DAY 1-OPENING OF THE SESSION
On the 5th of December 2018, the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) kicked off at the word forum in The Hague.
The session opened with a moment of silence in remembrance of Human Rights Luminary Kofi Annan and also to commemorate victims of mass atrocities.
The president of the ASP president O-Gon Kwon of South Korea in his key note address reiterated the cruciality of complementarity principle and called on States to support the court by activating its national jurisdiction and trying crimes of impunity within their national borders.
The president commended states whose recent contribution has helped in the liquidity shortfall of the court and urged states in arrears to pay their dues.
Finally the President adopted the agenda for ASP 17 and called for full cooperation of member states. He advised members states to not just adopt resolutions but take actions to prevent impunity.
The President of the ICC, President Chile Oboe-Osuji of Nigeria, thereafter addressed the issue of criticisms against the court.
He stated that the court is non-political and acts strictly within the framework of the Rome Statute system and States must step up and take up concrete action to ensure success of the court.
He emphasized the need for separation of powers and functions amongst the Judiciary, the OTP and the registrar and also the equality between the prosecutor and the Defence arm.
The President also implored member states to disregard any negative backlash of the court and not treat it as an attack of the court.
As regards the Trust fund for victims, he emphasized that serious consideration should be given to provide adequate contributions for the victim and personally pledged to contribute to the board
On the part of the budget of the court, he stated that investment in justice is an investment in peace and security. And he finally called for the universality of the Rome statute.
ICC prosecutor of the Gambia, Madam Fatou Bensouda spoke about Preliminary Examinations (PE) and mentioned that the OTP will launch its report on PEs during a side event on the 10th. She stated that accountability is not a sprint but a marathon. She further affirmed that submission of Al Hassan and Yekatoum is a display of commitment by the OTP.
She assured the plenary that the OTP will continue to promote geographical diversity and called on support for the court. She concluded by wishing the plenary a successful deliberation and reaffirmed her strong resolve to continue to prosecute ICC crimes and alleviate the suffering of victims amidst severe challenges.
The departing board chair of the Trust Fund for Victims HE Mr. Motoo Noguchi reiterated the importance of the assistance mandate and stressed the need to make reparation proceedings less cumbersome. He cited instances of the Lubanga and Katanga case.
Item 7 of the agenda in accordance with rules 25 f the rules of procedure was adopted and the credential committee was formed. It was further stated that the credential shall be submitted to the secretariat in less than 24 hours.
Netherlands reaffirms support for the ICC and urged State Parties to ratify and sign the Rome Statute. They also announced a voluntary contribution of €1 million to the Trust Fund for Victims. The donation is earmarked for victims and affected communities in the DRC and in CAR, in the hope that it will enable the TFV to ensure continuity of activities under its reparations and assistance programming, delivering reparative justice to victims of crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC. Finally they called on states who have withdrawn to re-consider.
During the general debate the following states also spoke:
Ireland, State of Palestine, Gambia, Georgia, Nigeria, Austria (on behalf of European Union), The Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, Australia, Czech Republic, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Andorra, Uganda, Sweden, Slovakia, Republic of Korea, Finland, Costa Rica, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Panama, Norway, South Africa, France, and Ecuador.
Germany announced a donation of 300 000 Euros to the Trust Fund for Victims. Czech Republic pledged to contribute 20 000 Euros to the Fund, while Slovakia also pledged to make a contribution. In light of the focus of the cooperation plenary scheduled for Friday 7 December, Costa Rica pledged to conclude a cooperation agreement with the ICC in the future.
States Parties elected five members to the Trust Fund for Victims Board: Sheik Mohammed Belal (Bangladesh), Arminka Helic (United Kingdom), Mama Koite Doumbia, (Mali), Gocha Lordkipanidze (Georgia), Felipe Michelina (Uruguay).
States also elected eight members to the Advisory Committee on Nominations: Ahmad Barrack (State of Palestine), Corneliu Birsan (Romania), Bruno Cotte (France), Adrian Fulford (United Kingdom), Lucy Mothoni Kambuni (Kenya), Sanji Mmasenono Monageng (Botswana), Sylvia Helena de Figueiredo Steiner (Brazil), Enrique Eduardo Rodriguez Veltze (Bolivia).
