Re: Annual Session of the Assembly of State Parties to the ICC
Dear Foreign Secretary,
We are writing ahead of the annual session of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to urge your government to translate its strong commitment to accountability for serious international crimes into ensuring the ICC has the resources within its regular budget needed to carry out its crucial mandate across all situations.
The United Kingdom has provided the ICC with multi-faceted support over the past 20 years since the entry into force of the Rome Statute. This includes standing up – together with other states parties – for the court and its officials when they came under attack from the previous US administration.
Earlier this year, the United Kingdom, together with 42 other states parties, referred the situation of Ukraine to the court, and provided voluntary contributions and the secondment of personnel to the Office of the Prosecutor in response to the prosecutor’s call earlier this year to support the work of his office across in specific areas.
The court’s mandate is needed more than ever. From Ukraine to the many other situations under its remit, the ICC has an essential role to play to deliver on victims’ rights to access to justice. To do so, effectively the ICC needs adequate resources in its regular budget so that all of its officials—whether in conducting investigations, adjudicating cases, or ensuring justice reaches affected communities—can effectively and consistently execute their roles across all situations under the court’s jurisdiction. Regrettably, discussions within the Assembly as to setting the court’s annual budget have too often been distorted by an insistence by some states parties, including your government, on a zero nominal growth approach. This has led to budget negotiations aimed at holding down any increases in the budget according to this standard, rather than a genuine dialogue aimed at assessing real needs. This has resulted, in some years, in cuts or effective cuts to the court’s budget when inflation is taken into account, even as the court’s workload has grown.
Shortfalls in the court’s resources have become increasingly evident. The call earlier this year for voluntary contributions effectively acknowledged that the Office of the Prosecutor had real resource needs unmet by the regular budget. The same remains true across the court’s work, including, for example, when it comes to the critical presence of the court in affected communities through country offices and outreach activities.
The response of many states parties, including your government, to the prosecutor’s call earlier this year for voluntary contributions and seconded personnel is a positive measure of support for justice. Yet, as you know, the use of such resources is strictly regulated within the court’s legal framework and only permitted in exceptional circumstances. Voluntary contributions and seconded personnel are not a sustainable funding model; by contrast, the general budget supports the work of the court across all organs and all situations. This provides predictability and best protects the independence of court officials in their decision making. In addition, although contributions may not be earmarked to a specific situation, the availability of additional funding—after years of limited increases in the court’s regular budget—so closely connected to the opening of the situation in Ukraine has given rise to damaging perceptions of double standards in the support ICC states parties are willing to lend justice.
Of course, the court should ensure efficient use of the resources provided to it. Over the past three years significant progress has been made through the Independent Expert Review process to strengthen the court’s delivery of justice. At a moment of renewed attention on the critical role of the ICC generated by the expanded conflict in Ukraine, and as this review process has led to a common framework within which to discuss necessary changes, we call on your government to approach the budget negotiations this year with a view toward assessing the real investment that will be necessary to ensure the court delivers effectively on its mandate.
Indeed, at this particular juncture in the life of the ICC, justice-supporting states can send the strongest possible signal of support for the court, its truly global remit, and victims’ access to justice by strengthening its general budget. We call on your government to ensure that its leadership in supporting global accountability includes ensuring the International Criminal Court’s regular budget is adequate to the mandate given it by its treaty.
Yasmine AhmedUK Director, Human Rights Watch