The Assembly of States Parties: Part Two (Andrew Zapata)

Andrew Zapata | 20 November 2012 | The Hague, Netherlands |

As I prepare to leave The Hague for the United States, it is time for me to think back on what the International Criminal Court’s (“ICC”) Assembly of States Parties (“ASP”) has accomplished during its 11th annual session.  As an American J.D. candidate with a concentration in international law, I am compelled to consider both the overall achievements of the ASP, as well as the contributions of the American observer delegation.

The Assembly of States Parties dealt with the practicalities of the Court swiftly and with very few procedural hiccups.  In mere days, the ASP addressed next year’s budget, the permanent premises for the new Court, and the election of Deputy Prosecutor James Stewart.  In separate plenary sessions, the Assembly also addressed the principles of cooperation and complementarity, both of which are pillars of the Rome Statute.  The keynote speech on complementarity was delivered by Helen Clark – the current Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (“UNDP”) and former Prime Minister of New Zealand. She discussed building capacity for complementarity as a long-term effort and reaffirmed the UNDP’s support for the ICC.  Beyond the plenary sessions of the Court, various states parties to the Rome Statute, international organizations, and NGOs hosted meetings that narrowed the focus of the ASP to more pointed concerns of international law.  These included regional meetings hosted by the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, a panel presented by the EU Network of Contact Points on Genocide, and a discussion on the completion strategies for the ICC in post-conflict areas.

The Assembly of States Parties certainly has accomplished a substantial amount over the course of the last week, but it has been the presence of the United States, an observer delegation, that has piqued my interest. Stephen Rapp, the American Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, has spearheaded the American delegation’s involvement.  Ambassador Rapp and other members of the delegation have offered the American perspective in the General Debate, the plenary session on complementarity, and other side events throughout the last week.  Harold Koh has also been present, while other members of the American delegation have spoken at different breakout sessions here in The Hague. (NOTE: I did not muster the courage to ask Professor Koh why my International Business Transactions casebook spells Colombia, the state, as “Columbia”).  As an American student with an interest in international law, it is gratifying to see the American delegation actively and meaningfully participate this week, choosing to leave canned political overtures stateside.

Spending this past week at the International Criminal Court’s Assembly of States Parties has revealed two positive indicators.  First, it has demonstrated that the ICC is maturing as an international judicial body. Substantive issues of international criminal law have merited the attention of States Parties to the same (if not greater) extent as more menial ones such as budgetary concerns.  Second, the American delegation – as compared to other prominent observers like the Chinese and Russian delegations, or invitees like the Israeli delegation – has committed itself to making sure the Court succeeds, even as the Senate’s advice and consent for the Rome Statute remains unequivocally out of reach.



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