Press release

ASP Presidency Fails to Protect the Integrity of the Election of the Next ICC Prosecutor

February 10, 2021
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NEW YORK—In advance of the election of the next International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor, the Justice Initiative laments the failure of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) presidency, led by President Judge O-Gon Kwon and Vice-Presidents Ambassadors Michal Mlynár and Jens-Otto Horslund, to establish a genuine vetting process for all candidates. This is even more concerning given serious allegations that have emerged about the candidates that bear on their fitness for office, only days before the election now scheduled for February 12. The ASP presidency has taken no action about these allegations, depriving states of a fair and objective assessment as to their veracity.

“The election process should have been an important start to enhancing the court’s credibility at such a critical point in its institutional development,” said James Goldston, executive director of the Justice Initiative. “The failure to shepherd this process with integrity and commitment to the ‘high moral character’ Rome Statute requirement makes this task harder. To avoid repeating this mistake, the ASP, under its new leadership, should urgently set up a permanent vetting mechanism for all future elections, including the election of future prosecutors and judges.”

“The ASP presidency has failed those who came forward with allegations and the candidates themselves, who have been deprived of an opportunity to respond to them,” added Mariana Pena, a senior legal officer with the Justice Initiative. “They have also failed the ICC’s staff, who deserve assurances that leadership will uphold the highest ethical standards and end the culture of bullying and harassment identified by the court’s recent Independent Expert Review.”

The Justice Initiative has monitored this election from the start, having first made recommendations to help guide the establishment of a Committee for the Election of the Prosecutor (CEP). From November 2019 onwards, the Justice Initiative and others repeatedly raised the need for reputational vetting with the ASP presidency, the committee charged with the election of the prosecutor, and representatives of numerous states parties.

Following the decision to expand the list of candidates beyond those included in the CEP’s final, June 2020 report, the Justice Initiative and others, through multiple letters and interventions in various public and private forums, advocated for the establishment of an independent vetting mechanism capable of assessing the candidates’ moral character, including information received from third parties. The ASP presidency’s failure to act is one of the reasons states moved to proceed to a contested ballot.

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