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ICC: Promote Global Support for Court

Use Annual Gathering of 110 Members to Confront Critics, Strengthen International Justice


International Criminal Court member countries should use their
annual meeting to strengthen international support for the court's
mission and independence, Human Rights Watch said today. The ICC
Assembly of States Parties, which oversees court administration, will
meet in The Hague for nine days beginning November 18, 2009.

The ICC made important progress this year, including the start of
its first trial, Human Rights Watch said. But the court faces
significant challenges, including outstanding arrest warrants in three
of the four countries in which it has investigations and efforts to
undermine the court by allies of President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, who
is being sought for crimes against humanity in Darfur.

"The ICC has made mistakes that need to be tackled," said Elizabeth
Evenson, counsel in the International Justice Program at Human Rights
Watch. "But the ICC's 110 member countries should step up their efforts
to uphold its critical role as a court of last resort and to respond
vigorously to the court's unprincipled opponents."

Many ICC members, including African members, are working to reaffirm
their commitment to international justice. For example, at least two
African ICC members - South Africa and Botswana - rejected an African
Union decision in July to withhold cooperation to arrest President
al-Bashir. Human Rights Watch called on ICC members to use the annual
meeting to speak out forcefully on the ICC's crucial function and to
encourage the court to strengthen its own public information activities.

ICC members will also gather next May in Kampala, Uganda for a
review conference mandated by the Rome Statute, which created the court
and entered into force in 2002. At the meeting, member countries will
take stock of the state of international criminal justice and consider
amendments to the Rome Statute. Extending the reach of international
justice and assessing its impact on communities affected by crimes
within the ICC's jurisdiction are among the topics states should
address at that conference, Human Rights Watch said.

"Taking stock of the achievements and shortcomings of international
justice at the review conference will help to identify and meet
challenges in the years ahead," Evenson said. "ICC member countries
should ensure that careful preparation for the review conference is
made now to deliver results in Kampala."

Increased international cooperation is essential to the success of
the court, Human Rights Watch said. ICC member countries should bolster
these efforts by creating a permanent working group to address such
issues as concluding witness relocation and sentence enforcement

In reviewing the court's annual budget at the meeting, member
countries should ensure that the court has the resources it needs in
The Hague and through its presence in countries where it is conducting
investigations, as well as in key capitals including New York and Addis
Ababa. The ICC prosecutor recently announced he would seek
authorization to open a fifth ICC investigation, in Kenya.

"Increasing ICC activities and fulfilling higher expectations of
justice mean that governments will need to continue to invest in the
court," said Evenson.

In a memorandum sent
to governments last week, Human Rights Watch called attention to a
number of other issues likely to be under discussion during the
meeting. These include the need to set a policy for court-paid family
visits for indigent ICC detainees, make certain that two judges to be
elected during the meeting are the most highly qualified candidates,
and prepare to elect the next ICC prosecutor. Human Rights Watch also
reiterated the need for court officials to continue to make progress in
building an effective, fair, and credible institution.


The International Criminal Court is the world's first permanent
court mandated to bring to justice perpetrators of war crimes, crimes
against humanity, and genocide when national courts are unable or
unwilling to do so.

The ICC prosecutor has opened investigations in the Democratic
Republic of Congo, northern Uganda, the Darfur region of Sudan, and the
Central African Republic. Based on those investigations, 13 arrest
warrants and one summons to appear have been issued. The ICC prosecutor
also is looking at a number of other situations in countries around the
world. These include Kenya, Colombia, Georgia, Cote d'Ivoire,
Afghanistan, and Guinea. The Palestinian National Authority has also
petitioned the ICC prosecutor to accept jurisdiction over crimes
committed in Gaza.

To date, four individuals are in ICC custody in The Hague. A fifth
individual, Bahr Idriss Abu Garda - who is charged with war crimes in
connection with an attack on African Union peacekeepers in Darfur - has
appeared voluntarily during pre-trial proceedings. The court began its
first trial, of the Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, on
January 26, and completed pre-trial proceedings in two additional
cases. The court's second trial, against the Congolese rebel leaders
Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, is expected to start on
November 24.

In addition to President al-Bashir and two other individuals in the
Darfur situation, arrest warrants remain outstanding for leaders of the
Lord's Resistance Army in northern Uganda and for Bosco Ntaganda, a
former rebel commander now integrated into the Congolese national army.

The Assembly of States Parties was created by the Rome Statute to
provide management oversight of the administration of the court. It
consists of representatives of each state member and is required to
meet at least once a year but can meet more often as required.

The ICC's jurisdiction may be triggered in one of three ways. States
parties or the UN Security Council can refer a situation (meaning a
specific set of events) to the ICC prosecutor, or the ICC prosecutor
can seek on his own motion the authorization of a pre-trial chamber of
ICC judges to open an investigation.

The Rome Statute mandates that seven years after the treaty enters
into force, the UN secretary-general is to convene a review conference
to consider any amendments to the treaty. At its seventh Assembly of
States Parties, in 2008, ICC members agreed to hold the conference in
Kampala. It is scheduled to begin on May 31, 2010.

Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.