The 16th Assembly of States Parties to the ICC Statute comes to a close: increased jurisdiction of the court, but still lacking sufficient resources and cooperation

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(New York) The 16th Session of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) to the International Criminal Court (ICC) Statute ended in the early morning of 15 December in New York.

After years of discussions and days of diplomatic negotiations at the 16th ASP in New York, States Parties decided by consensus to activate the Court’s jurisdiction over the crime of aggression as of 17 July 2018, the day of the 20th anniversary of the ICC Statute and the international day of criminal justice. FIDH welcomes this historic development towards accountability for this crime against peace.

In the context of ongoing political attacks the ICC is facing, FIDH welcomes the strong political support expressed by States Parties throughout the ASP for an effective International Criminal Court. FIDH also welcomes the dedication of a session of this ASP to cooperation between States and the Court and the strengthened efforts towards cooperation on financial investigations and assets recovery, in particular to contribute to future reparation orders to victims.
However, FIDH regrets that the ASP did not reiterate its recognition, expressed in the previous ASP omnibus resolution, of the importance of taking actions to address threats and intimidations directed at human rights defenders working on and with the ICC.
In addition, FIDH deplores that South Africa reiterated during this session its intention to withdraw from the ICC Statute, made first public a year ago. On 22 February 2017, the South African High Court had declared the South African Presidential decision to withdraw from the ICC Statute unconstitutional due to a lack of consultation of the Parliament, which led President Zuma to revoke the notice of withdrawal. During this ASP, the Minister of Justice of South Africa announced that a notice of withdrawal will be introduced in Parliament.
FIDH also regrets that the Assembly did not address the preoccupying issue of non-cooperation of States with the Court, while non-compliance decisions against several States Parties have been taken. On 11 December, ICC judges decided to refer the issue of non-compliance of Jordan with the request to arrest ICC suspect and Sudan President Omar Al-Bashir to the ASP and the United Nations Security Council. FIDH calls upon the Assembly of States Parties to include as a standing agenda item the issue of non-cooperation in its annual sessions and take all necessary measures to sanction and prevent non-cooperation.

FIDH welcomes the fact that the ASP did not follow the zero nominal growth-policy strongly defended by some States. However, the ASP agreed on only 1,47% increase over the ICC 2017 budget, the 2018 budget amounting to 147 431 500 euros. This increase is even lower than the suggested increase of 2% by the Committee on Budget and Finance (CBF) and less than half of the 4.4% increase proposed in the reasonable ICC budget proposal. FIDH reiterates that increased financial support is key to ensure that the Court will have the effective capacity to implement its mandate to prosecute those bearing the highest responsibility of the most severe crimes around the world and enable the effective implementation of victims rights.

The ASP endorsed the revision of the legal aid policy for victims and the defence planned by the ICC Registrar for 2018. FIDH welcomes the announced consultation of professionals and civil society representatives in the reform process of the legal aid policy. FIDH calls upon the Registrar to ensure that such important revision will be designed in accordance with real needs for a fair defense and effective victims’ participation and legal representation, and not following a resource-driven approach.
FIDH welcomes the major contributions to the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) by some States, at a moment where the TFV will start a new programme of assistance projects for victims in Côte d’Ivoire and will be involved in the design and implementation of an increased number of reparation orders.

Following years of negotiations, the ASP finally adopted by consensus a long negotiated amendment broadening the definition of war crimes falling under the ICC jurisdiction. Amendments to Article 8 of the ICC Statute incorporate the use of biological and laser weapons, as well as weapons with the primary effect to injure by fragments. However, no consensus emerged on the use of land-mines where incorporation would need further negotiations.

Finally, the Assembly elected six new judges for a term of nine years, of whom five women. It also elected six new members of the CBF, a new ASP President and two new ASP Vice-Presidents as well as the members of the Bureau.

During this ASP session, FIDH co-organised four side events on the situations of Burundi, Palestine, Mali and on complementarity efforts in Côte d’Ivoire and the Central African Republic.

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