Side Event – “Déclaration de Paris sur l’efficacité de la justice pénale internationale” (hosted by France)

Overview by Phedra Neel, Research Associate PILPG NL


  • The drafters of the Paris Declaration explained the importance of some of the proposals of this Declaration in order to enhance the effectiveness and consistency of international courts and tribunals.

  • Importance of planning and managing of proceedings as well as continuing education of judges were underlined.

Mr. Leurent, Director of the French National School for the Judiciary, opened the session with stating that we must come together and find means to counter all the attacks and criticisms on the ICC and international criminal law (ICL) in general. The Paris Declaration on the Effectiveness of International Criminal Justice includes recommendations to increase the efficiency of the international tribunals and courts. It strives for some kind of uniformity regarding the proceedings of the different international tribunals and courts. The Paris Declaration was developed by experienced representatives of these international courts and tribunals in October 2017 with the aim to take the best from both common and civil law systems, including topics such as predictability, expediency, and governance.

Ms. Trendafilova, President of the Kosovo Specialists Chambers, mostly focused on the role of judges in planning and managing proceedings. Drafting a planning of the proceedings will make these more predictable for all those involved or interested. This planning would have to be created in agreement with the parties involved. It is also important that judges have a common understanding on the approach of admissibility of evidence: will they be presented all at once or piece by piece? Lastly, it should be prevented that the trial chamber has to do all the work the pre-trial has done again.

Ms. Prost, ICC Judge, clustered her points around three topics, the first one being management. Judges must see themselves as managers with respect to managing the proceedings, managing the staff, and managing the limited recourses, she said. This of course will have to be done in a sphere of collegiality, but is mostly the task of the presiding judge who must not only execute the manager role, but must also set the tone and pace of the proceedings. Her second point on organization entailed that judges should already start drafting their judgement from day one. Not to undermine the process, but you can already write down the factual circumstances. The same goes for witness statements, it is better to assess their statement as soon as possible when it is still fresh in the memory rather than waiting at the end. Lastly, she talked about how often they run out of time when it comes to the actual proceedings. She believes that efficiency should be kept in mind at all times because fairness demands efficiency. As a response to a question asked by a member of the press, she explained that the drafters of the Paris Declaration are not striving for similarity of all the proceedings across the courts, but for more consistency.

Thirdly, Ms. Hrdlickova, President of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, focused on the need for transparent rules and independent oversight mechanisms to create an atmosphere of accountability to increase the faith in these courts. The judicial activities between the different courts should also be compared to boost the will to be more efficient, to create some kind of competition. In addition, she explained the proposal to create independent audits to evaluate the management of the court. Lastly, there was much emphasis on the continuing education of all members of courts. Such education would include seminars, professional discussions and others on topics like psychology, technology, communication. “We are lawyers, we are not specialized in everything else”, she concluded. 

This statement was fully supported by Mr. Schmitt, Judge at the ICC, who stated that judges are reluctant to admit that they do not know everything, but that training is a sign of readiness to improve one’s competence. This education is important as universality and acceptance require knowledge on the main legal systems of the world. Secondly, Mr. Schmitt focused on case management and seconded that the judges really need to think as managers and that the presiding judge has an important role to play. Lastly he noted that judges sometimes need to have more self-control when feeling the urge to write dissenting opinions. Not every opinion is a matter of principle or a new development in law; they on the other hand cause for lengthy judgements which affects the overall efficiency.

Mr. Cotte, Former President of the ICC’s Trial Chamber, reiterated all that has been said on the need to improve efficiency. He is happy that these professionals came together to create the Paris Declaration’s recommendations - and thus not binding rules - in order to counter criticism. He hopes that this text will be discussed and considered by all the judges of all international courts and tribunals and is very much open to keep improving the recommendations along the way. Universities have also drafted recommendations that are complementary to the Paris Declaration.