Adoption of the Amendments on Aggression to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court

June 13th, 2010 by David Scheffer

David Scheffer is the Mayer Brown/Robert A. Helman Professor of Law and Director of the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern University School of Law.  He was the U.S. Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues (1997-2001) and led the U.S. delegation in the U.N. negotiations for the International Criminal Court during his ambassadorship.

Early in the morning of Saturday, June 12, 2010, the Assembly of States Parties reached agreement to amend the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court so that the crime of aggression will be activated for purposes of prosecution in the future.  I will leave to others to describe the hourly drama of the evening stretching into the early morning hours.  Here I explain the final components of the compromise that achieved consensus in the conference hall, and this explanation flows from my blog of Friday afternoon posted earlier.

The temporal jurisdiction of the ICC always has been one of the more difficult concepts to understand, as this is a treaty that has many different trigger points for activation of liability for individuals and for the responsibilities of States Parties, as well as the rights of non-party States.  So it was not surprising that in the final hours the entire exercise on the crime of aggression would settle on when the crime would be activated under the Rome Statute.  But that is where the compromise finally was struck.

First, the States Parties resolved in the sixth preambular clause of the enabling resolution “to activate the Court’s jurisdiction over the crime of aggression as early as possible.”  This is an aspirational expression of the Assembly of States Parties to take action to ratify or otherwise accept under domestic legal procedures the amendments adopted in Kampala.  Though non-binding in and of itself, it is an important signal to the political branches of governments to move forward on locking in the amendments so that the State Party is covered.  It also is important to achieve the 30 State Party ratification/acceptance requirement of Section 2 of new Articles 15bis and 15ter.

There is a new Section 3 of new Article 15bis (State Party referrals and proprio motu prosecutor investigations) that sets forth the trigger procedure for activating the temporal jurisdiction of the Court over the crime of aggression for Section 13(a) and (c) initiatives.  New Section 3 delays implementation of jurisdiction over the crime of aggression until January 1, 2017.  After that date, the Assembly of States Parties have to meet and agree by two-thirds vote (Article 121(3) of the Rome Statute) to activate the crime of aggression.  There also has to be at least 30 States Parties that have ratified or otherwise accepted the amendments on aggression one year prior to the date of the Assembly of States Parties affirmative vote in order to move forward with activation of the crime.  This requirement arises from Section 2 of new Article 15bis, which states: “The Court may exercise jurisdiction only with respect to crimes of aggression committed on year after the ratification or acceptance of the amendments by thirty States Parties.”

It is possible that if by the date of the Assembly of States Parties vote following January 1, 2017, the magic number of 30 ratifying/accepting States Parties had not yet been reached and the one year waiting period has not yet expired, then the Assembly of States Parties still could take the two-thirds vote for activation, but it could not be effective until the 30-State Party ratification/acceptance requirement (plus one year) had been met.  I would be surprised if, by January 1, 2017, the 30-State Party requirement will not have been met.  There will be mounting pressure, particularly from the non-governmental groups and certain States Parties, on that number of States Parties to achieve the task by January 1, 2016 (to allow for the one year waiting period).

The number of 30 ratifying/accepting States Parties is not surprising, but it may be challenged as standing in opposition to the requirements of Article 121(4) of the Rome Statute for new amendments.  The count under that provision is 7/8ths of all States Parties must ratify/accept the new amendment before it enters into force.  This has been debated throughout the last two weeks in Kampala, with the Japanese delegation repeatedly stressing the importance, for any amendment of the jurisdictional filters of the treaty, to adhere to the high bar of Article 121(4).  The alternative view, which prevailed, is that all of the amendments fall under Article 121(5) procedures as they are all integral to bring the crime of aggression into force.  Of course, the procedures adopted in Kampala stipulate additional procedures to the Article 121(5) rules for amendments of new crimes.  In particular the 30-State Party ratification/acceptance rule for the crime of aggression is a new twist to the formula.  There will be much commentary on this in years to come, of course, but I doubt judges will be seized with it.  Once the Article 15bis or Article 15ter requirements are met, since they are tougher than Article 121(5), the Court will be seized with a case that certainly meets the lower threshold established by Article 121(5).  The real issue will be whether defense counsel seeks to achieve a ruling on Article 121(4) requirements for the crime of aggression, and what was adopted in Kampala, in defense of their clients charged with the crime.

In an identical vein, the same temporal trigger procedure is imposed on the Security Council under its Section 13(b) referral procedures, as set forth in new Article 15ter.  New Section 3 of new Article 15ter reads: “The Court shall exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression in accordance with this article, subject to a decision to be taken after 1 January 2017 by the same majority of States Parties as is required for the adoption of an amendment to the Statute.”  On the reasoned assumption that States Parties will ratify/accept all of the crime of aggression amendments when their respective governments act affirmatively on the matter, we can expect symmetry for temporal jurisdiction on the crime of aggression for all three categories of referral/investigation under Article 13 (State Party referral, Security Council referral, and proprio motu prosecutor investigations approved by the Pre-Trial Chamber).

New Section 3 of new Article 15ter thus removes the automatic Security Council activation of the Court on the crime of aggression which had circulated as a proposal earlier in the week.  Nothing on the crime of aggression will be activated earlier than the year 2017.

Thus, the final compromise and the final text of the approved amendments on aggression was officially adopted early this morning by the Assembly of States Parties.  Much hard work lies ahead, of course, to ensure the necessary 30 ratifications/acceptances by States Parties prior to January 1, 2016 (if the aim is to move as soon as possible to activate the crime) and to constitute the Pre-Trial Division, consisting of all of the Pre-Trial Chamber judges, so that there is proper competence in international law and, indeed, the law of war among the judges to examine acts of aggression and the crime of aggression in the event the Security Council does not reach any determination of an act of aggression as explained in Sections 6 and 7 of new Article 15bis (for State Party referrals or proprio motu prosecutor investigations) and the Pre-Trial Division is seized with the issue under Section 8 of new Article 15bis.  Furthermore, the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court will need to be staffed up with highly competent lawyers and experts in the law of war and military operations (including those with former careers in the armed services) in order to undertake investigations and prosecutions of the crime of aggression.  Of course, these factors ultimately will become a budget issue for the Court.

The historical significance of these developments cannot be understated.  We have reached yet another plateau in the development of international criminal law and there will be many more to scale in the years ahead, including on the crime of aggression.  But this is truly one giant leap.  Perhaps, just perhaps, the action in Kampala will finally lock in a credible means to holding powerful individuals, those who intentionally launch massive acts of aggression, accountable for their actions and to instilling, over the years, greater deterrence to the aggressive instincts of insecure leaders.  There are those who will be impatient with the wait until at least 2017, but I think in the long view of the future, and of history itself, that is a very tolerable and pragmatic wait.



