya maintained their positions on head of state immunity from international criminal proceedings.
Important as these issues were, however, the dominant theme was plainly that of review and strengthening of the Court, which ASP President O-Gon Kwon noted had been a focus of media and academic interest. It was certainly taken up by State parties. Other than 20 statements made in the plenary session on review of the Court, the idea of the review was widely supported in the general debate (see for example statements by: Finland on behalf of the EU, Denmark, Zambia, Malawi, France, the UK, Luxembourg, Uruguay, South Korea, Mexico, Australia, Poland, Peru, New Zealand, Spain, Romania, Malta, Canada, Ghana, Chile, and Argentina among others). Unsurprisingly, the ASP adopted a resolution empowering nine independent experts to conduct an external review of the Court’s functioning in 2020.
Before examining the independent external review (IER) process in part two of these series of posts, I would like to try to capture some of the context and atmospherics around the idea of the IER. Read the rest of this entry…