World Without Genocide Fellows attend International Criminal Court meetings
After the Holocaust, the Allied nations prosecuted Nazis at the Nuremberg Trials in 1945. Those trials, the first-ever practice of international justice, created a dream for many human rights leaders of a permanent court to adjudicate perpetrators of genocide and other atrocity crimes. In 2002,that dream became a reality when the International Criminal Court began operating in The Hague, Netherlands.
The Court’s jurisdiction is the prosecution of individuals for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and aggression perpetrated since 2002.
There are now 123 nations that have ratified their support for the Court, and although the United States is not yet one of those ratifying nations, the US supports the work of the Court in significant ways.
Each winter, representatives of the states parties, as the nations are called, and other entities that are involved with the Court meet to discuss and decide management and
legislative issues about the Court.
This year’s Assembly of States Parties will be held at the World Forum in The Hague, November 18-26.
For the first time, five Benjamin B. Ferencz Fellows in Human Rights and Law from World Without Genocide will participate in these meetings as delegates with AMICC, the American NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court. The Fellows are law students Guled Ibrahim, Michelle Johnson, Megan Manion, Alejandra Sanchez, and Sarah Schmidt.
In addition, two former associates from World Without Genocide, Christie Nicoson (former Program and Operations Director) and James Petermeier, J.D. (former research associate)will attend with the delegation of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court. Both Christie and James are current master’s degree students at the Rotary Peace Center, Uppsala University, Sweden.
Each of our delegates will share their experiences on this site during the meeting. Please check their daily posts about this important international meeting.
Day One- Christie Nicoson, World Without Genocide Associate
The International Criminal Court’s 14th Assembly of States Parties began today with an emphasis on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. In the coming year, the Court anticipates an unprecedented workload: four trials, involving ten accused persons, and further examinations into nine situations.
The Assembly welcomed state representatives, NGO members, and observers who contribute in many ways to the mandate of the Court. In collaboration with member states, these supporters are crucial to the international community’s pursuit of justice around the world. Fatou Bensouda, the Prosecutor of the Court, reminded members of the Assembly that their support is critical and that “the hopes and expectations of victims of atrocity crimes must weigh heavily on our collective conscience, and compel us to stay ever committed to the cause of international criminal justice.”
Day Two- Sarah Schmidt, Benjamin B. Ferencz Fellow in Human Rights and Law
The ASP 14 convening continued on Thursday with the Coalition for the International Criminal Court holding a briefing in which ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda addressed the room in a question and answer session. She emphasized that her office is always open to anyone and she welcomes inquiries by anyone at any time.
The large morning session continued the General Debate, during which a number of states’ representatives stressed the need for greater cooperation with the ICC, increased
complementarity within domestic laws, the importance of the universality of the Court, and the ongoing struggle against impunity that must be fought by all states.
Thursday afternoon saw the first side sessions of the convening on the following topics: the place of victims in national procedures and the ICC; cooperation with the Court; the Justice Rapid Response’s introduction of its International Deployment Fund to strengthen investigational capacity; complementarity in Africa; the Multilateral Treaty for Mutual Assistance initiative; and digital evidence.
Capping off the day was another large plenary session comprised of a two-panel discussion on complementarity in regard to gender-based violence and crimes and victim empowerment. The panelists included Chief Prosecutor Bensouda, Swedish Minister of Culture and Democracy Alice Bah Kuhnke, the Attorney Generals of Guatemala and Botswana, the Director of Prosecutors in Uganda, the founder of Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice Brigid Inder, and Irene Khan, Director of the International Development Law Organization.
Day Three- James Petermeier, J.D., World Without Genocide Associate
On day three of the International Criminal Court’s 14th Assembly of States Parties, state representatives discussed the issue of voluntary cooperation agreements between the Court and member states. Specifically, the discussion concluded that states must work toward greater cooperation in two main areas: the enforcement of ICC sentences and the relocation and protection of witnesses. State delegates addressed what more needs to be done to bolster these voluntary agreements. Suggestions ranged from state hosted
conferences and seminars to increasing the number of states that have established these voluntary agreements.
During one of the day’s breakout sessions, World Without Genocide associates listened as ICC President Judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi and Director of the War Crimes Research Office at Washington College of Law at American University Susana SáCouto discussed possible amendments to the ICC’s pretrial confirmation of charges process. The two examined whether it is more effective to strengthen the process by lengthening or expediting the pretrial confirmation process.
Day three closed with an unusual session in which the Assembly allowed the countries of South Africa and Kenya to discuss several grievances that they wished to express to the Court. These grievances revolved around the Court’s interpretation of key provisions of the Rome Statute.
Extending Justice: The International Criminal Court Beyond The Hague
Reflection by Christie Nicoson, World Without Genocide Associate
The International Criminal Court is one of today’s most successful examples of broad cooperation between countries. To date, 123 countries have signed the Rome Statute, making them a state party to the Court. They have joined a powerful network of countries dedicated to justice, a global community committed to holding criminals accountable.
To some, the Court seems lofty – an impossibly high ideal of prosecuting the most heinous crimes in a place far removed from where most of these crimes are committed. The
crimes, criminals, victims, witnesses, and evidence are scattered around the world; the Court is in The Hague, in the Netherlands.
At the 14th Assembly of States Parties, members, supporting countries, and members of civil society sought to close this gap. It has begun a shift toward a greater presence in the field.
A new approach is changing the way the Court operates. The ICC Registry is working to build a meaningful presence in the field by reaching out to the communities it serves to build trust, search for justice, and build lasting relationships.
