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Organised by the Open Society Justice Initiative and ACIL, a workshop with 35 (inter)national criminal justice practitioners and experts in investigating and prosecuting international crimes and monitoring the respective proceedings devised recommendations for improving the operations of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor (OTP).

International Criminal Court The Hague
Photo: R Boed (Flickr) - edited by ACIL

Critical appraisal of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor's work

On 25-26 March 2020, the ACIL and the Department of Criminal Law, in close cooperation with partners from the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), convened a high-profile online expert workshop entitled “Improving the Operations of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor: Reappraisal of Structures, Norms, and Practices”.

The March workshop brought together a group of thirty-five (inter)national criminal justice practitioners and experts with extensive experience in investigating and prosecuting international crimes and monitoring the respective proceedings. The experts were requested to critically appraise the work of the ICC OTP in the following areas: preliminary examinations, investigations, prosecutorial strategy, outreach and engagement, completion strategies, and the OTP’s structure, ethics, and culture.

Informing the ongoing Independent Expert Review

The consultations held during the two-day workshop will inform the currently ongoing Independent Expert Review of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Rome Statute system as a whole. The discussions focused specifically on the third cluster of issues indicated for this expert review process as well as on related topics, including but not limited to the OTP’s organization, management, and staffing. The workshop outcome report, which highlights the main areas of concern and related recommendations, has been conveyed to the members of the ICC Independent Expert Review Panel. Such recommendations might also be of use to the next ICC Prosecutor, who will be elected at the 19th session of the ICC’s Assembly of States Parties (New York, 7-17 December 2020).

Part of a wider research project

This workshop was part of the joint UvA/OSJI research project, which commenced at the ACIL and the Department of Criminal Law in January 2020 and was affiliated with the ongoing research on the governance of international courts and tribunals. The purpose of the project was to conduct a stocktaking exercise with a view to assessing the performance of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) and developing experience-based, actionable recommendations for improving the institutional, investigative, and prosecutorial sides of its operation.

The ICC’s Independent Expert Review Process

The functioning of the ICC — and the OTP in particular — has been subject to considerable attention and occasional criticism by States Parties, civil society groups, trial monitors, and scholars since the start of the Court’s operations in early 2003. Over the past several years, criticism has grown in volume and intensity in response to a series of setbacks suffered by the Court. A critical mass of discontent led to calls on States Parties to strengthen their commitment to the ICC and undertake a comprehensive review of the Court and the Rome Statute system as a whole.

After months of negotiations, on 6 December 2019, the 18th session of the ICC’s Assembly of States Parties passed a resolution establishing the Independent Expert Review (IER) and appointing nine renowned experts in the field of international criminal justice and governance of international organisations. The IER panel will critically appraise the Court’s operations in three key areas: governance, judiciary, and preliminary examinations, investigations, and prosecutions. The experts have been requested to produce “concrete, achievable, and actionable recommendations aimed at enhancing the performance, efficiency, and effectiveness of the Court and the Rome Statute system.”

The IER panel started its work in January 2020 and is at present carrying out a comprehensive critical evaluation of the Court’s operations in order to identify measures for strengthening the Court and improving its performance. The experts invited States Parties, civil society, ICC staff, and other stakeholders to submit views relevant to the issues under review. The IER is expected to submit its final report to the Bureau and the ASP in September 2020, which will then be considered by the ASP in December 2020 in order to decide on the next steps to be taken. That ASP, a new Prosecutor, six judges, and a new Bureau will also be elected.

Outcomes

Download the Outcome Report containing recommendations for the Independent Expert Review Panel, authored by Emma Bakkum, Jennifer Easterday, and Sergey Vasiliev. For further details about the expert workshop, see the Concept Note and Discussion Paper (both links open on an external website).

On the election of the new ICC Prosecutor and the future of the OTP, see also the recent blogposts by the members of the OSJI/UvA team published as part of the Opinio Juris/Justice in Conflict Symposium on the Next ICC Prosecutor:

See also:

Response

The OTP has responded to the Outcome Report.

Team

The UvA team on the OTP review project consisted of

  • Sergey Vasiliev - Project Lead and Assistant Professor at the Department of Criminal Law;
  • Emma Bakkum - Junior Researcher at the Department of Criminal Law;
  • Kaan Ozdurak, Managing Assistant at ACIL;
  • Isabella Poewe - Student Assistant at the Department of Criminal Law and ICL Master student (International and Transnational Criminal Law track).