Africa: Group of Independent Experts Holds Initial Meeting in the Hague

In late January, a Group of Independent Experts met in The Hague, the Netherlands to begin their task of reviewing the International Criminal Court (ICC) and Rome Statute system, as mandated by a resolution passed at the most recent Assembly of States Parties to the ICC. The resolution [pdf], which the ASP passed by consensus on December 6, 2019 following months of negotiation, commissioned an independent expert review of the court that will make "concrete, achievable and actionable recommendations aimed at enhancing the performance, efficiency and effectiveness of the Court and the Rome Statute system."

The ASP stated in that resolution that it was "[g]ravely concerned by the multifaceted challenges" faced by the court in ending impunity and preventing crimes. A wide range of actors and commentators also reflected these concerns with growing urgency over the past year. Despite the formal review process being state-party driven, in order for success the resolution notes, "it must involve all States Parties, the Court and other relevant stakeholders." This reflects that reality that other stakeholders, civil society in particular, have vital perspectives and experience to share with the independent experts and states leading the review process.

To this end, the Group of Independent Experts issued a statement [pdf] at the end of their first meeting inviting various stakeholders, including states parties, civil society, and ICC staff, to submit views relevant to the issues they are mandated to review. The ASP resolution divides the experts' work into three clusters of issues: governance; judiciary; and prosecution and investigation. Each cluster has three experts appointed to it, and the experts will submit a comprehensive report, including recommendations to the ASP and the court, at the conclusion of their work. At this meeting, the experts also elected Richard Goldstone, a former Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, as Chair of the Group.

The timelines set by the experts are very tight, which will arguably make genuine engagement difficult, especially for stakeholders as diverse and widespread as civil society. However, in an effort to bring more transparency to the process, International Justice Monitor has created a new webpage dedicated to the ICC review process. The page provides background to the review process with links to key documents, a timeline, and a who's who section listing the various actors involved. In addition, we aim to provide regular process-oriented summaries as they become publicly available and share commentary. Readers can subscribe to receive updates directly to their inbox here.

The first set of deadlines for civil society submissions to the Group of Independent Experts are set out below. Stakeholders wishing to make submissions to the review process must send information to IER-Assistants@icc-cpi.int. Experts have not provided additional guidelines on format or length of submissions at this stage.

On Friday, the Group of Independent Experts closed the period for when civil society representatives can make submissions regarding the experts' mandate as set by the ASP. However, two other key dates are quickly approaching, after which the experts in the relevant clusters will then decide whether further meetings will be held.

February 24, 2020: The experts will host a two-hour meeting for civil society in The Hague.

March 10, 2020: Deadline for civil society representatives to submit a short summary of the issues they would like to present, if they have "information or suggestions" for any of the three clusters.

The review process, as mandated by the ASP resolution, culminates with the experts' report being considered at the nineteenth session of the ASP in December 2020. Continue to follow IJ Monitor for updates.

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