By Thomas Verfuss
The Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute has adopted a budget for the ICC for 2019 that amounts to a de facto decrease. The states further cut a suggested increase of 0.6 per cent, recommended by the Committee on Budget and Finance, an expert team they appointed themselves. The CBF proposal “was already very modest and does not even cover the inflation rate in the Netherlands in 2018”, a group of 10 disappointed smaller and medium-sized states declared during the ASP session.
A group of the largest economies among ICC member states, calling themselves the G7 (Japan, Germany, UK, France, Italy, Spain and Canada) has been threatening for years to try and impose a zero-growth policy on the budget of the ICC, a policy promoted by government bureaucrats in the capitals of the larger countries.
One professional long-term ICC-watcher, Dr Thijs Bouwknegt of the University of Amsterdam, comments: “In 2019 the ICC will have €148,135,100 to examine, investigate and prosecute génocidaires, ‘criminals against humanity’, war criminals and aggressors in 20 countries. The de facto budgetary decrease indicates the states’ interest in the global international criminal justice project.”
The ‘Small 10’(Argentina, Belgium, Costa Rica, Finland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Slovenia, Sweden, and Switzerland) denounced the G7 position: “We would have liked a budget more in line with the real needs of the court and a negotiation process that is conducive to forging the unified front among states parties that is necessary to defend the independence of the court and the mission of the Rome Statute system during these turbulent times.”
The ICC is under threat from the US and the Trump administration, which wants the court “dead”, as judges are deliberating about opening an investigating into crimes in Afghanistan. If the judges take a positive decision, the Office of the Prosecutor might target crimes committed by US servicemen or intelligence officials.
Belgium read out the statement on behalf of the ‘Small 10’: “Twenty years ago, we had a common vision of what international criminal justice should be, and today, in a difficult context, we must ensure that the court has adequate resources to meet the growing demand for justice in order to ensure that victims have access to the justice they deserve.”
NGO representatives in the room, who share these concerns, applauded the ‘Small 10’ statement.
Civil society representatives are frustrated that the ICC has given up on asking the states for the money it needs to do its job properly. Meanwhile, the OTP, which lacks funding, has decided not to prioritise investigations in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, where horrible crimes continue to be committed. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr Denis Mukwege said during a recent visit to The Hague that the atrocities even get worse: in his practice, he now even sees babies that are mutilated as a consequence of rape.
Editor’s note: An advance version of this story was published in The EastAfrican