The adoption of the aggression amendments…

June 11th, 2010 by John Cerone

(These comments are made in my personal capacity, and are not attributable to anyone but me.)

It’s 12:12am, and the final session has resumed.

We’ve just received new ‘Understandings’ with changes that correspond to the new delayed activation provisions.  These understandings make clear that the Court’s jurisdiction cannot be exercised until after the post-2017 decisions by 2/3 of States Parties (referred to in last post).

The Chair proposes adoption of the aggression amendments.  Japan takes the floor and expresses concerns about what it sees as the dubious legality of the amendment procedure that has been employed, as well as the uncertainty of the legal relationships among States Parties and between States Parties and non-States Parties that would result from these amendments.  However, the delegate makes clear that Japan will not block consensus.

The aggression amendments are adopted by consensus.

The delegates are now giving their explanations of position.

A handful of delegations express some concerns about the amendments, perhaps leaving markers to re-open the package some time after 2017 and before activation of the jurisdictional triggers.  At least one delegation indicates its position that the package may not be re-opened, and that the post-2017 decisions referred to in the amendments could relate only to activation of the package as adopted tonight.



The clock is ticking…

June 11th, 2010 by John Cerone

(These comments are made in my personal capacity, and are not attributable to anyone but me.)

At 8:30pm, the Chair opened the plenary session on aggression and then shortly thereafter suspended it again for further consultations until 10:15pm.

It is now 11:02pm on the last day of the RevCon.  The Chair has just opened the 14th and final plenary meeting.  He has circulated two new draft provisions addressing the issue of delayed activation of the jurisdictional triggers for aggression.  Unlike the earlier text (discussed in the last post), which provided for differential treatment between activation of the Security Council trigger and activation of the other triggers (State Party referral and proprio motu), the new text makes the two delayed activation provisions identical.

The new draft text follows:

“New pp 6: Resolved to activate the Court’s jurisdiction over the crime of aggression as early as possible;

15 bis

3.         The Court shall exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression in accordance with this article, subject to a decision to be taken after 1 January 2017 by the same majority of States Parties as is required for the adoption of an amendment to the Statute;

15 ter

3.         The Court shall exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression in accordance with this article, subject to a decision to be taken after 1 January 2017 by the same majority of States Parties as is required for the adoption of an amendment to the Statute;”

In addition to synchronizing the delayed activation provisions, the draft text also specifies the threshold required for the decisions referred to in those paragraphs.  The earlier text had simply referred to decisions of States Parties (“unless States Parties decide otherwise”).  The new text requires the same majority as that for adoption of an amendment, which is 2/3 of all States Parties (not just 2/3 of those present and voting).  The text still, however, fails to indicate the nature of the decision.  Is it just a decision to activate the jurisdiction or can the decision entail something more?  Presumably, the answer to that is whatever 2/3 of States Parties can agree upon.  Could this be a way of masking disagreement and then re-opening the whole jurisdiction debate some time after 2017?

Alternatively, could these provisions be read as allowing activation of the Court’s jurisdiction to proceed (after the required 30 States Parties have ratified), and then permitting States Parties to cut off jurisdiction some time after 2017 if they so decide?  This does not appear to be what is intended (particularly since they’ve been referred to as the ‘delayed activation’ and even ‘delayed entry into force’ provisions).

The President has once again suspended the meeting for informal consultations until 11:30pm.  The clock is ticking…



OK, now we’re really (hopefully) in the home stretch…

June 11th, 2010 by John Cerone

(These comments are made in my personal capacity, and are not attributable to anyone but me.)

It’s 5:05pm (Friday – last day of the RevCon) and the plenary has resumed.  The Chair has circulated a newer, new non-paper (the PN3P), time-stamped 11 June 2010 16:30.  He stated that we are “very close” to a consensus text, and that he is confident that we will be able to “bridge the remaining gap.”  He also emphasized that the new non-paper is being circulated with the understanding that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

The reference to article 16 (see last post) has made it into the PN3P, presumably on the understanding that the power of the Security Council to require deferral is limited to renewable one year periods.

He then identified the final two issues on which informal consultations are ongoing:

-the question of delayed entry into force for all of the triggers

-the opt out declarations (with respect to the controversial triggers)

Both of these issues were addressed in the draft supplemental text circulated at today’s 2pm plenary.  (See discussion of those proposals in my last post.)

The next, and hopefully last, plenary meeting will begin at 8:30pm this evening.



Friday’s Proposed Compromises on the Amendments for the Crime of Aggression

June 11th, 2010 by David Scheffer

David Scheffer is the Mayer Brown/Robert A. Helman Professor of Law and Director of the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern University School of Law.  He was the U.S. Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues (1997-2001) and led the U.S. delegation in the U.N. negotiations for the International Criminal Court during his ambassadorship.

At 2:25 p.m. on Friday, June 11, Ambassador Wenaweser, the President of the Assembly of States Parties, briefly convened the plenary to announce that there would be another round of consultations and a reconvening of the plenary at 4:30 p.m.  He also circulated two pages of revisions to his non-paper of Thursday.  In this blog I describe only the proposed revisions to the non-paper described in Part III of my last blog.

The Friday afternoon revisions concern only the new Article 15bis and new Article 15 ter that establish the jurisdictional filters for the crime of aggression.  The first proposed revision targets new Article 15bis (State Party and proprio motu prosecutor referrals) and eliminates Alternative 1 from Section 4 (no investigation unless perhaps, as it was in brackets yesterday, the Security Council adopts a Chapter VII Security Council resolution requesting the prosecutor to proceed with the investigation into the crime of aggression).  Alternative 1 has always been the preferred Security Council Permanent Member choice, as it confirms the exclusive authority of the Security Council over determinations of the act of aggression.  However, as previously explained in earlier blogs, that formulation of exclusivity  attracts very little support among the vast majority of the States Parties.

The new language thus invokes Alternative 2 from yesterday but with an interesting qualification on the “red light” role of the Security Council.  The proposed revision reads: “Where no such determination is made within six months after the date of notification, the Prosecutor may proceed with the investigation in respect of a crime of aggression, provided that the Pre-Trial Division has authorized the commencement of the investigation in respect of a crime of aggression in accordance with the procedure contained in article 15, and the Security Council has not decided otherwise in accordance with article 16.”

