Assembly of States Parties on the horizon

Like World Forum Convention Centre in The Hague
Monday, November 9, 2015 - 13:44

By Niklas Jakobsson

Once a year (sometimes twice), state parties to the Rome Statute meet up for a week-long session about the workings and future of the International Criminal Court. This spectacle, known as the Assembly of States Parties, will take place at the World Forum Convention Centre in The Hague this year.

What might seem like another diplomatic hangout actually has serious implications for the future of the Court. Every year there is an intense discussion on the upcoming year’s budget, one which draws a lot of attention from states, observers and NGOs.

In an article earlier this year, Justice Hub outlined in broad lines the proposed budget for 2016. Since the initial proposal, the budget has been scrutinised by states and NGOs. It will be up for plenary debate and a vote come the ASP in two weeks. In a piece in Open Democracy, Elizabeth Evenson from Human Rights Watch and Jonathan O’Donohue from Amnesty International plainly outlined why the Court should get more funds allocated. Justice doesn’t come cheap.

“However, international justice will never be cheap and the budget does not stand out significantly when compared with other important international institutions and multilateral efforts.”

The call for a strong financial commitment towards the Court is regularly voiced by NGOs and the Court itself. The sentiment around The Hague is that the Court will struggle to get all of its proposed budget approved, as it has in previous years. But there is definitely sympathy from state parties in the budgetary debate.

A session about the ICC would not be a session without someone stirring up a fuss. This time it’s Kenya and South Africa that have issues they would like to raise with the assembly. In short, both issues relate to the different states' dealings with the Court. South Africa wants to clarify issues relating to immunity for heads of states. Kenya, for its part, wants to discuss issues relating to the admission of previously recanted witness statements.

The discussion ahead of the ASP will surely intensify, and actors will try to push agendas ahead of the assembly. But most of the issues have already been deliberated in working groups for an extended period of time, and the different actors have made their points of view on these issues clear. But one thing we know for sure is that the Kenyan delegation will be coming in full force. The Kenyan government is flying in 70 people to support its cause at the ASP.

We’re definitely in for an interesting week, filled with intense discussion, speculation and all-important decisions relating to the Court’s future. So keep your eyes and ears open and don’t miss a beat.

So…

  • What do you see as the key issue to be decided or discussed at the ASP?
  • How large do you believe the approved budget for the Court will be?

Lead image: World Forum Convention Centre in The Hague (Photo: Valerie Kuypers/ANP)

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