Electing the Next ICC Prosecutor: Vacancy Announcement Published

On Friday, August 2, the International Criminal Court (ICC) published a vacancy announcement for the position of prosecutor. As described in a previous article, the panel of experts working with the Committee on the Election of the Prosecutor drafted the vacancy announcement, which the committee and Assembly of States Parties (ASP) Bureau approved. In a statement welcoming the publication of the job posting, the President of the ASP, O-Gon Kwon, said that the goal of the ASP is “to attract the most qualified candidates for the position of Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. It is only through a transparent and structured process that the Assembly will be able to elect the highest qualified Prosecutor for the Court.”

The position of prosecutor is a fixed-term appointment with a contract duration of nine years that comes with a tax-free annual salary of nearly US$ 200,000. Based in The Hague, the prosecutor is the head of the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP), which is one of the four principle organs of the ICC (the other three being the Registry, Judicial Division, and Presidency). In addition to preparing and conducting prosecutions, the prosecutor oversees all investigations and preliminary examinations carried out by the ICC and represents the OTP in external relations, such as before the UN Security Council and other intergovernmental bodies. According to the vacancy announcement, the prosecutor has “full authority over the management and administration of the OTP,” which includes the hiring of qualified staff and managing resources effectively, among other responsibilities. In short, the position carries with it a huge breadth of duties essential to the operation of the ICC as an institution.

Key qualifications included in the vacancy announcement are an “in-depth knowledge of national or international criminal law and procedure, international humanitarian law and public international law” as well as management and leadership experience. There are also nine broad “competencies and skills” the candidates must possess to be considered for the job. These are professionalism; judgment/decision making; integrity; strategic awareness; leadership; financial competencies; planning and organizing; communication; and digital technology.

The overriding criteria for the election of the prosecutor should be merit-based. A few of the most important criteria are highlighted below.

Professionalism: Under the vacancy announcement, this includes a “proven track record of success concerning the management of complex investigations/trials.” With investigations of potential global reach, including in situations of ongoing conflict, this will be a necessary skill for the prosecutor to have. However, in considering candidates, the committee and panel of experts should also require that they be independent and refrain from external influence when it comes to investigations and prosecutions.

Integrity: The vacancy announcement requires that the prosecutor possess high moral character and “impeccable personal and professional integrity.” However, the committee and panel of experts reviewing applications should go further to ensure that candidates have no history of workplace misconduct or harassment. Notably, one of the responsibilities listed in the job posting is that the prosecutor should “serve as a role model of adherence to professionalism and highest ethical standards of the legal profession.”

Leadership: Under the vacancy announcement, the position requires “excellent management and technical, legal and leadership skills.” This includes an outstanding record in management and demonstrated independence, impartiality, and discretion with a proven ability to establish good relationships and “build team spirit with staff” and other actors. 

The job posting notes that the term of the current prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, ends on June 15, 2021, after which the new prosecutor will be sworn in. Unlike other election processes at the ICC, such as for judges, no government endorsement is required and anyone who is qualified and interested in the prosecutor position can apply for it. The deadline for applications is October 31, 2019.

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