The Thursday non-paper formulation of Alternative 2 had bracketed the “red light” reference to the Security Council but not specified that it must be a resolution that meets the requirements of Article 16 of the Rome Statute.  By specifying Article 16, Ambassador Wenaweser is somewhat weakening the Security Council’s grip on the process because Article 16 has a one-year time limit, at the end of which the Council either has to vote to renew the suspension of the Court’s investigation into aggression or, failing that, the investigation presumably may proceed with the Pre-Trial Division’s blessing.  That procedure imposes an annual burden on the Security Council, one that it may or may not wish to confront at the end of each year with respect to the particular situation of alleged aggression at issue.  I can understand how this formulation may be more attractive to those concerned about Security Council powers.  But I also understand how it may raise concerns among the Security Council Permanent Members about the annual need to return to the issue and lodge their votes if the issue remains of vital concern to the Council.

Nonetheless, this is a compromise formulation that will need to be seriously considered.  It sustains the Security Council’s primacy on aggression and yet permits the ICC to move forward with aggression if the Council so determines by not adopting an Article 16 resolution.

The next proposed revision of Section 4 of Article 15bis adds a new provision, Section 4bis, which reads: “The Court may not exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression in accordance with article 15bis until States Parties so decide no earlier than 2017.”  This is an explicit time lock of at least seven years on any investigation of the crime of aggression under the regime of State Party referrals or proprio motu prosecutor investigations.  Thereafter, the States Parties will have to convene to decide when to activate the Court’s jurisdiction over aggression regarding these Article 13(a) and (c) referrals.

The logic of this revision may flow from the spirit of Article 124, which is a seven year opt out on war crimes available to States Parties upon ratification.  It may also find its origins in Article 123(1), which requires a Review Conference seven years after entry into force of the Rome Statute (namely, this Kampala conference, albeit almost eight years following the entry into force date of July 1, 2002).

Further, the new revisions include a reformulation of the right of a State Party to lodge a declaration of non-acceptance of the jurisdiction of the Court over a crime of aggression.  I read the language of yesterday, retained in this proposed revision, to mean that the declaration of non-acceptance must be lodged with the Registrar prior to the commission of the crime of aggression, and not after it takes place.  However, some might read the wording that the “State Party has previously declared” to mean a declaration previous to the Court being seized with jurisdiction over the particular alleged crime of aggression.  I doubt the latter makes much sense.

The new revision replaces the last sentence of the Thursday non-paper Section 1ter with this:  “After a period of seven years, such declaration shall expire, unless it is affirmed.  The declaration may be withdrawn at any time.”  So this is a significant revision, as it would require a renewal of a declaration of non-acceptance every seven years, meaning a formal declaration of non-acceptance filed with the Registrar every seven years.  The shame factor may easily kick in for a State Party that keeps holding out on its own exposure to the crime of aggression.  The second sentence simply states the obvious, namely that the declaration may be withdrawn voluntarily at any time.  Gone is yesterday’s rather confusing language coaxing States Parties to consider, within three years of filing a declaration, the idea of withdrawing the declaration.

Finally, there is one proposed revision to new Article 15ter, which governs Security Council referrals under Article 13(b) to the Court regarding aggression.  The new language would revise Section 2 to read, “The Court may exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression in accordance with article 15ter seven years after the adoption of the amendments on the crime of aggression, unless States Parties decide otherwise.”  This would seem to require that yesterday’s Section 2 is substantially revised so that the seven year period commences seven years after the adoption of the amendments by the Review Conference, and thus in 2017 if such approval is obtained today.  This schedule can be modified if the States Parties so decide in the future.  There is no suggestion here of requiring at least 30 States Parties to ratify the amendments, as proposed yesterday (alongside a five year period of non-jurisdiction).  However, there is a footnote on the page that states “consequential changes would have to be made to draft article 15ter, paragraph 2.”  Whether that means some of the original language (such as the 30 State Party ratification hurdle) should remain in play remains uncertain.  We will have to see how this is explained at 4:30 p.m. today.

That is where things stand now as the sun begins to descend in the sky here in Kampala.  I may not be able to post again until Saturday when either final language is adopted or there is some collapse in the negotiations and the conference ends inconclusively.  Let’s see what happens in the coming hours.



The President’s latest supplement…

June 11th, 2010 by John Cerone

(These comments are made in my personal capacity, and are not attributable to anyone but me.)

The new text that surfaced at today’s (Friday) 2pm plenary entailed a few new tweaks to last night’s PNNP (see earlier posts) on the crime of aggression.

The first tweak is a sunset provision for the opt out of the controversial triggers.  The opt out declarations are subject to a seven year expiration date.  Renewal would require affirmance of the declaration.

Another tweak is to the Security Council red-light procedure for alternative 2 (see last night’s post re. the PNNP).  Recall that that alternative would permit the Prosecutor to proceed with an investigation of aggression even in the absence of Security Council approval, unless the Security Council decides otherwise.  The text of last night’s PNNP read:

“Where no such determination is made within six months after the date of notification, the Prosecutor may proceed with the investigation in respect of a crime of aggression, provided that the Pre-Trial Division has authorized the commencement of the investigation in respect of a crime of aggression in accordance with the procedure contained in article 15, and the Security Council does not decide otherwise.”

The new tweak would change the last clause to: “and the Security Council has not decided otherwise in accordance with article 16.”  This is a potentially significant change.  Last night’s text could have been interpreted as a so-called ‘fixed red light’, meaning that once the Security Council decided that the Prosecutor could not proceed, the matter would be over.  The article 16 procedure, on the other hand, empowers the Security Council to require the Prosecutor to defer an investigation for one year, with the possibility of renewal.  The reference to the article 16 procedure, which has been in the Statute from its adoption, would seem to reject the ‘fixed red light’ concept.  At the same time, it could perhaps be argued that the reference to article 16 goes only to the type of resolution required (i.e. that it incorporates only the article 16 requirement that the resolution be adopted under Chapter VII, as opposed to incorporating the one year time-limit for deferrals).  An argument in support of this latter interpretation would be that if the phrase “and the Security Council has not decided otherwise in accordance with article 16” was interpreted to mean simply that aggression prosecutions were subject to article 16 deferrals, then the phrase would be superfluous since that procedure would apply even in the absence of such language.

The new text also incorporates additional delays to activation of the trigger mechanisms.  With respect to the more controversial triggers (State Party referral and proprio motu), the Court’s jurisdiction would not be activated until “States Parties so decide no earlier than 2017.”  Exactly what form such decision must take is unclear.  In any event, the jurisdiction could not be activated until 2017 at the earliest.  With respect to the Security Council trigger, the Court’s jurisdiction would become activated “seven years after the adoption of the amendments on the crime of aggression, unless States Parties decide otherwise,” again reflecting a shift in the burden of inertia.  While the more controversial triggers would not be activated until the States Parties make an affirmative decision, the Security Council trigger would activate unless the States Parties decided to stop it.

