On October 27, 2014, the American Bar Association’s (ABA) International Criminal Court (ICC) Project in conjunction with the Washington Working Group on the ICC organized a U.S. Senate briefing on the ICC. The off-the-record event hosted by the office of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) featured remarks by Ms. Fatou Bensouda, the Prosecutor of the ICC, and Mr.Stephen Rapp, U.S. Ambassador at-large for Global Criminal Justice, with introductory comments by Mr. Kip Hale, senior counsel of the ABA Center for Human Rights and director of the ABA-ICC Project.
In her remarks, Madame Prosecutor began by discussing the Kenya cases at the ICC, in particular the lack of cooperation by the Kenyan government, on-going witness intimidation and evidence tampering, and the substantial amount of crime-based evidence already before the Court. Madame Prosecutor then discussed the on-going atrocities in Syria and Iraq, specifically roadblocks and avenues for the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) to explore jurisdiction in these countries. She concluded her remarks by giving details about the OTP’s new Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes, which resulted from two years of exhaustive internal ICC and external civil society and governmental consultations. She reaffirmed her personal as well as the OTP’s commitment to combating these crimes.
Ambassador Rapp’s remarks concentrated on how the U.S. government has supported international criminal justice, most notably ad hoc and hybrid international tribunals and domestic courts investigating and prosecuting international atrocity crimes. He noted that while the preference should always be domestic accountability for such mass crimes, there is a need for a permanent international criminal tribunal given that the vast majority of atrocities go unaddressed by domestic courts. To this end, Ambassador Rapp discussed how the U.S. government assists the work of the ICC to the extent possible under existing U.S. law. Ambassador Rapp also elaborated on the evolution of international jurisprudence on sexual and gender based crimes, and how innovation is key to holding participants in such crimes accountable.
Questions from the floor focused on how best to investigate and prosecute sexual and gender based crimes, and how conflict minerals finance atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo and elsewhere in Africa.
The American Bar Association’s (ABA) International Criminal Court (ICC) Project is an independent initiative of the ABA Center for Human Rights that advances international criminal justice and US-ICC relations through advocacy, education and practical legal assistance. More information about the ABA’s ICC Project can be found at its website.