The 2016 ICC budget - more money, more problems?
By Niklas Jakobsson
Money always seems to be a hot topic when it comes to the International Criminal Court. Last year, the proposed ICC budget came under a great deal of criticism for allocating a "disproportionate" amount of money to the Office of the Prosecutor. So when the proposed budget for 2016 was released earlier this month, it was bound to receive substantial scrutiny.
The 2016 proposed budget seems to be following an emerging pattern. Since 2004, the ICC budget has increased by 50 million euros every six years. In 2004, the Court had an operating budget of just over 53 million euros. When taking into account inflation over time, the 2004 budget of 53 million euros would be the equivelent of 64,5 million euros today. If the proposed budget is approved, the Court will receive over 153 million euros in 2016.
Elizabeth Evenson, senior counsel in the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch, believes that we shouldn’t make generalisations about the budget increases. “The increase in the Court budgets over time shouldn’t really be looked at on a yearly basis but based on the workload of the Court. The last 12 years have included the start-up phase of the Court. There were a few years where the workload really started to take off, around 2010-2011, but states were insisting that the budget be held to near zero growth.”
Registry pushing for major increase
On a year-to-year basis, the budget will substantially increase, if approved. The 2015 budget clocked in at just over 130 million euros, with the 2016 proposed budget being over 153 million euros. The Registry and the Office of the Prosecutor account for the majority of the total budget increase of 22.66 million euros (17.3%).
This time, it’s the Registry that is looking to take a substantial part of the budget. Compared to its 2015 budget of just over 65 million euros, ICC Registrar Herman von Hebel has asked for nearly 82 million euros this year. This amounts to 53.44 percent of the Court's entire 2016 proposed budget.
Elizabeth Evenson isn’t surprised about the proposed large increase for the Registry. “After three years of basically no growth in the Registry’s budget, it doesn’t come as a surprise to me that the Registry asks for this increase. There are also important changes the Registry wants to make to strengthen the Court’s work on the ground in the situation countries.”
OTP asking for another budget increase
Last year, the OTP was heavily criticised for its substantial budget increase, especially in comparison with the decrease of the Registry budget. Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s unit is hoping to push through a budget of just over 46 million euros, up from the 2015 budget of 39.6 million euros. “There are a couple of reasons for the Office of the Prosecutor asking for an increased budget. The OTP has for a long time been under-resourced, had a small staff, few investigators, with a growing workload. There has also been a backlog of work”, says Evenson.
According to Evenson, when Bensouda came into office, there was a belief that things needed to be done differently. This meant new strategic choices for the office, choices which still require additional resources.
In the budget document, 70.1 per cent of the OTP’s proposed increase will be devoted to additional activities – meaning one more investigation and an additional trial. But despite this justification from the Court, Evenson believes that the OTP will continue to ask for increases. “The Office of the Prosecutor has been asking for a substantially increased budget over the last three years, and it’s likely that this will not be the last request we see”.
The budget has to be approved by the Assembly of States Parties and will most likely include several compromises.
Elizabeth Evenson believes the budget conversation needs to be moved forward. The Court, she says, needs to work towards an ideal budget number: “They should work on a vision of what the Court would cost at its optimal working capacity and suggest that to the Assembly of States Parties. This budget increase wouldn’t then happen from one year to another, but would be spread out over time.”
It remains to be seen whether the ASP will approve the budget during its 14th session later this year. But it doesn’t look like the trend of the Court asking for more money will end anytime soon.
Related article: States are not paying their bills to the ICC