Finally, there is no indication in the new language as to whether there has been a convergence between the positive and negative understandings of 121(5)-2 (see last post).  Perhaps this a constructive ambiguity that will facilitate consensus?  If that is the case, then it would presumably be for the Court to decide if the issue arose.  For example, if nationals of a State Party that had not accepted the amendment (and had not filed an opt out declaration) were to be prosecuted for aggression, they could argue that such jurisdiction was excluded by 121(5)-2.  In all likelihood, States Parties that do not want the Court to have jurisdiction over their nationals for the crime of aggression, and for that reason do not accept the aggression amendment(s), will still file a declaration opting out just to cover themselves.  They would probably also include language in the declaration making clear that they do not accept the amendment(s) and that their filing may not be understood as prejudicing their position that they do not consider themselves bound by the amendment(s).

Now we’re just waiting for the 4:30pm plenary to begin…



The (non)resolution of the negative / positive dilemma…

June 11th, 2010 by John Cerone

(These comments are made in my personal capacity, and are not attributable to anyone but me.)

It’s Friday — the last day of the Review Conference.  The 2pm plenary discussion on the aggression amendment(s) is about to begin.  ‘About to begin’ should be understood in the context of UN time, as compounded by Uganda time.  So I’ve got about 20 minutes to bring you up to speed.

This morning’s 11am plenary (which started around 11:45) was brief.  The Chair basically just told the gathering that we would re-convene at 2pm.  No new draft text was circulated  — so we’re still working with last night’s 11pm draft (the PNNP from my last post).

There are a number of outstanding issues, and it’s still anyone’s guess as to whether they’ll agree on the definition only (unlikely, given France’s position that the definition and jurisdictional triggers are “inextricably linked”), definition plus Security Council trigger, or definition plus all other triggers (with various configurations for the controversial triggers).  Of course the other possibility is that nothing will be decided, in line with the idea that nothing is decided until everything is decided.

There is also some lingering doubt (at least on my part) as to whether the ‘negative understanding’ of art. 121(5)-2 (see earlier posts) would survive the adoption of the most recent proposal as currently drafted.  The PNNP envisions that these amendments would be adopted under art. 121(5).  This is expressly stated in the preamble of the draft text.  The scheme of the PNNP, which allows States Parties to opt out of the more controversial triggers (State Party referral and proprio motu investigations), seems to be based on a ‘positive understanding’ of art. 121(5)-2 (i.e. that States Parties who do not accept the amendment would still be bound by it, and thus would have to avail themselves of the opt out if they did not want their nationals to be subject to the controversial triggers).  Nonetheless, the text does not expressly state this.  And even if it did, it’s not clear that it could bind States Parties that had not accepted the amendment.

Recall the text of art. 121(5)-2:

“In respect of a State Party which has not accepted the amendment, the Court shall not exercise its jurisdiction regarding a crime covered by the amendment when committed by that State Party’s nationals or on its territory.”

Does this apply only to the preclusion of the exercise of the Court’s jurisdiction?  Or does it also mean that States Parties are not in any way bound by amendments under adopted under art. 121(5) (including the definition, trigger mechanisms, and opt out procedures) that they have not accepted?  Even it is read to comport with the former, more limited reading, how would the text of 121(5)-2 be read in conjunction with the new opt out regime?  Which would be the lex specialis?

Of course, it is precisely this problem that Monday’s ABS draft had tried to address by proposing to adopt the controversial trigger mechanisms pursuant to art. 121(4).  Art. 121(4) protects the integrity of the Statute by providing that all States Parties are bound by amendments adopted pursuant to that provision.  But this would require 7/8 of States Parties to ratify, as opposed to the lower threshold of ratification by 30 States Parties proposed in the PNNP.

The 2pm session has just begun.  And (10 minutes later) has now ended.  The Chair informed us that he has prepared a new proposal that is now being circulated among delegations.  We will reconvene at 4:30pm to resume discussions in plenary.

I’ve just heard a rumor that arrangements have been made for interpreters for an 11pm plenary — ugh.



Final Drafts on the Amendments for the Crime of Aggression for the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court

June 10th, 2010 by David Scheffer

David Scheffer is the Mayer Brown/Robert A. Helman Professor of Law and Director of the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern University School of Law.  He was the U.S. Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues (1997-2001) and led the U.S. delegation in the U.N. negotiations for the International Criminal Court during his ambassadorship.

 

Over the last 24 hours, delegations to the Review Conference on the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court have received three separate drafts on the crime of aggression.  This blog walks the reader through each of the three drafts sequentially.  You will read below the flow of my own absorption of these proposals as they appeared and how I thought about revising them in real time to reach a constructive outcome.  The most important draft is the third and last one, circulated at 11 p.m. Thursday evening, June 10.  This is the final non-paper by the President of the Assembly of States Parties, Ambassador Christian Wenaweser, and seeks to present a near-final compromise text, with only a couple of options left in brackets.  I explain this third most critical draft, which all delegations are reviewing overnight, last.  You may want to skip straight to Part III below to get to the meat of the final debate for Friday morning at 11:30 a.m. here in Kampala.  But if you want a detailed review of how the drafting has evolved over the last 24 hours to the point of the Thursday evening non-paper, you may want to read Parts I and II below.  This blog also picks up where I left off in my blog of last evening.

 

Part I

Late Wednesday evening, June 9, a draft revision of Article 15bis in Rev. 2 began to circulate among delegations and was formally circulated on Thursday morning, June 10.  It was an intriguing proposal of considerable promise.  But there also were some issues that the mid-Thursday non-paper of Ambassador Wenaweser modified and which are explained in Part II below.

The Wednesday night compromise was prepared by Canada and some other delegations whose identities I was never quite certain of.  The fresh language on Wednesday evening would require that the entire regime of amendments for the Review Conference be categorized under Article 121(5), so that amendments would come into force for each State Party one year after that State Party’s ratification of the amendments unless otherwise modified in the amendments themselves.   This is challengeable under strict treaty interpretation because if there is an amendment to any article other than one of the subject matter jurisdiction articles (5, 6, 7, or 8), such an amendment should fall under Article 121(4) ratification procedures.  Article 121(4) amendments require ratification by 7/8ths of the States Parties before they enter into force.  What appeared to be suggested in the evening of June 10 was to dump all of the amendments into an Article 121(5) procedure by virtue of simply saying so in the Review Conference resolution introducing the amendments for approval of 2/3rds of the Assembly of States Parties pursuant to Article 121(3).  That may appear easy but it raises some treaty law issues.  Some of those questions can be addressed by identifying all amendments into an extended Article 5 and/or Article 8 and thus stay within the Article 121(5) framework.  This is critical because the real compromises are being structured around Article 15 in terms of jurisdictional filters for the crime of aggression.   Thus I awaited the late morning discussions with great curiosity as to how this would pan out.

