By Justice Hub
1. ASP stands for the Assembly of States Parties, which is one way of saying: the countries which have signed up to the ICC.
2. The ASP meets every year: one year in The Hague, the next in New York. The Hague is the seat of the ICC, so it makes sense to hold it there. But the New York meeting is because many of the general ICC meetings involve diplomats, and there’s a huge band of heavyweight representatives at the UN headquarters in New York. If you want to have as many countries as possible participate in a meeting, then New York is the one place you can almost guarantee every state will have an ambassador because of the UN.
3. At the ASP, several big decisions are taken, including what’s the budget for next year and what changes need to be made to the rules governing the ICC.
4. It’s also a talking shop, with a lot of side meetings and lobbying in the corridors.
5. This year there will be an election – which could take up to two days – for six new judges. There’s a complicated system, involving criteria such as male/female, different parts of the world and different law systems.
6. This year the new head of the ASP itself will be elected. Sidiki Kaba, Senegal’s justice minister, has already been endorsed and will be elected as the new ASP President. He’ll take office immediately, replacing the current ASP President Tiina Intelmann from Estonia.
7. Meanwhile, the ASP is also turning into the place to express criticism of what’s going on at the court. Last year, Kenya tried to change some of the rules. This year it has asked for a discussion on “the conduct of the Court and the Office of the Prosecutor”. But there’s been a fight back from within the court, saying that how they conduct cases is not a matter for the ASP to discuss.
8. In addition, several states are campaigning this year to change the Rome Statute, the founding document of the court.
- Belgium wants an amendment to Article 8, adding the use of chemical weapons to war crimes;
- Mexico also wants an amendment to Article 8, adding the use of nuclear weapons to war crimes;
- Trinidad and Tobago and Belize want an amendment to Article 5: to give the court jurisdiction over the crime of international drug trafficking;
- South Africa wants a complicated amendment to Article 16: to allow for a state with jurisdiction over a situation before the Court to request the UN Security Council (UNSC) to defer the investigation or prosecution for a renewable period of 12 months. Should the UNSC fail to react to such a request within 6 months, South Africa wants the UN General Assembly to be given the power to defer an investigation or prosecution;
- And Kenya wants a whole series of amendments: to Article 63 on the presence of the accused, to Article 27 on serving heads of states, to Article 70 on offences against the court, to Article 112 on the Independent Oversight Mechanism and to the preamble of the Rome Statute to add regional criminal jurisdictions to the complementarity principle.
9. Justice NGOs have lobbied hard against some of the amendments. Amnesty International, for instance, says the South African suggestion “would vastly expand the potential for political interference in the work of the ICC”.
10. But any amendments to the Rome Statute have a whole procedure to go through. If a majority of the states present want to, they can discuss any of the proposals. And they can then decide either to discuss it straight away or to put the issue off and discuss at a review conference. If the issue comes to a vote, it will need the support of two‐thirds of the States Parties. And if agreed, any amendments still only come into force if seven‐eights of all States Parties actually ratify them.
11. There will also be a discussion about the court’s proposed budget for next year. They’ve asked for €135.02 million, an increase of €13.74 million on the budget for 2014. They argue that this is mainly due to rising staff costs (including costs related to new judges and judges’ pensions), new trials and better resources for the prosecutor’s strategic plan. But one of the ASP’s own committees has recommended that the total for next year should be much less – under 130 million.
Source: Coalition for the ICC
Lead image: UN headquarters in New York, where the ASP will be meeting (Photo: Antonio Zugaldia/Flickr)