H.E. Ambassador Jens-Otto Horslund of Denmark was elected Vice-President of the ASP.
States Parties affirmed, as per prior agreement, that a Bureau seat-sharing configuration would see Bangladesh and Japan join the Bureau starting the day after the conclusion of the 17th ASP session until the conclusion of the 18th session.
DAY TWO SUMMARY
Day 2 of the 17th session of the ASP continued with the resumption of the General Debate, with States Parties, Observer states, regional & international organizations, and civil society taking the floor.
The Debate continued with Malta, Greece, Estonia, Cyprus, El Salvador, Romania, Guatemala, Ghana, Tunisia, Vanuatu, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bangladesh, Botswana, Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago, Iceland, Peru, Argentina, Sierra Leone, and Burkina Faso.
Mali, Lesotho, Colombia, Malawi, Kenya, Spain, Uruguay, Poland, Chile, Slovenia, Canada, Hungary, Bulgaria, Afghanistan, reaffirmed their support to the court.
The Philippines however reaffirmed its decision to withdraw from the Rome Statute – which had been announced in March 2018 and will take effect on 17 March 2019. Kenya’s statement supported immunity for heads of states in the Rome Statute system – in contrast to Article 27 of the treaty. (Immunity is alien to international law.
The Debate continued with Italy, Switzerland, Brazil, New Zealand, Portugal, and Japan, which announced a voluntary contribution to the Trust Fund for Victims of €52,000, adding to contributions announced on Day One, including Ireland, which pledged to contribute €175,000 to Fund specifically earmarked to replenish the reparations reserve and assistance programs.
The need to start early with a process to search for and elect the next Prosecutor of the ICC was highlighted by several states over the course of the two day Debate, including Switzerland, Spain, Nigeria, Norway, Canada, Trinidad & Tobago, and Uruguay.
Following a statement by Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) noting the recent referral of the situation in the country to the ICC (made by Argentina, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Paraguay, and Peru), Chile and Canada requested the right to reply, followed again by Venezuela.
Observer states also took part in the Debate. They included Iran, China, and Cuba, while international organizations and other entities included the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Sovereign Order of Malta, and the ICC Bar Association.
Civil society took the opportunity of the General Debate to call on all stakeholders to proactively and positively engage with the Rome Statute system. Speakers included, William Pace, Convenor of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC); Ms. Barbara Lochbihler on behalf of Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA); Mr. Gianfranco dell’Alba of No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ); and Ms. Guissou Jahangiri on behalf of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).
DAY THREE SUMMARY
The 3rd day of the ASP opened with a special plenary meeting titled “20 years after Rome: Back to the major challenges of cooperation.” The discussions focused on financial investigations (with a follow-up to the Paris Declaration); arrests (with the presentation of the conclusions of the 7 November 2018 seminar); and voluntary cooperation agreements (looking at the achievements so far and at the priorities for the future).
The Plenary also saw a ceremony at which Slovenia signed an agreement on enforcement of sentences with the ICC.
The interactive discussion featured interventions by Austria (on behalf of the European Union), UK, Chile, Spain, Norway, Netherlands, Japan, Mexico, Czech Republic, Korea, Brazil, Belgium (and Bastien Hanard who intervened), El Salvador, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Palestine, Uganda, Uruguay (as the regional focal points on non-cooperation), Mali, and Ecuador.
During its intervention, Spain pledged to conclude additional cooperation agreements with the Court in the future.
Plenary on the 20th Anniversary of the Rome Statute
The session began with the projection of a video on the 20th anniversary, introduced by the focal points on cooperation, H.E Ambassador Philippe Lalliot (France) and H.E. Ambassador Momar Guèye (Senegal), and followed by remarks by ICC Prosecutor, Ms. Fatou Bensouda.
