The International Criminal Court at this year’s Global Media Forum in Bonn, Germany | Global Media Forum | DW | 13.05.2015
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Global Media Forum

The International Criminal Court at this year’s Global Media Forum in Bonn, Germany

In an interview, Fadi El-Abdallah, Spokesperson and Head of the Public Affairs Unit, describes the ICC’s mission and tasks.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is seated in The Hague in the Netherlands. According to its establishing treaty – the Rome Statute, which entered into force in 2002 – the ICC complements national judicial systems and has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for international crimes. To date, 121 member states have joined the ICC. The basic idea behind it is to help end impunity for the perpetrators of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity because such acts affect the international community as a whole.

Which criteria are used to select the judges and associate judges for a trial or hearing?
The judges are persons of high moral character, impartiality and integrity who possess the qualifications required in their respective states for appointment to the highest judicial offices. All have extensive experience relevant to the court’s judicial activity. The judges are elected by the Assembly of States Parties on the basis of their established competence in criminal law and procedure and in relevant areas of international law such as international humanitarian law and the law of human rights. They have extensive expertise on specific issues, such as violence against women or children.

At what point does the ICC launch legal proceedings against suspected perpetrators? Can entire states also be indicted?
The ICC cannot and does not prosecute states, governments or other groups. Any state party to the Rome Statute can make a referral requesting the Office of the Prosecutor to carry out an investigation by making a “referral” of a situation under article 14. This is one of the three triggering mechanisms of the ICC’s jurisdiction. The United Nations Security Council may also refer any situation to the court. The ICC prosecutor remains independent in assessing whether or not the legal criteria are met to open an investigation.

How do you assess US opposition to the ICC and what consequences does it have?
Joining the ICC is a sovereign decision for each state, the ICC is fully respectful of the states’ sovereignties. For example, the USA has cooperated with the ICC and provided it with support in the operation of transferring Bosco Ntaganda to the ICC. We hope that this type of cooperation will continue and will be further strengthened. The Rome Statute Universality is an ultimate objective for the court, but it is through working professionally, independently and efficiently, that we hope to convince all states to join in the global fight against impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole.

What options are open to crime victims? Since they are refused the status of joint plaintiffs, do they have sufficient opportunity to state their cases and voice their charges?
Victims before the ICC have rights that have never before been granted before an international criminal court. Victims may be involved in the proceedings before the ICC in various ways:

  • Victims can send information to the Office of the Prosecutor and ask the Office to initiate an investigation.
  • At a trial, a victim may voluntarily testify before the court, if called as a witness for the defense or the prosecution or other victims participating in the proceedings.
  • Victims are also entitled to participate in proceedings through a legal representative.
  • During proceedings, victims may participate by presenting their views and concerns to the judges.
  • Lastly, victims can seek reparation for the harm that they have suffered.

However, the International Criminal Court is not without controversy. Many states fear that it will undermine their sovereignty. The more powerful a country, the greater that fear is. That’s why there is resistance to the ICC not only from the United States, but also from China and Russia, who have not signed the Rome Statue. African states, for their part, accuse the ICC of being imbalanced, saying that the North is using it to police the South. Thus there are claims of political instrumentalization.