ICC budget leaves a lot to be desired

Like Assembly of States Parties gives International Criminal Court far less than it wanted
Tuesday, December 1, 2015 - 10:03

By Niklas Jakobsson

In 2016, the International Criminal Court will operate with a budget that is 7.1 per cent bigger than in 2015. After months of negotiations and revised proposals, all members at the Assembly of States Parties agreed to approve the revised budget.

The budget comes as a major blow to the Court, which had been looking to increase its budget by 17.3 per cent. That first budget from the Court was heavily criticised by states, and the ICC put forward a revised draft with a 12 per cent increase.

According to Elizabeth Evenson, senior counsel in the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch, the approved budget will have consequences for all the Court’s organs: “Delays that may be forced by a lack of resources benefit no one, neither defendants nor victims”, she explains.  “And where resource limits affect the prosecutor’s ability to go forward with much-needed investigations, this affects not only the Court’s effectiveness, but also its legitimacy.”

Budget represents a decrease with respect to 2015

But the increased budget might actually not be an increase at all, according to Mariana Pena, legal officer at the Open Society Justice Initiative: "We are concerned that what is presented as an increase is in practice a decrease with respect to this year’s budget, taking into account financial commitments, increases in 2015 through the contingency found and new trials scheduled for 2016.”

Several of the major contributors were opposed to major increases in the budget, with some, including Canada, adopting a position of zero nominal growth. According to one delegate, several large states – including the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, Italy and France - had different issues with the budget proposal. However, they all agreed that the proposed increase was completely unacceptable.

Numerous meetings to agree on the budget

Ahead of the Assembly, 11 meetings and consultations were held to discuss the proposed budget. Despite this, the ASP spent a substantial amount of time reworking the draft budget. It was not until the second to the last day that states reached an unofficial agreement on the budget.

During that session, several states, including Finland, Argentina and Lichtenstein, voiced concerns about the Court’s lack of funding. But the major contributors, which opposed a substantial increase, refused to budge, with Canada stating that with the proposal on the table, it had reached the end of “where it can move”.

In the same session, the United Kingdom and Japan highlighted issues related to the process of creating the draft budget. Both nations urged the Court to submit a more realistic budget proposal in 2016.

Need to review the budget process

Elizabeth Evenson agrees that the process of creating the draft budget needs to be revisited for future Assemblies: “It is clear that the annual budget-setting process for the ICC is not working to identify and meet the real resource needs facing the Court. ICC member countries and Court officials need to work together to take a close look at the essential role the Court needs to play in an increasingly turbulent world and what resources will be necessary for it to be effective.”

It’s unclear as to what actual consequences this will have for the Court as a whole, but it’s likely that the OTP will have to drop at least one planned investigation in 2016. According to some observers, the Registry took the biggest blow in the budget negotiations and will work on a significantly smaller budget than it had proposed.

Emanuele del Rosso is a cartoonist who works for Justice Hub. 

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