Next December, member countries of the International Criminal Court (ICC) will elect six new judges to the court’s bench. Today, to assist that election, a confidential channel opened to receive allegations of misconduct against candidates. The channel is part of a “due diligence” process that ICC member states adopted in February, building on previous ad hoc processes for the election of the ICC’s deputy prosecutors in 2021 and the court’s registrar in 2022. The new process reflects an important next step by ICC members to strengthen the process for electing quality court officials, particularly to ensure their “high-moral character,” a requirement the ICC’s Rome Statute mandates for the court’s leadership positions.
Like previous iterations, this “due diligence” process includes background checks, the aforementioned channel for receiving misconduct allegations, and a clear definition of “misconduct.” The new process also introduces valuable innovations, such as requiring the court’s Independent Oversight Mechanism, the body in charge of this vetting, to contact the candidates’ former employees and, where feasible, other staff who worked with them. These types of interviews can reveal relevant information about a candidate’s character or conduct that may not otherwise be uncovered.
The new process also provides more time to submit relevant information involving alleged misconduct through the confidential channel, strengthens efforts to protect complainants’ anonymity, and includes a warning to candidates not to retaliate against complainants. In addition, it asks member countries and civil society groups to advertise the availability of the confidential channel.
With the adoption of this “due diligence” process, ICC member countries have set a new marker for expectations in vetting candidates for elected positions. But their work is not done. Led by the president of the ICC’s Assembly of States Parties, member countries should swiftly begin work towards a permanent vetting process for all ICC elections, which they said they would establish by the end of this year. While maintaining the elements of its ad hoc predecessors, any permanent process should include additional information, particularly on the criteria used to assess complaints and the consequences of findings of misconduct.
Time is of the essence to ensure a robust process that will provide consistency in the assessment of candidates across all ICC elections.