Judges Must Ensure Meaningful Victim Participation at the ICC

Bizar Male

(The Hague, Paris) Today, FIDH launches its report “Whose Court is it? Judicial handbook on victims’ rights at the International Criminal Court”. This handbook takes stock of the judicial implementation of victims’ rights at the ICC as of early 2021 and presents key practical recommendations for Chambers on the role they can, and must, play in ensuring meaningful exercise of victims’ rights. The swearing-in of six new judges in March 2021 is an opportunity for all ICC judges to renew their commitment to upholding the rights of victims throughout Court proceedings and to harmonise their procedural rights.

Full Report | Executive Summary and Recommendations

FIDH will host an online discussion around the key findings and recommendations of this report today, from 14:00 to 15:15 CEST. Please join the conversation with practitioners that have first-hand experience working with survivors by registering here.

“Whose Court is it? This question must be asked when assessing the implementation of the ground-breaking provisions on victims’ rights since the adoption of the ICC Statute, more than 20 years ago, and considering how to concretely move towards an effective victim-centred approach in proceedings at the ICC.”

Guissou Jahangiri, FIDH Vice-President and Executive Director or OPEN ASIA / Armanshahr

Based on extensive research and interviews with 18 practitioners and experts, the report highlights that, to render victims’ access to the Court effective, it is paramount that Chambers harmonise their practices to provide legal certainty to victims and practitioners. From early outreach to reparations, judges have both the highest authority and the duty and privilege to ensure that justice is carried out, not just for the victims but with the victims.

“Victims, as active right holders, are an essential part of the Rome Statute system and have significant contributions to make at the ICC. Judges play a crucial role in ensuring a meaningful and effective implementation of victims’ rights at all stages of ICC proceedings.”

Delphine Carlens, Head of FIDH International justice desk

This judicial handbook covers the main aspects of victims’ rights in seven chapters, ending with key practical recommendations to Chambers. Providing an overview of the prerequisites in terms of the decision-making process on victims’ rights (chapter 1), the report dives into ways of achieving adequate and effective legal representation of victims, which is an essential condition to meaningful victim participation (chapter 2). It describes how Chambers can contribute to improving the Court’s track record in terms of outreach and engagement with victims, who need to be properly informed in order to be in a position to realise their rights (chapter 3). The handbook then gives an overview of victims’ rights in preliminary and investigation stages (chapter 4), before highlighting improvements in terms of processes for victims to be authorised to participate and obtain formal recognition (chapter 5) and ways for Chambers to increase ICC practice’s consistency when it comes to modalities of participation of victims (chapter 6). Finally, as the reparations system is being developed with four cases having reached this phase at the ICC, the report encourages Chambers to use this momentum to draw on the lessons learned, to adopt Court-wide principles on reparations and to provide guidance, in order to ensure a smooth implementation of meaningful reparation measures (chapter 7).

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