This means establishing field offices in many locations around the world. The ICC works with local partners and communities to create a presence that is mutually beneficial. They use the Internet, social media, radio broadcasts – the media that best serve local populations to spread the news about prosecutions and improve the visibility of justice. They conduct interviews and collect evidence to build strong cases. Fieldwork brings the Court to the people.
When the Court began, it was isolated in The Hague. Today, although the Court remains headquartered in the Netherlands, it operates with a much wider reach and with field offices in countries around the world. Through this new approach, the Court not only builds stronger cases, it establishes foundations for the rule of law in far reaches of the globe. The Court is already a powerful force for justice. Its field presence will ensure that the Court continues toward its goal of ending impunity and bringing justice to victims.
Day Four- James Petermeier, J.D., World Without Genocide Associate
The first few days of the ICC’s 14th Assembly of State Parties has been an interesting look at the likely concerns of the ASP for the next few years, including the expanding workload of the Court, and the need for cooperation by states in victim protection and sentence enforcement. Only through great cooperation of states will the Court be able to realize its mandate. This is especially true with the world as it is today and as it will be in the future.
The most noteworthy experience I had at the ASP was to sit in on a panel discussing victim reparations. Panelists explained the need to include the victim’s voice during trial. One panelist discussed how allowing victims to tell of their traumatic experiences in the trial can have a healing effect. This healing effect is greatest when the victim feels that his or her testimony leads to justice being served. However, if victims feel that justice has not been served, reliving the traumatizing experiences in court can actually be more traumatizing. A second panelist, a survivors’ advocate, explained how incredibly challenging it can be to represent these survivors. The advocate explained that long before the trail begins, he finds himself without the time or resources necessary to adequately incorporate the survivor’s voice. These challenges include matters as simple as explaining his role in the matter to matters as complicated as properly explaining how the victim’s inclusion will influence reparations.
Given the varying perceptions victims can have regarding their participation, the challenges explained by this advocate lead to the question of whether victims should even be included. On the one hand, early challenges experienced by victims can lead to diminished perceptions of justice and greater re-traumatization in the long run. On the other hand, success after great adversity can lead to an enhanced feeling of justice. While the perceptions of justice are in the eyes of the survivor, perhaps the answer to this question is in the hands of the Assembly. If it is such a feat to include the voices of these victims, perhaps the Assembly should make the rules more flexible to encourage and allow easier inclusion of the victim’s voice.
Day Five – Megan Manion, Benjamin B. Ferencz Fellow in Human Rights and Law
The Assembly of States Parties is the central forum for governance of the International Criminal Court. It also provides a setting for the Court’s participants, advocates, and civil society stakeholders to discuss critical issues facing the Court and their work in relation to it. This year, “gendered legacies” of the International Criminal Court and sexual and gender-based crimes have been a consistent thread throughout the Assembly. To many, this is a long-awaited affirmation of importance of gender justice both in principle and practice.
The gender justice advocates have had a consistent platform to frame the creation of the ICC and advancement of international criminal law as a discipline that has not developed in a vacuum. Its origins and conceptions are necessarily within the larger framework of historical patriarchy and gender bias. It is heartening to note the platform for which these issues have been taken up at ASP 14. Side events have highlighted issues from around the world and have included the foremost experts on law and gender justice. Earlier in the Assembly, we saw a plenary session with experts from around the world, including Madame Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and her Special Gender Advisor, Brigid Inder of the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice. This panel focused on the International Criminal Court’s role in complementing national criminal procedures using sexual and gender- based crimes to highlight the advances and the difficulties of this fundamental principle.
Further sessions deepened delegates’ understanding of gender and the Court through discussions of the misconceptions and biases in prosecution and judging at the International Court, ad hoc tribunals, and national courts. Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda pointed out the advances she seeks within her own office. Her commitment to prosecuting sexual and gender-based violence are just one contribution among the many that are needed. One of her reforms requires that, even at the initial investigation stage, an investigator must justify his or her reasons for not undertaking an investigation of sexual and gender-based crimes. The 14th ASP has not only highlighted the factual failures and successes in domestic courts of member states in redefining sexual and gender-based crimes, but has also critically brought gender mainstreaming, meaning the valuing and analysis of both male and female perspectives and qualities, into functional conversations like the budget to advocate for renewed attention to the equitable appointment of professionals at the Court as envisioned in the Rome Statute.
This is not to say, however, that the work is done. Many delegates have emphasized that we must move beyond gender mainstreaming and the recognition of sexual and gender-based crimes. The Court still fails to undertake “the bold judging” required to challenge ingrained assumptions about the inherently gendered nature of many crimes under its jurisdiction. Additionally, the conversations undertaken by the Court on gender quotas raises questions as to why such fundamental guarantees for all genders within the Rome Statute still require justification. It is clearly a time for great change. There are many opportunities for meaningful reform to dispel the systemic failures of international criminal law and its implications for both women and men.
Louise Chappell, an internationally-renowned expert on gender and the International Criminal Court, notes in her book, which notably launched this week at the 14th ASP, “the Court’s poor record in prosecuting sexual and gender-based crimes reflects continuing legacies and silences of international law and that the Court’s mixed record on gender justice is a risk to its ongoing legitimacy.” The risk noted by Ms. Chappell is one that is being mitigated by the very undertakings we are seeing at this 14th ASP.
*All quotes referencing Ms Louise Chappell’s book, The Politics of Gender Justice at the International Criminal Court: Legacies and Legitimacy, or her remarks made at her book launch.