The essence of the Wednesday evening compromise was as follows:

Article 15bis in Rev. 2 refers to the exercise of jurisdiction over the crime of aggression where Articles 13(a) and (c) are the referral mechanisms.  That means where a State Party refers a situation (Article 13(a)) or where the proprio motu prosecutor initiates an investigation with the approval of the Pre-Trial Chamber (Article 13(c)), then the process is triggered for ICC action.  The proposal stipulated:

  1. For each State Party that ratifies the amendments, the Section 13(a) and (c) referral options are triggered five years after entry into force of the amendments for that State Party.  That means, pursuant to Article 121(5), a total of six years after the act of ratification occurs for such State Party.
  2. The jurisdictional filter provisions of 15bis in Rev. 2 remain unchanged, namely the Security Council filter followed by the Pre-Trial Chamber filter.
  3. Then the real game begins.  The proposal confirms Article 12 preconditions of jurisdiction for any eligible State Party (one that has ratified the amendments) and thus lock that in.  But there is an opt-out, namely that if the State Party has filed a “declaration of non-acceptance of the jurisdiction of the Court under this paragraph 4 of this Article [15bis].”  This incorporates the Article 121(5)(negative) concept into the new Article 15bis.
  4. The timing of delivery of such a declaration by the State Party is important.  The declaration must be filed with the U.N. Secretary-General no later than December 31, 2015.  Any State that ratifies or accedes to the Rome Statute after that date must file the declaration of non-acceptance on the date of ratification or accession.
  5. Such a declaration may be withdrawn by the State Party at any time, thus triggering the jurisdiction of the Court over that State Party for the crime of aggression.
  6. Finally, and very significantly, there is the key provision that the Court shall not exercise its jurisdiction over the crime of aggression as provided in the article (namely, for state referral and proprio motu prosecutor investigations) when committed by a non-party State or its nationals.

We were all left to ponder this clever and constructive proposal overnight.  But it was never formally presented to the Review Conference, for Ambassador Wenaweser’s non-paper would quickly appear on Thursday morning.

 

Part II

At 11 a.m. on June 10, Ambassador Wenaweser distributed a new non-paper on the crime of aggression.  It incorporated some of the Wednesday evening proposal features, but was of a different character.

First, the non-paper made the critical choice that the entire set of amendments would be governed by Article 121(5) entry-into-force procedures.  This was a significant step, as it removed the amendments from the 7/8ths State Party approval requirement of Article 121(4).  This might suggest either an interpretation that amendments associated with the crime of aggression can occur throughout the Rome Statute (such as Article 15) and still fall within the scope of Article 121(5) amendment procedures for the introduction of new crimes.  I do not recall in Rome thinking through what might need to be done to non-subject matter articles of the Rome Statute each time States Parties agreed to introduce a new crime, but there is logic to the argument that any new crime may require fiddling with other provisions in the Rome Statute to create a coherent and holistic document for the operation of the Court.  On the other hand, a rigid view might suggest that any amendment outside of Articles 5, 6, 7, or 8 would trigger Article 121(4) procedures (of 7/8ths State Party approvals).

Second, the non-paper revises the Article 15bis language for State Party and proprio motu prosecutor jurisdictional triggers by embracing some of the Wednesday evening ideas but with varied language.  The new language had difficulties.  A new 1bis under Section 1 of Article 15bis reads as follows, but the language is brackets is how I would have proposed it be revised: “The Court may, in accordance with article 12, exercise jurisdiction with respect to [the crime of aggression arising from] an act of aggression committed by a State Party, unless that State has lodged a declaration of non-acceptance [of the jurisdiction of the Court over the crime of aggression] with the Registrar.”  This provision preserves the integrity of Article 12 pre-conditions to jurisdiction but it does carve out those specific State Parties that choose to declare their non-acceptance of the Court’s jurisdiction for the crime of aggression.  That is entirely within the original intent of Article 121(5).  It also is important to state accurately the Court’s jurisdiction over the crime of aggression, for which individuals are held accountable, and not over an act of aggression which is committed by States and helps frame the crime of aggression jurisdiction.

The mid-Thursday non-paper proposes a new Section 1ter in Section 1 of Article 15bis.  It reads as follows:  “The Court may not exercise jurisdiction with respect to an act of aggression committed by a Non-State Party.”  This language caused some heartburn among delegations.  Optically, it looks like a literal benefit to non-party States (or “Non-State Parties”).  It suggests that non-party States have a green light to commit aggression.  The far more preferable language, in my opinion, is that proposed on Wednesday night, but with the additional requirement that any non-party State desiring to enjoy non-liability for aggression under the Rome Statute would have to sign a declaration of non-acceptance and lodge it with the Registrar, publicly.  The shame factor alone will cause some non-party States to pause.  But such a step should prove important politically for such governments as Japan, which I suspect cannot sell the amendments to its public if they give North Korea a free ride.  Rather, there has to be some public shaming of North Korea, compelling them to sign a declaration of non-acceptance on aggression liability.

Just as with the rights and privileges of complementarity under the Rome Statute, non-party States have to interact with the ICC in order to fully take advantage of complementarity and thus avoid the Court’s jurisdiction in certain situations.  Similarly, requiring the non-party States to file the declaration of non-acceptance is a reasonable request for the considerable benefit of non-liability.

Therefore, I consider more preferable a Section 1ter that would have read: “In respect of a State that is not a party to this Statute, the Court shall not exercise its jurisdiction over the crime of aggression as provided for in this article when committed by that State’s nationals or on its territory, provided such State has lodged a declaration of non-acceptance of the jurisdiction of the Court over the crime of aggression with the Registrar.”

A footnote (4) in the non-paper raises the prospect of a Security Council referral under Article 13(b) as an additional vehicle for triggering the Prosecutor’s powers in Article 15bis.  I believe that is entirely logical provided the referral is made as a Council statement or determination on an act of aggression.  Thus, I would revise Section 3 to read (with new bracketed language), the following:

“Where the Security Council has made such a determination [or has referred a situation of aggression to the Prosecutor pursuant to Section 13(b)], the Prosecutor may proceed with the investigation in respect of a crime of aggression.”

The next decision point in the non-paper is whether to retain Alternative 1, which would deny the Prosecutor any right to proceed with the investigation in respect of a crime of aggression if the Security Council makes no determination (or perhaps there is no Security Council referral).  Alternative 1 received scant support during the earlier discussions.  Although it is a long-standing imperative for Permanent Members of the Security Council, I would not be surprised if the conference replaces it with Alternative 2 and the Pre-Trial Chamber on Friday.