The plenary then continued with a panel discussion entitled, “Rome Statute 20 years – Addressing current and future challenges,” moderated by H.E. Ambassador Michal Mlynár (Slovakia), ASP Vice-President. Speakers included H.E. Ambassador Sergio Ugalde (Costa Rica); H.E. Ambassador. Brândușa-Ioana Predescu (Romania); Ms. Namira Negm, Legal Counsel, African Union; H.E. Ambassador María Teresa Infante Caffi (Chile); Mr. John Dugard, Professor, Leiden University; and Mr. Bill Pace, Convenor, Coalition for the ICC.
Noting that 2018 is also the 70th anniversary of the Genocide Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Pace reminded states of the many progressive elements included in the treaty that led to the creation of the Court 20 years ago in Rome – and noted that some of those same innovations are under threat today.
The issue of threats to the Court and to its supporters was referenced by a number of the speakers.
Speakers from the following states and organizations took the floor during the interactive session: Sierra Leone, Palestine, Brazil, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Austria (on behalf of the European Union), France, Portugal, Mexico, Italy, Bangladesh, Chile, South Africa and Human Rights Watch.
Resumption of the General Debate.
The Debate resumed in the afternoon of Day 3 with seven speakers from civil society: Mr. Chino Obiagwu of the (Nigerian national coalition for the ICC (NCICC)/African Network for International Criminal Justice (ANICJ); Ms. Nino Tsagareishvili (Human Rights Centre (HRIDC)/Georgian national coalition for the ICC (GCICC); Mr. Michael Greco (American Bar Association [ABA]; Ms. Olga Guzman Vergara (Comision Mexicana de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos (CMPDPDH); Mr. Hadi Marifat (Transitional Justice Coordination Group-Afghanistan); Mr. Richard Dicker (Human Rights Watch); and Mr. Arpee Santiago (Philippines national coalition for the ICC).
SUMMARY OF DAY 4
The 17th session of the ASP continued on Saturday 8 December with informal consultations on the so-called “omnibus resolution” – formally entitled, “Strengthening the International Criminal Court and the Assembly of States Parties.” The omnibus resolution addresses a wide range of substantive, practical, and policy issues in relation to the Court, the ASP, and other stakeholders.
ASP SUMMARY DAY5
The 17th session of the ASP continued on Monday 10th December which coincided with the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. On that historical day, the ASP resumed with discussions on the budget of the Court – with presentations by the ICC Registrar, Peter Lewis, and the Chair of the Committee on Budget and Finance (CBF), Mr. Hitoshi Kozaki (Japan), followed by consideration of the audit reports.
States considered the Court’s proposed budget request for 2019 (€151.134 million) and the recommendation of the CBF to approve a budget of €144.87.
DAY SIX PLENARIES
Day Six of the ASP saw a plenary discussion on the “Achievements and challenges regarding victims’ participation and legal representation after 20 years of the adoption of Rome Statute.” Organized at the initiative of the Cluster I co-facilitators, Argentina, and the United Kingdom, States Parties, Court officials, and civil society representatives exchanged views on the topic and considered questions such as, “at what stages may victims participate?;” “which victims may participate?;” “what does participation mean in practice?;” and, “how does legal representation work?”
Ms. Erica Lucero (Argentina) and Mr. Philip Dixon (United Kingdom) moderated a panel featuring Mr. Hirad Abtahi (Head, Legal and Enforcement Unit, Presidency/Acting Chef de Cabinet, ICC Presidency); Mr. Fabricio Guariglia (Director, Prosecution Division, ICC Office of the Prosecutor); Mr. Philipp Ambach (Chief, Victims Participation and Reparations Section, ICC Registry); Ms. Paolina Massidda (Principal Counsel, ICC Office of Public Counsel for Victims); Mr. Francisco Cox (Legal Representative of Victims in the ICC case against Dominic Ongwen); and Ms. Christine Alai (Technical Advisor to the International Commission of Jurists-Kenya Chapter, International Justice Program).
During the interactive session, state representatives from Austria, the United Kingdom, Norway, Argentina, Palestine, and Chile took the floor, while civil society representatives from the International Federation for Human Rights, Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, and Transitional Justice Coordination Group-Afghanistan also weighed in. Mr. Xavier-Jean Keita (Principal Counsel, ICC Office of Public Counsel for Defense), also intervened from the floor.
