ICC Prosecutor Bensouda on Security Council Referrals

Concrete action is needed to improve the UN Security Council’s practice of referring situations to the International Criminal Court (ICC). This was the main message to emerge from a roundtable discussion on the relationship between the ICC and the Security Council held at IPI on November 8, 2012.

Organized by the Mission of Liechtenstein to the UN and IPI, the event brought together Security Council member states who are party to the Rome Statute and a number of other states parties with a particular interest in the work of the court. In addition, the lunch discussion with ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda included other members of the Security Council.

A number of key priorities emerged from the discussions:

1. The UN Security Council should apply consistent standards when referring cases to the ICC, even if this may be difficult to achieve in practice.

2. Security Council resolutions should avoid excluding certain groups from ICC prosecution whenever possible.

3. Continuing referrals by the UN Security Council without concurrently allocating funds from the UN’s budget could undermine the viability of the court.

4. Since lack of cooperation with the ICC harms the Security Council as well as the court, future referrals would benefit from a provision making cooperation by all states mandatory. In addition, the council should follow up on its referrals in order to enforce cooperation.

5. Beyond the situations it refers to the court, the Security Council can support efforts to enforce ICC arrest warrants—for example, by mandating UN peacekeeping troops to play a role in arresting ICC indictees.

6. In the near term, the Security Council could take concrete action to better enable the ICC to carry out its mandate: it could regularly hold open debates on peace, justice, and the ICC, and develop a coherent accountability agenda.

7. Dedicated fora should address issues concerning situations referred to the ICC. For example, the Security Council’s informal working group on tribunals could be expanded to deal with ICC issues. Also, a dedicated caucus of interested states parties could push for improvements in the council’s practice and relationship with the court.

8. The ICC itself can influence ICC–Security Council dynamics. It could invite the Security Council to The Hague and more proactively use visits to New York as opportunities for dialogue to advance the ICC agenda.

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