The non-paper reiterates the earlier wording on the Pre-Trial Chamber.  I simply repeat my suggestion that one way to accommodate at least some Permanent Members’  interests and, frankly, to remain faithful to the U.N. Charter and to the primacy of the Security Council, would be to add at the end of Alternative 2 either “….unless the Security Council decides otherwise” or “…unless the Security Council determines by adoption of a resolution under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter that no such investigation shall be authorized or initiated.”  This preserves a “red light” function for the Security Council to step in once the Pre-Trial Chamber begins to act and to stop the proceedings.  That act alone would constitute Security Council engagement on the act of aggression, although probably of a negative character.  At least the Council will have been compelled to act if it was concerned about the matter proceeding in the Pre-Trial Chamber and with the Prosecutor.  This would confirm that the Security Council does not have exclusive power regarding judicial determinations on aggression but it does have primary power to intervene when it so decides to do so.

`Regarding Article 15ter, which addresses Security Council referrals, the non-paper had an option to delete three paragraphs and basically gut the provision of any need for the Prosecutor to seek a determination on an act of aggression from the Security Council.  Whether or not that large deletion survives, there may need to be additional language to accommodate the reality of Section 13(b) referrals, namely that the Council would make a determination on aggression in the context of the referral resolution itself (as opposed to a free-standing determination).  Here is how I would handle the issue:

In Section 1 of Article 15ter, it would be revised (with new bracketed language) as follows:  “The Court may exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression in accordance with article 13(b) [and the provisions of this article].”

This would fold into such jurisdiction the basic article 13(b) right of Security Council referral and the supplemental points established in Article 15ter.

Then, the Prosecutor could proceed with an investigation under one of two scenarios:  1) where the Security Council determines, apart from its Section 13(b) referral resolution, that an act of aggression has been committed; and 2) within the context of a referral of a situation by the Security Council in an article 13(b) referral.  Section 3 of Article 15ter thus would read, with new bracketed language:  “Where the Security Council has made such a determination, [including in the context of a referral of a situation by the Security Council in accordance with article 13(b)], the Prosecutor may proceed with the investigation in respect of a crime of aggression.”  I think that would be a more realistic formulation of what the Security Council should address in an article 13(b) referral scenario.

 

Part III

On Thursday evening, June 10, Ambassador Wenaweser’s newly revised non-paper was circulated among delegations.  This is the critical document that sets the stage for the end game on Friday.  It reflects non-stop bilaterals and consultations held throughout Thursday.  I found it an encouraging document and I believe it holds some promise for a widely-acceptable outcome on Friday, but key decisions will have to be made in the interim.

The draft resolution deciding to adopt the amendments on aggression now reflects, in operative paragraph 1 of that resolution, that the decision is being taken pursuant to Article 5(2) of the Rome Statute.  That is a technical clarification.

The next revision also is in operative paragraph 1 and simply clarifies that any State Party’s declaration of non-acceptance of the crime of aggression under Article 15bis (see below) may be lodged prior to that State Party’s ratification or acceptance of the amendments under its domestic law and procedures.  This imposes a logical discipline on precisely when to file the necessary declaration in order avoid the Court’s jurisdiction for the State Party regarding the amendments.  It is consistent with the declaration privilege for non-party States under Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute.  Also, the declaration of non-acceptance of jurisdiction could be lodged with the Registrar after the State Party has ratified the amendments on aggression under the new Section 1ter of Article 15bis, but it must be lodged before the particular crime of aggression arising from an act of aggression has been committed by the State Party.  Otherwise, a tardy declaration, following the commission of the crime, would be without effect regarding that act.

The non-paper then presents a series of critical revisions to the language of Article 15bis, which concerns exercise of jurisdiction over the crime of aggression in the event of a State Party referral or proprio motu prosecutor-initiated investigation following approval by the Pre-Trial Chamber.

A new Section 1bis to Article 15bis reads: “The Court may exercise jurisdiction only with respect to crimes of aggression committed at least five years after the adoption of the amendments on the crime of aggression and one year after the ratification or acceptance of the amendments by thirty States Parties.”  This responds to the delegations pressing for some determinate period of delay prior to entry into force of the crime of aggression and sets up two goalposts for that purpose.  The first is five years after the Review Conference, assuming the amendments are adopted on Friday, and thus in 2015.  So there would be no activation of the crime of aggression under State Party or proprio motu prosecutor referrals any earlier than 2015.  That conforms to earlier concepts.  The additional requirement of 30 States Parties having ratified or accepted the amendments is a significant concession to delegations wary of activating the crime of aggression until an impressive number of States Parties had embraced it.  This is particularly important because the amendment procedures are following Article 121(5) rather than 121(4) (7/8ths State Party ratifications required for entry into force) rules for entry into force.  The number of 30 may be arbitrary, and it does appear to modify Article 121(5), but it reflects a workable compromise.

The non-paper then proposes a substantially revised Section 1ter for Article 15bis.  It reads as follows:  “The Court may, in accordance with article 12, exercise jurisdiction over a crime of aggression, arising from an act of aggression committed by a State Party, unless that State Party has previously declared that it does not accept such jurisdiction by lodging a declaration with the Registrar.  The withdrawal of such a declaration may be effected at any time and shall be considered by the State Party within three years.”

Section 1ter first clarifies that the Court’s jurisdiction is over a crime of aggression, but one that arises from an act of aggression committed by a State Party.  That is an important distinction, as the ICC prosecutes individuals and not States.  It also loops back to the definition’s description of what constitutes an act of aggression and what constitutes a crime of aggression.

Then there is the all-important opt-out privilege for any State Party to lodge a declaration of non-acceptance of the jurisdiction of the Court for the crime of aggression.  Here the non-paper locks in the fact that non-acceptance must be demonstrated by a written declaration lodged with the ICC Registrar, and that will be a publicly transparent act.  Some States Parties may not want to be seen as taking such a potentially provocative step, so there is a shame factor at work here.  Nonetheless, this option reflects the Article 121(5) opt-out procedure and thus it must be part of the equation.

Finally, Section 1ter makes the obvious point, under Vienna Convention treaty law, that the declaration of non-acceptance can be withdrawn by the State Party at any time, thus activating potential liability for the crime of aggression for nationals of that State Party.  But Section 1ter requires any State Party that has filed a declaration of non-acceptance to consider withdrawing it within three years.  That is strictly a procedural request, but there is no obligation to withdraw the declaration.

