Africa, Armed Conflicts, Headlines, Human Rights

Concern over ICC Funding

Robbie Corey-Boulet

MONROVIA, Sep 28 2011 (IPS) - International justice advocates are worried that donors will deprive the International Criminal Court (ICC) of sufficient funding next year, hindering the court’s ability to fulfil an expanding mandate that will stretch from Kenya to Libya and potentially Ivory Coast.

In late July, the court proposed a 2012 budget of 159.45 million dollars, an increase of 13.6 percent over 2011. Maria Kamara, an outreach coordinator for the court, said the main drivers of the increase included the Libya investigation referred by the United Nations Security Council in February and “essential legal assistance for counsel for the defence and victims’ representatives.”

Even before the proposal was submitted, however, key donors were issuing calls for zero growth in the court’s budget. The Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), a collection of more than 2,500 civil society organisations, has said zero growth “would undermine the effectiveness of the court’s work and would curtail its ability to respond promptly to situations where crimes are committed.”

The ICC, which began operating in 2002, has to date undertaken six investigations into allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, the Central African Republic, Kenya and Libya.

Last month, the court’s Committee on Budget and Finance, a subsidiary expert body that advises the court’s member states on the budgeting process, recommended a smaller 8.1 percent increase for the 2012 budget. The Assembly of States Parties, made up of the 118 nations that have ratified the court’s founding treaty, will weigh in on the budget in December.

Sunil Pal, head of the CICC’s legal section, told IPS that the most vocal proponents of zero growth in the ICC budget were Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Italy, which are also the court’s biggest donors. CICC convenor William Pace said he expected that four or five other countries would support the large donors, while 10 or 20 would oppose them. The majority of the states parties, he added, are unlikely to take a position.

Pace said that among African countries, South Africa has reportedly emerged as the strongest opponent of zero nominal growth.

“Arrogant and unworkable”

When it comes to those pushing for zero growth, Pace accused the UK and France of “policy hypocrisy,” noting that both countries were adamant supporters of getting the ICC involved in Libya, a major source of its workload and budget increases. The U.N. Security Council voted 15 to zero to refer the Libya situation to the court in February. It was the first time that there had been a unanimous endorsement of an ICC investigation.

“The principle that the Security Council can ask international bodies to undertake expensive peace and security missions and then say, ‘Oh, but you have to pay for it,’ is an arrogant and unworkable principle,” Pace said.

He added that the reluctance of the UK and France to give more money to the court did not square with those countries’ willingness to fund the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya – at a cost that easily dwarfed any potential increase in their contributions to the ICC.

“The contradictions are intolerable between how governments treat military intervention costs, but when you get down to peace building and preventing these crimes they say, ‘Oh, we don’t want to pay for that’,” he said.

A spokesperson for the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), however, said the UK was “widely regarded as one of the ICC’s strongest supporters, both politically and financially.”

The spokesperson said the push for zero growth was “in line with our position on the budgets for other international institutions,” and added that the UK had asked for more information about potential increases at the ICC.

While the court has drawn criticism for what some perceive as slow progress, those calling for a budget increase argue that imposing zero growth would be counterproductive.

“Certainly there are ways in which the court could arguably improve efficiency, but it is for the judges to determine the way in which judicial processes should be conducted, not for bureaucrats in capitals interested in the budgetary bottom line,” said Carla Ferstman, director of Redress, a London-based organisation that helps victims of torture and related crimes obtain justice.

“The court has an obligation to be efficient and effective in the administration of justice – and certainly there is a lot of room for improvement,” Ferstman added. “But the fact that the court could be more efficient should not be confused or conflated with the issue of ‘zero growth’ – it is mixing apples and oranges.”

The FCO spokesperson said the UK would “never consider funding cuts that put at risk the court’s ability to carry out its core mandate.”

Stretched thin

The court is already seen as being stretched thin in a number of areas.

Redress issued a statement in July drawing attention to the fact that 470 victims were unable to participate in the confirmation of charges hearing for Callixte Mbarushimana, the Rwandan rebel leader accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Judges ruled that the applications would be left out because the court’s registry did not have the resources to process them by the deadline.

This problem has also occurred in the court’s two Kenyan cases, and Redress said almost 2,000 victims in total have been affected. “If this resource issue is not resolved, victim participation will become a meaningless paper promise,” Ferstman said.

An Aug. 17 document submitted by the CICC to the court’s Committee on Budget and Finance pointed to evidence of underfunding in the following areas: the Victims Participation and Reparations Section; the Office of Public Counsel for the Defence; the Public Information and Documentation Section; the Victim and Witnesses Unit; the Field Operations Section; and the Office of Internal Audit.

The court does have a contingency fund, but Christian Wenaweser, president of the Assembly of States Parties, said in a July interview with IPS that the fund would need to be tapped in response to the referral of the Libya situation. Due to a legal requirement that the fund not fall below seven million euros, Wenaweser said it would need to be replenished.

Wenaweser also called on the U.N. General Assembly “to take a specific decision regarding the full or partial reimbursement” of member states’ payments to the ICC.

Pace said the CICC agreed with the principle behind the idea, noting that the ICC’s founding treaty and the ICC-U.N. Relationship Agreement allow for it.

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