ICC prosecutor still struggling to implement new strategy

08 October 2014 by Janet H. Anderson, The Hague (The Netherlands)

A year ago this month, the International Criminal Court’s Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) presented a strategic plan dramatically changing its approach to investigations. The changes followed a series of humiliating defeats the office suffered at the confirmation of charges stage in various hearings. Thus, out went short, focused probes. In came in-depth, open-ended ones that could be revolutionary. And yet today, the OTP is still arguing for increased resources.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. Copyright ICC-CPI/Flickr
Image caption: 
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. Copyright ICC-CPI/Flickr

To date, the OTP has investigated nine situations, resulting in requests for 31 arrest warrants or summonses. Judges have refused to confirm charges for five of the 15 individuals brought to court. The most dramatic failures concerned former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo and Callixte Mbarushimana, a Rwandan accused of atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In the Gbagbo case, judges asked the OTP to return to the drawing board and find new evidence. “[T]he Prosecutor relied heavily on NGO reports and press articles with regard to key elements of the case,” they stated. But such documents “do not usually constitute a valid substitute for the type of evidence that is required to meet the evidentiary threshold for the confirmation of charges”. The prosecution was further accused of leaving an “incomplete picture” of the structural links between Gbagbo and the pro-Gbagbo forces alleged to have committed the crimes. This, back in June 2013, sent the OTP scrambling, though by June 2014, they had convinced the judges to proceed.

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