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ICC Review Conference Takes Stock of Victim Participation

[The following is a guest post by Amy Senier.]

Delegates from the States Parties to the Rome Statute are halfway through the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) Review Conference in Kampala, Uganda.  As discussed elsewhere on this blog, the conference gives States Parties, non-governmental organizations, and representatives of the ICC itself an opportunity to reflect on the work of the Court over the past eight years and to possibly amend the Rome Statute.

The proposed amendments to the Statute, particularly the possible addition of a crime of aggression, have garnered the lion’s share of media attention.  No less important is the comprehensive “stocktaking” exercise being undergone during the Conference.  Over the course of the two-week Review, delegates and court representatives are holding discussions, panels and roundtables on four topics: complementarity, cooperation, victim impact and peace and justice.

Given the significance with which the Rome Statute treats victim participation, the stocktaking exercise of pertaining to the Court’s impact upon victims and affected communities promises to be particularly interesting.  Not only dos the Statute afford victims unprecedented standing before the Court but the conference itself is being held in an affected State; Uganda is the site of one of the Court’s situations and cases.

During the leadup to Kampala, a number of events were held and papers written concerning the topic of the Court’s impact on victims and affected communities.  In February of this year, REDRESS and the Uganda Victims’ Foundation held a workshop in Lira, northern Uganda, with victims from 14 communities that have been affected by crimes under investigation by the Court.   In April, the Women’s Initiative for Gender Justice and the Nobel Women’s Initiative convened an “International Gender Justice Dialogue” with 80 gender experts, feminist legal theorists and practitioners, peace mediators, jurists, women’s rights advocates, and political leaders to discuss strategic directions required for advancing gender justice through implementation and use of the Rome Statute and the Court in preparation for the Conference.  Reports from these events and other scholars were made available to Conference delegates and the public.  Many of these materials are available on the Court’s website.

On 2 June, the current ICC Registrar, Silvana Arbia, participated in a conference stocktaking panel that discussed the impact of the Court on victims and affected communities.  Madame Arbia was joined on the panel by Binta Mansaray, Registrar of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and former chief of its Outreach Section; Carla Ferstman, Executive Director of the NGO Redress; Ms Elisabeth Rehn, President of the Board of Directors of the Trust Fund for Victims of the ICC; Ms Justine Masika Bihanba of the NGO Synergie des femmes pour les victimes de violence sexuelle in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; David Tolbert, President of the International Center for Transitional Justice and former Deputy Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.  Professor Eric Stover, Director of the University of California, Berkeley Human Rights Center, moderated the discussion.

Madame Arbia provided the context for the discussion by recalling the unique provisions of the Rome Statute that codify victim participation in Court proceedings in a manner unprecedented in other national or international fora.  She also noted several concrete achievements of the Court within this unique statutory scheme:

  • 2,648 victims have applied to participate in proceedings before the Court;
  • 770 victims have been authorised to participate in the proceedings;
  • development of an Initial Response System, a 24/7 emergency response system that informs the Court on short notice of any immediate threat to victims and witnesses in order to take appropriate action, including relocating the threatened individual

Those interested in seeing portions of the stocktaking exercise on victim impact can visit to ICC’s new YouTube channel.

On June 8, the conference’s plenary is scheduled to adopt the outcome documents from all four stocktaking events.  In the case of victim impact, these documents are expected to include a declaration, resolution, pledges on implementing national measures and legislation relevant to victims/witnesses, and commitments to increasing financial support for the Trust Fund for Victims.  It is also anticipated that Conference will yield a final report containing conclusions, contributions and relevant documentation concerning the stocktaking exercise and relevant side events that took place during the Conference.

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