States then adopted resolutions on Rule 26 (ICC-ASP/17/L.6); Cooperation (ICC-ASP/17/L.5); and Remuneration of the judges (ICC-ASP/17.L.7).
Discussions continued in the morning on the budget of the Court, leading to the introduction of a draft resolution on the Programme Budget for 2019 (ICC-ASP/17/L.4) in the afternoon. A draft of the omnibus resolution, “Strengthening the International Criminal Court and the Assembly of States Parties,” was also introduced.
ASP DAY 7
On the last day of the 17th ASP session, states convened for a short plenary to adopt the last of the resolutions and reports. States considered the Court’s proposed budget request for 2019 (€147.55 million) and the recommendation of the CBF to approve a budget of €144.70 million, finally settling – after several days of drawn-out negotiations – on a budget of €144.55 million – or €150,000 less than what the independent expert body had advised.
As the ASP session was drawing to a close, the ICC issued a press release announcing the arrest of Mr. Patrice
Ngaïssona by French authorities. Mr. Ngaïssona – who was the most senior leader and the “National General Coordinator” of the Anti-Balaka – is accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes allegedly committed in various locations in the CAR.
They were series of side event at the ASP from various organizations in their advancement of international Criminal Justice.
On the 6th of December, the Victims Support Initiative organized a side event on “Victims Participation in ICC Proceeding, examining the role of the ICC Prosecutor”. The event was hosted by the Republic of Chile and had in attendance Teddy Atim, researcher at Feinstein International Centre, Tufts University, Joseph A. Manoba of LRV Prosecutor V Ogwen and Francisco Cox of LRV Prosecutor v Ogwen. The side event examined the need of victims participation and the importance of putting victims at the center of justice.
Parliamentarians for Global Actions organized a side event on “Challenges and Opportunities for the Universality of the Rome Statute System: Strategies and Best Practices Tailored to the Asia-Pacific Region.
Also on the 7th of December, there was a side event on listening to victims from Afghanistan. The side event was hosted by Human Rights Watch, International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and the Afghan Transitional Justice Coordination Group. the event ad in its panel Hdi Marifat, Wadood Pedram, all of thr Trasitional justice group, then Pablo de Greiff of New York school of la and Marieke Wierda a PhD researcher on Afghan. Discussion was open on the views of the Afghanistan society on the ICC and its peace process.
Still on the 7th, Human Rights Watch and Leiden University Netherlands also orgarnised a breakfast side event on “Preliminary objections: Impact, Policies and Practices. The event addressed pertinent challenges facing participants in the preliminary examination processes. The panel and participants of the event discussed the impact on PE on domestic proceedings and the transition from documentation to criminal investigation. The event was co-hosted by Norway , Center for International LawResearch and Policy.
European Center For Constitutional and Human Rights and ’No Peace Without Justice” also hosted a side event on the 7th, titled Justice for Syria-Universal Jurisdiction as a main energy tooto complement the international criminal court. the event had in its panel, the Minister and Deputy Ambassador of the Embassy of Liechtenstein in Brussels, Belgium,Dr Stefn Barriga, N.N , Syrian activist and former Detainnee claimant in Germany, Ms. Aurelia Devos, Head of the unit for crimes against humanity and War Crimes at the Prosecution Office, France amongst others.
The Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice hosted a panel discussion on the 10th of Dcember on the topic What makes Violence Sexual” the event saw to the launch of the “Call it what it is campaign” the evnt was supported by the government of Canada, the Australian Embassy to the Netherelands and the Foreign and common wealth office.
On Tuesday the 11th of December, Luxembourg and Open Society Justice Initiative explored the question of “Complementarity and Cooperation Revisited: What role for the ICC in supporting national and hybrid investigations and prosecutions?” while France, Senegal, and the International Criminal Court Bar Association (ICCBA) addressed the issue of “The role of ICCBA in supporting and enhancing complementarity.”
The last side event of ASP17 returned the attention to the victims and communities affected by international crimes, with the Netherlands, Uganda, Avocats Sans Frontieres, Impunity Watch, and Redress organizing an event to discuss, “Victim Participation in Transitional Justice Contexts