(The Hague) - States that have ratified the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court must provide the necessary financial and political support for the court as it begins its first field investigations into war crimes and crimes against humanity. The ICC’s annual Assembly of States Parties is set to meet in The Hague from September 6 to 10.  
 
"Now that the ICC is beginning to reach out to witnesses and victims, we expect these states to step up to the plate and provide the appropriate funds for the court to do its job," said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch's International Justice program. "It's not about giving the court a blank check, but making sure that the ICC has the necessary financial and political backing for this critical phase of its work."  
 
The ICC has already begun investigations into crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. Both situations were referred to the ICC prosecutor by the governments of the countries themselves, demonstrating a clear need for the court. Human Rights Watch noted that these investigations mark a significant new phase in the ICC's work that will highlight the importance of the court in bringing justice to victims and fighting impunity. The investigations will also present the court for the first time with the difficult challenge of gathering evidence on the most serious crimes, which involve thousands of victims and complex legal issues.  
 
"The court will face tough issues, such as providing protection for victims and witnesses, and getting states to cooperate with its investigations," said Dicker. "To meet these challenges, the court will need financial resources and the political will of supportive states."  
 
The Assembly of States Parties represents all of the member states of the ICC. It has the responsibility to provide management oversight to the court and ensure it functions effectively. Human Rights Watch said that in addition to providing necessary funds, the body should work to promote universal acceptance of the ICC treaty, assist countries in implementing legislation to facilitate cooperation with the court, and aid the court in any instances of non-cooperation by states.  
 
The International Criminal Court can prosecute genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity when national judicial systems are unable or unwilling to do so. The ICC, based in The Hague, has broad international support. Currently, 94 countries have ratified the Rome Statue establishing the court, and nearly 140 have signed this treaty.