ICC Review Process: Taking A Closer Look At The IER’S Final Report

This blog is part of a series on selected aspects of the ICC Independent Expert Review Final Report released on September 30, 2020.

The much-anticipated Independent Expert Review final report was released on September 30, 2020 and it is candid, detailed, and more thorough than expected given the limited amount of time the Experts had and the COVID-19 related constraints.  The Experts have done a remarkable job under difficult circumstances and have managed to produce a comprehensive report that has provided much food for thought for the Court and the Assembly of States Parties (ASP). Over the coming weeks, International Justice Monitor will publish a series of posts on selected topics covered in the report.

Established under a 2019 ASP resolution, the experts were tasked with reviewing the entire Rome Statute system and identifying, “ways to strengthen the International Criminal Court and the Rome Statute system in order to promote universal recognition of their central role in the global fight against impunity and enhance their overall functioning, while upholding the key principles enshrined in the Statute, including those of complementarity, integrity and judicial and prosecutorial independence.”  This involved accurately diagnosing the problems facing the Court and developing actionable recommendations.

The individuals appointed to conduct the review were Nicolas Guillou (France), Mónica Pinto (Argentina), Mike Smith (Australia), Anna Bednarek (Poland), Iain Bonomy (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), Mohamed Chande Othman (United Republic of Tanzania), Richard Goldstone (South Africa), Hassan Jallow (The Gambia), and Cristina Schwansee Romano (Brazil). They were organized in three clusters: Governance, Judiciary and Investigations and Prosecutions.

The experts began with an interim report released on June 30, 2020 that outlined their working methods, access, and interactions with the Court, input from various stakeholders, and the impact of Covid-19 on their work. Three months later, right on schedule, the experts released their final report which included the experts’ findings and recommendations.

Under the ASP IER resolution, the experts were mandated to look at the following three sets of issues: governance, judiciary, and investigations and prosecutions. They went a step further and commented on the nomination and election of judges including recommendations on how the system can be improved. The experts were remarkably frank about important challenges facing the Court. Most notably they addressed bullying and harassment at the Court and were unequivocal about the need for change.

Ably led by their chair, Richard Goldstone, the experts delivered a 348-page report with 384 recommendations. It is clear that despite COVID restrictions, they managed to consult broadly. They held a total of 278 interviews and meetings with 246 current and former officials, staff, and external defense and victim’s representatives, heads of organs, the Staff Union Council, 9 states parties, 12 ASP representatives/bodies, 54 NGOs and 6 academics. They also accepted 130 written submissions. Despite speculation from observers about how open the Court would be to the review process, the experts noted that they were satisfied with the full cooperation received from the Court, a promising sign if there is to be any constructive engagement on how to improve the Rome Statute system.

The next crucial step is that of implementation — a topic that was discussed at length by the 2020 ASP. The registrar, prosecutor, and president of the Court have all issued their preliminary remarks, thanking the experts and committing to genuinely assessing and considering the recommendations.

As mentioned, this blog post is the first in a series — stay tuned for more.