A new Section 1quarter reads: “In respect of a State that is not a party to this Statute, the Court shall not exercise its jurisdiction over the crime of aggression when committed by that State’s nationals or on its territory.”  This language is essential for the support of non-party States at the Review Conference and it corrects the flaw in Article 121(5) that addresses only the privilege of States Parties to opt out of new crimes while leaving non-party States exposed to potential liability for the crime of aggression.

I suspect that when new crimes are considered in the future, this principle of non-coverage of non-party States will be repeated.  Interestingly, however, this logic did not prevail with the adoption of the new prohibited weapons for non-international armed conflicts embodied in the amendment to Article 8, namely  poison or poisoned weapons, asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and expanding bullets, etc., which was adopted Thursday evening as the historic first amendment to the Rome Statute.  That amendment makes no such explicit concession to non-party States and thus does not seek to correct Article 121(5) with respect to those new weapons for non-international armed conflicts.  No delegation raised any objection tonight to that omission.  I can understand why.  These weapons already are included in Article 8(2)(b) for international armed conflicts, without anyone raising any real fuss, and this amendment is a logical extension of such weapons to non-international armed conflicts.   So they are barely considered “new” weapons; rather they are long-standing weapons in the Rome Statute now introduced into an additional scenario of armed conflicts.

The non-paper next addresses the all-important two alternatives for final jurisdictional filters when there are State Party referrals or proprio motu prosecutor investigations.  Alternative 1 survives, which stops the prosecutor’s investigation if there is no determination by the Security Council on an act of aggression committed by the State concerned.  The new language reads: “(Alternative 1) In the absence of such a determination, the Prosecutor may not proceed with the investigation in respect of a crime of aggression, [unless the Security Council has, in a resolution adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, requested the Prosecutor to proceed with the investigation.]”

The new bracketed language reflects the possibility that the Security Council could refer a situation to the prosecutor requesting him or her to proceed with the investigation.  This is very constructive as it opens the door not to a determination that an act of aggression has occurred (which the Security Council has rarely ever done), but to the Security Council essentially delegating to the prosecutor the job of investigating a situation and, one might presume, pursuing charges of the crime of aggression against individuals.  There remains a bit of constructive ambiguity here, as the new language is not requiring the Security Council resolution to state that an act of aggression has occurred or even to describe the situation of atrocity crimes as necessarily constituting aggression.  But I read it to mean the Security Council has to specify in the text of the Chapter VII resolution that the prosecutor is to investigate the crime of aggression.

Alternative 1 as now drafted with bracketed language is a remarkable shift and one that should be seen as encouraging to the Permanent Members of the Security Council.  It actually keeps Alternative 1 in play before the Review Conference, at least until Friday.  I remain skeptical that even such improved language can turn the tide against Alternative 2, which has had such overwhelming support among delegations here in prior days.  But we shall see.

Alternative 2 has been revised in the non-paper to require that the authorization for commencement of an investigation by the prosecutor must be granted by the Pre-Trial Division (consisting of all of the Pre-Trial judges) and not just the smaller Pre-Trial Chamber.  This revision reflects an earlier proposal that had been stated as a footnote.  This should give some additional comfort to skeptics of Alternative 2 by requiring a larger number of judges to approve of the prosecutor’s investigation of the crime of aggression in the event the Security Council does not make a determination.

Alternative 2 also now includes a final bracketed clause that permits the prosecutor’s investigation (authorized by the Pre-Trial Division) to proceed only if the Security Council does not decide otherwise.  The provision reads:  “(Alternative 2)  Where no such determination is made within six months after the date of notification, the Prosecutor may proceed with the investigation in respect of a crime of aggression, provided that the Pre-Trial Division has authorized the commencement of the investigation in respect of a crime of aggression in accordance with the procedure contained in article 15, [and the Security Council does not decide otherwise.]”

The bracketed clause is a “red light” that invites the Security Council to “decide” that the investigation proceeds no further.  The form in which such a decision can be taken is left ambiguous, which provides some flexibility for the Council in the future.  This is a very constructive compromise provision, one that might bridge the divide to the Permanent Members of the Security Council.  The bracketed wording confirms the primacy of the Council on matters of aggression, while leaving intact the Pre-Trial Division’s role and thus acknowledging, if ever so indirectly, that the Council does not have exclusive authority (particularly in judicial matters) regarding aggression.  This is the point so many delegations stressed, and this revision accommodates that point of view while protecting Council equities.

The new Article 15ter, which covers Security Council referrals under Article 13(b) of the Rome Statute, has been greatly simplified.  The core principle to bear in mind here is that the Security Council must adopt a Chapter VII resolution to refer a situation of aggression to the prosecutor and when it does so, the Council can stipulate coverage of not only States Parties that have ratified the amendments, but also States Parties that have not so ratified the amendments and non-party States.

The new operative Section 2 of Article 15ter reads: “The Court may exercise jurisdiction only with respect to crimes of aggression committed at least five years after the adoption of the amendments on the crime of aggression and one year after the ratification or acceptance of the amendments by thirty State Parties.”  This provision simply mirrors what the resolution confirms in operative paragraph 1 regarding the temporal roll-out of liability for the crime of aggression.

Thus, Article 15ter no longer requires that there be a separate determination on an act of aggression by the Security Council, as the Chapter VII referral resolution essentially addresses that point.  The Council can act as it chooses, but if it adopts such a resolution it can word that resolution as an Article 13(b) action referring a situation of aggression to the prosecutor.

Finally, a revised Annex III to the resolution covering understandings to the amendments introduces the five year/30 State Parties temporal factor into two key components of the understandings.  First, Understanding 1 delays ICC jurisdiction for a Security Council referral until at least five years after the Review Conference and only when 30 States Parties have ratified the amendments.  That removes any concern that suddenly, as of Friday evening, the Court would be open for business on the crime of aggression if the Security Council referred a situation of aggression to it.  There had been that theory and concern, but this revision eliminates that possibility.

Understanding 3 ensures that the principle of non-retroactivity of criminal jurisdiction is upheld.  It reads: “It is understood, in accordance with article 11, paragraph 1, of the Statute, that the Court has jurisdiction only with respect to crimes of aggression committed five years after the adoption of the amendments on the crime of aggression and one year after the ratification or acceptance of the amendments by thirty States Parties.”  So there is no need to worry about reaching back to July 1, 2002, when the ICC was operationalized, as the start point for the temporal jurisdiction over the crime of aggression.  An Article 12(3) declaration by  a non-party State cannot somehow trigger the Court’s jurisdiction over the commission of the crime of aggression prior to this temporal start point, assuming that Understanding 3 is fully respected by the ICC judges in an interpretive exercise.

