Electing the Next ICC Prosecutor: Shortlist of Candidates Imminent

The Committee on the Election of the Prosecutor anticipates that it will submit its report with recommendations on the shortlisted International Criminal Court (ICC) candidates on time. According to the terms of reference [pdf] adopted by the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) Bureau, the shortlist of candidates shall be issued by the “end of June 2020 at the latest.” The President of the ASP, O-Gon Kwon, confirmed this at an ASP Bureau meeting [pdf] held via videoconference on May 28.

The Committee on the Election of the Prosecutor earlier stated that interviews would take place from April 28-30 in The Hague and that the shortlist would be made public by the end of May. However, the delay in conducting interviews because of the COVID-19 pandemic caused the original timeline to be pushed back. The Committee instead held video interviews with the candidates on the longlist.

Over the past several months, the Committee on the Election of the Prosecutor, with the assistance of a panel of experts, has been evaluating applications for the position of International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor. This is only the second prosecutor election in the history of the court and the first time the ASP has composed a committee to assess candidates.

At the May 28 meeting, the ASP President also circulated information shared by the Chair of the Committee, Ambassador Sabine Nölke, about an additional vetting process that the Committee is undertaking with regard to the “high moral character” standard. Article 42(3) of the Rome Statute lists “high moral character” as a key requirement for the position of ICC Prosecutor, along with competence and extensive practical experience in the investigation, prosecution, or trial of criminal cases. The vacancy announcement also specifically mentions the need for the prosecutor to be of “impeccable professional and personal integrity.” In February, over two dozen civil society organizations, including the Open Society Justice Initiative, called on the Committee to establish a vetting mechanism that results in the exclusion of candidates who do not meet the “high moral character” standard, including for committing, condoning, or ignoring sexual harassment. While the news about a vetting process is a welcome step forward, its impact will be determined by how fair, transparent, and safe its procedures are for receiving and assessing complaints of misconduct against the potential candidates.

According to the terms of reference on the prosecutor election, the shortlist will include three to six of “the most highly qualified candidates,” and allows for hearings of those shortlisted candidates with civil society and States Parties. This will be another crucial step toward evaluating those vying to be the next ICC Prosecutor.

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