FIRST PLENARY SESSION
The First Plenary Session welcomed the visiting delegations of States Parties on the morning of Monday 4th December. The core tasks that will be focused on during the ASP are the judges’ elections, the budget, cooperation, aggression, and the trust fund for victims, among others.
President Kaba of the ASP was invited to speak, giving a moving farewell. He reflected on the legacy of his presidency, and highlighted that legal subsidiarity was a key principle in moving forward. He said it was up to states to judge and try those responsible for the most serious crimes on their own soil, and that the ICC should be a court of last resort. Further, he emphasized the importance of the trust fund for victims, and said that the court should not have to weigh up which cases to take due to limited resources. He believes that equipping the prosecutor’s office with the necessary funds would change the abilities of the court, and hopefully in turn improve the court’s relationship with African states. He also reflected on the crime of aggression, and said that the ASP must act wisely and through consensus activate the court’s competence. Finally, he concluded on a note of hopefulness. Senegal, he said, will continue to work to tackle impunity and to make sure the most serious crimes are never committed again. He wants a new mission to be mandated to the court – to make itself redundant. He envisages a world where the ICC is no longer needed as it will “prove that evil has been driven out of the world” and universal justice will be accepted in each and every state.
The President of the ICC gave the report on activities of the court. She spoke of the unprecedented judicial workload, and how the ASP is an excellent forum for constructive dialogue among all Member States. She said the court seeks to contribute to this dialogue and was willing to listen to all views and concerns without prejudice to its judicial independence. She reflected on the new efficiency measures. As a judicial institution the court is a distinct kind of international organization, judicial independence is integral to the functioning of the court. However, this independence should not get in the way of efficiency. She spoke of the concrete reforms put in place that are already having a visible impact in courtroom and cases e.g. the reduction required for some phases, or aspect of proceedings. Next, she said, there are certain areas upon which the court should now focus, namely the representation of victims, reparations, and legal aid. In the last three years the court has sought to improve by collective discussions to promote cohesive judicial culture and to accelerate proceedings, increase predictability, and facilitate understanding – which she admitted was difficult in multicultural surroundings. She said she hopes the judges will approach this complex court with flexibility, an open mind, and a cooperative attitude.
ICC Prosecutor Bensouda gave an overview of her Office’s work over the past year. She said that she views the ICC as a firmly rooted but still evolving institution, an independent judicial body that is unique in many ways that must work without fear or favor. She recalled that there had been successful prosecutions for three convictions in 2016. She also recalled that the Office has worked to investigate crimes in Libya, and that investigations continue with Darfur, Cote D’Ivoire, the Central African Republic, and Georgia. Further, that there are a number of preliminary investigations being conducted. She believes that the results concerning Burundi and Afghanistan are illustrative of the progress that has been made. She strongly asserted that the investigation into crimes committed in Burundi would not be hampered by their withdrawal, which will have no effect over alleged crimes committed whilst they were a state party nor on their obligation to cooperate with the court. She emphasized that the full backing of the court was integral to its functioning in light of the 15 outstanding arrest warrants and calls for greater collaboration between the Court and Member States. She concluded by saying that, on the eve of the Rome Statue’s 20th anniversary, she took the humble view that “we are not standing today at a crossroads for the future of international criminal justice – it is on the march”. The court is increasingly living up to its promise in contributing to the emergence of a law-based criminal order. It is up to states parties first and foremost as custodians of Rome statutes to stand by its values.
Finally six members to Committee of Budget and Finance were elected, and the majority of the 18 Members of the Bureau. The new President of the ASP was elected; Mr. O-Gon Kwon of the Republic of Korea will take over from President Kaba.
SECOND PLENARY SESSION
The Second Plenary Session saw the election of two out of the six ICC judges being elected. Ms. Luz del Carmen Ibañez Carranza of Peru, and Ms. Tomoko Akane of Japan were the first two candidates named as judges during the first ballot. Tomorrow will show the results of the second ballot, and this will go on until six judges have been elected.