All of this detail should not obscure the reality that Ambassador Wenaweser’s non-paper tonight is a momentous document, one that has the potential of finally operationalizing the crime of aggression under the Rome Statute.  There is compromise language that bridges long-held and divergent points of view.

The last international prosecutions for crimes against the peace, or aggression, occurred at Nuremberg and Tokyo 65 years ago.  On Friday, June 11, 2010, we may witness approval of amendments that launch the International Criminal Court on a path towards similar prosecutions of the crime of aggression in the future.  For me, it has been a 17 year journey that began in 1993.  I was senior counsel to U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Dr. Madeleine Albright, and it was my task to introduce and explain the crime of aggression to relevant federal agencies in the Clinton Administration as the U.N. International Law Commission began to incorporate the crime into its draft of the statute for an international criminal court (which was adopted by the ILC in 1994).  I do not know yet what will transpire on Friday in Kampala, but I will watch it with great interest and reflection on all that has transpired over the years.



The eleventh hour…

June 10th, 2010 by John Cerone

(These comments are made in my personal capacity, and are not attributable to anyone but me.)

The Chair opened the plenary session just after 11pm. Rumor had it that there was a new draft aggression text that would essentially limit the trigger mechanism to Security Council only.

But before turning to aggression, the session began with consideration of the resolution amending article 8 of the Statute (the weapons amendment). The brackets were lifted from the resolution’s second preambular paragraph, which set forth the mode of amendment. Agreement upon this paragraph was significant because it established that article 121(5) was the appropriate amendment rule, and because it reflected the so-called ‘negative understanding’ of article 121(5)-2 (see earlier posts). On this latter point, the second preambular paragraph reads in part:

“[I]n respect of a State Party which has not accepted the amendment, the Court shall not exercise its jurisdiction regarding the crime covered by the amendment when committed by that State Party’s nationals or on its territory, and confirming its understanding that in respect to this amendment the same principle that applies in respect of a State Party which has not accepted the amendment applies also in respect of States that are not parties to the Statute…”

The resolution was then adopted. As noted by the Chair, this was the first time that the Rome Statute has been amended since its adoption in 1998. It also now stands as precedent for adopting the negative understanding in the context of the aggression amendment(s) as well.

The session was then suspended while we all waited for the latest aggression text to be photocopied and distributed.

The plenary resumed around 11:30pm and transitioned into an informal session. The President’s new non-paper (PNNP) had a few key differences from the earlier PNP. It includes a delayed activation for the triggers, an opt out provision for the controversial triggers, and mandatory review clauses (for the ASP to review the aggression amendments and for State Parties availing themselves of the opt out to reconsider their opt out).

All of the trigger mechanisms (including the Security Council trigger) are made subject to delayed activation. According to the relevant paragraphs, “The Court may exercise jurisdiction only with respect to crimes of aggression committed at least five years after the adoption of the amendments on the crime of aggression and one year after the ratification or acceptance of the amendments by thirty States Parties.”

The declaration opting out of the controversial trigger mechanisms is to be lodged with the ICC Registrar, an organ less visible than the UN Secretary General, which had been mentioned in a prior draft. The declaration may be filed at any time, including prior to the ratification of the aggression amendments. It may also be withdrawn at any time, “and shall be considered by the State Party within three years.”

The paragraph regarding non-states parties is clear and broad. It provides: “In respect of a State that is not a party to this Statute, the Court shall not exercise its jurisdiction over the crime of aggression when committed by that State’s nationals or on its territory.” Although this provision appears only in the article dealing with the controversial triggers, it could be read more broadly. It is also noteworthy that the formulation regarding the scope of the non-State Party exclusion has reverted back to the earlier “nationals and territory” language (see last post).

The opt out for States Parties and the paragraph on non-States Parties seem to embed in the text the negative understanding of art. 121(5)-2.  Or they at least seem to accommodate that understanding.  The jury is still out on the legal posture of a State Party that has not accepted the amendment and does not opt out (on the theory that since they haven’t accepted the amendment, they need not opt out of it).

In addition to the opt out provision, the draft text retains two additional, alternative hurdles to the use of the controversial triggers even for those States Parties that have accepted the amendment(s) and declined to opt out. In alternative 1, the Prosecutor may not proceed with an investigation unless the Security Council has determined that there has been an act of aggression by the State concerned or has requested the Prosecutor to proceed with the investigation (the so-called “green light” proposal). In alternative 2, the Prosecutor may proceed even in the absence of a Security Council determination or request, unless the Security Council decides otherwise. This essentially shifts the burden of inertia. This second alternative would also require that the Prosecutor obtain the approval of the Court’s Pre-Trial Division as an additional, internal filter.

[I should add that the text of the PNNP is not perfectly clean at this stage. In some instances, I’m explaining here what the text appears intended to achieve rather than what it actually states on the assumption that we will be getting a cleaned-up version tomorrow that would foreclose any errant interpretations.]

The plenary discussion of aggression resumes tomorrow at 11am.

Time for bed.



Aggression, Voting and the Final Day of the Review Conference

June 10th, 2010 by Valerie Oosterveld

One interesting issue that has arisen is whether there will be enough States Parties present in the event that a vote is called on Friday on the aggression provisions. The June 9th report of the Credentials Committee notes that credentials had been received in the form required from 72 States Parties. The President of the Assembly of States Parties, Amb. Christian Wenaweser, indicated that another one – Latvia – was recently received, making 73. An additional 12 States had submitted “information concerning the appointment of representatives”. This brings the number of States Parties present to 85.

While, normally, the report of the Credentials Committee is largely a non-issue at a diplomatic conference, this one is being scrutinized with some interest. The Rules of Procedure of the Review Conference require that, if consensus cannot be reached, then amendments to the Statute must be adopted by a 2/3 majority of States Parties. There are currently 111 States Parties, which means that 74 votes are required for the adoption of the aggression provisions. Earlier in the week, Burundi, Central African Republic, Comoros and Djibouti – states in arrears – were granted an exemption from lost voting rights. The President also indicated that Gabon, Guinea, Marshall Islands and Nauru may also ask for similar exemptions from lost voting rights, but it is not clear at the time of writing if they had in fact done so. Assuming an agreement can be reached on the crime of aggression that enjoys relatively widespread support, even a few negative votes combined with lost votes due to arrears and absences due to state representatives leaving to catch flights could result in a failure to reach the required 2/3 majority of States Parties. This is one of the reasons why the Chair of the Working Group on the Crime of Aggression, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein of Jordan, has appealed to states to ensure that they have representation for the entirety of the June 12 plenary meetings, which might run into the evening.

[Related post at IntLawGrrls]