Overview by Jill Baehring, Research Associate PILPG-NL
Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said that the cited recommendations on how the cooperation may be enhanced is as relevant today as it has been when it was published, and that her office is willing to share best practices and expertise. She stated that she hopes increased cooperation can close “the impunity gap”.
Kalifa Gassama from the United Nations Integrated Peace Building Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA) gave an example of successful cooperation with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein regarding human rights violations in the Central African Republic.
The delegation of the United Kingdom said in their statement that they are intending to fully cooperate with the ICC regarding the preliminary investigations on their nationals in Iraq.
The 5th Plenary Session was dedicated to the issue of cooperation, with a focus on regional and national initiatives to improve cooperation with the Court. The Chief Prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, stated that cooperation is rooted in both the Court and national courts. She warned that cooperation was crucial to the work of the ICC, stating that the system will underperform and not deliver on the promise to prosecute the most serious crimes. Additionally, she said that the oft cited recommendations on how the cooperation may be enhanced is as relevant today as it has been when it was published, and that her office is willing to share best practices and expertise, for instance the Court’s policy papers, which can provide guidelines for national authorities. She stated that she hopes increased cooperation can close “the impunity gap”.
Subsequently, Sadiq Al-Sur, Prosecutor-General in Libya, was given the word. He said that the extended experience of the Court was highly important for the investigations regarding Gaddafi in Libya, which has contributed to deal with serious crimes. He insisted that crimes are always closely linked to what is happening in other states, which requires judicial cooperation. He gave the example of several European countries supporting his investigations in Libya with peer reviews to local prosecutors, and emphasized that such cooperation is crucial to fight impunity.
After this, Michèle Coninsx, Director of Eurojust, emphasized the necessity to be efficient in the fight against ICC crimes and the need for judicial cooperation in an effective and speedy way. To see the connections between crimes, criminal groups and networks, it would be necessary to step up cooperation with third states. She gave the example of the network of the European Union Cooperation, which she called the “high speed train” to justice.
Herman Von Hebel, Registrar of the ICC, afterwards highlighted the role of the Plenary, which he called an excellent forum to highlight areas that need enhanced cooperation. Financial investigations and witness protection were named as other areas in which the court can benefit from different regional national and international initiatives.
Catherine Bomberger, Director-General of the International Commission for Missing Persons (ICMP), insisted that the problem of missing persons did not respect borders. For this reason, the issue of the missing was a global challenge which demands an international coordinated response. Cooperation could also consolidate peace trough transitional justice. She also emphasized ICMP’s close cooperation with Libya regarding disappeared persons under Gaddafi.
Kalifa Gassama from the United Nations Integrated Peace Building Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA) highlighted the importance of the cooperation with related entities such as the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. His office is helping the government to understand the context of human rights and is providing them with support such as reports and briefings for the minister of justice on ongoing human rights violation in the country.
Antoine Bernard, CEO of the International Federation for Human Rights, was given the word and highlighted in his statement the importance of the ICC as a strong incentive or partner for the search for justice. He pointed out that positive complementarity was no longer an abstract concept. He mentioned the increasing danger for first responders and human rights violations documenters, which he called a “worrying dimension”.
Several States Parties expressed their gratitude towards the speakers and appreciated the recent development regarding cooperation. The delegation of the United Kingdom said in their statement that they are intending to fully cooperate with the ICC regarding the preliminary investigations on their nationals in Iraq. Liechtenstein highlighted the importance of extending cooperation to financial investigations. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both criticized the issue of non-cooperation of States Parties with the ICC and the inconsistent practice of the Court in this regard.