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Working Toward a Stronger International Criminal Court

Expert Review Crucial Opportunity to Improve Court

The International Criminal Court at The Hague. © 2018 HRW

A panel of international legal experts has released an interim report on its work to review the functioning of the International Criminal Court (ICC), a first step towards efforts to strengthen the court.

Last December, the 123 member countries of the ICC tasked 9 independent experts to assess the work of the ICC and recommend ways for the court to improve justice for victims of atrocity crimes. At a moment in which the global rule of law is under attack, a strengthened ICC that is firmly supported by its member countries is needed more than ever.

In recent months, the experts have reviewed thousands of pages of documents and conducted more than 270 interviews. In addition to court officials and staff, the panel heard the views of other stakeholders, including through written submissions from civil society groups and member countries. Rights advocates have urged the panel to engage organizations in countries where the ICC is conducting investigations and preliminary examinations, as these groups can provide an invaluable perspective from those communities most affected by the court’s work.

The panel is looking into different sets of issues related to the governance of the court, the judiciary, and the work of the office of the prosecutor. The interim report outlines the specific topics the experts have decided to focus on; the final recommendations are expected in September.

Together with the elections of a new prosecutor and six new judges at the end of this year, the review is a critical opportunity to make meaningful improvements in the court’s performance. The court and member countries will have to assess the panel’s final recommendations to see how to build a common framework for change.

This is a defining moment for the ICC and its member countries. The court is currently under extreme pressure from the United States government and faces hostility from other governments. In addition to robust diplomatic support from member states, changes aimed at strengthening the court will make the ICC more resilient to be able to carry on its essential work in the face of politicized opposition.

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