International Criminal Court 7th Session of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute

The Hague, 14 – 21 November 2008

No Peace Without Justice welcomes the successful conclusion of the recent Assembly of States Parties and the progress made at its Seventh Session. NPWJ particularly welcomes the ongoing commitment of States Parties to the Court's outreach work, as demonstrated by the requests from many States that the Court revise and strengthen its outreach program, and continues to encourage a more field-oriented approach being adopted at the International Criminal Court.
The Seventh Session of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) of the Rome Statute took place from 14 to 21 November 2008, in The Hague, the Netherlands. The ASP was attended by States Parties, observer States, international organisations and non‑governmental organisations, including a delegation from No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) headed by its Secretary-General, Gianfranco Dell’Alba.
At the general debate, the Assembly heard statements from 46 States Parties, 5 observer States, one observing International Organisation (the League of Arab States) and 10 NGO representatives, including a statement by NPWJ’s Secretary-General.  The general debate provides an important opportunity to raise policy and conceptual issues that can help guide and direct the work of the Court and the Assembly, including outreach, the relationship between peace and justice, reiteration of the complementarity principle, the need for ratification and implementation, the 2010 Rome Statute Review Conference, the greater need for cooperation, the use of article 16 of the Rome Statute, the ICC’s future permanent premises and the recognition of the role of civil society.
At its closing plenary session on Friday, 21 November 2008, the Assembly adopted several significant reports and resolutions on a variety of issues, including deciding the location of the Review Conference in 2010, recognition of emerging cooperative approaches to international criminal justice, ongoing recognition of the importance of the Court’s outreach work and a new approach to managing the Court’s budget.
The Assembly, in adopting the report of the Working Group on the Review Conference and a resolution on the same issue, accepted the offer of the Republic of Uganda to hold the Review Conference in Kampala during the first semester of 2010. The resolution also stresses the need for ensuring the full access of and participation by civil society and victims' organisations in the Review Conference and underscores the need to maximise the potential for the Review Conference to be used as a catalyst for outreach on and by the ICC in Uganda.
In June 2008, No Peace Without Justice stated that if Uganda had demonstrated its commitment by adopting effective ICC implementing legislation, ratifying the Agreement on Privileges and Immunities and beginning dialogue with national and foreign civil society on how to capitalise on hosting the Review Conference for the dissemination of information about the Rome ICC Statute and on how to encourage civil society participation in it, the Assembly of State Parties should not hesitate to accept Uganda's offer. 
NPWJ is pleased that significant progress has been made in each of these areas and welcomes the decision of the Assembly to host the Review Conference in Uganda. In addition to these areas, hosting the Review Conference in Uganda will help to strengthen and underscore the importance of the Court becoming a truly field-based institution. Too much of the work of the Court is still being conducted from headquarters and too many of the staff are based in The Hague, which expands the distance between the Court and the communities affected by its work and contributes to increased operating expenses. Holding the Review Conference in Uganda will allow States Parties a more direct understanding of the conditions and facilities of a situation country, and contribute to a better understanding of how to effect the needed shift of the work of the Court from The Hague to the field.
In its Resolution on Strengthening the International Criminal Court and the Assembly of States Parties (“the omnibus resolution”), the Assembly continued to underscore policy and practical issues relating to the ICC, the ASP and international criminal justice more generally. Of significance during the Seventh Session, the omnibus resolution contains a reference to the potential contribution that inter-governmental initiatives can play, including through the rapid identification, collection and preservation of the most perishable type of information relating to crimes under international law. As the Interim Secretariat of the Justice Rapid Response mechanism, an inter‑governmental mechanism developed to achieve that goal, NPWJ welcomes the recognition by the Assembly of the role such mechanisms can play. In the margins of the ASP, NPWJ as the Interim JRR Secretariat organised a meeting of the JRR Policy Group, to adopt the broad outlines of the plan of action for the coming year, including the JRR Pilot Training Course to take place in May in Berlin. NPWJ encourages all States to participate in the JRR, including by nominating experts to participate in the Pilot Training Course.
NPWJ also welcomes the ongoing recognition in the omnibus resolution of the importance of the Court’s outreach work. While stronger language directing the Court to review and revise its outreach strategy and intensify its outreach work would have given clearer direction to the Court about the Assembly’s ongoing expectations for the Court’s performance in this area, NPWJ urges the Court to take advantage of the opportunity presented to it to undertake a full review of its outreach strategy and activities in 2009 so as to engage fully the populations affected by conflict, particularly in countries under investigation by the ICC where minimal outreach has been done to date, most notably in Sudan and the Central African Republic. NPWJ remains concerned that the lack of outreach in these two countries in particular is contributing to an information void that will seriously harm the ICC’s ability to provide justice.
The Assembly also adopted the report of the Working Group on Budget and Finance, approving a 101,229,900 euro budget for 2009 and authorising the Court to use the contingency fund, if necessary and in accordance with the CBF recommendations on this issue. It was decided that the assessment of contributions to the budget shall be based on 96,229,900 euro of the Programme budget and authorised the Court to draw up to 5 million euro from the working capital fund if necessary.
The decision to assess contributions by States Parties on a lesser amount than the approved budget raises some concerns with respect to financial certainty, therefore NPWJ welcomes the statement in the Report of the Working Group that this approach to the budget should not be considered as any kind of precedent for consideration or approval of future budgets of the International Criminal Court. Nevertheless, given that the decision was prompted in part by ongoing under-spending by the ICC in relation to budgets approved by the Assembly, NPWJ urges the Court to continue improving its budgetary preparation and management, including providing greater transparency with respect to spending in the field vis a vis spending in The Hague.
Finally, the Assembly adopted the report of the Special Working Group on Crime of Aggression, supporting also the language in the Omnibus Resolution for another inter-sessional meeting after the resumed session in February 2009.