From 15-18 September 2022, the judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) held their annual judicial retreat at the Siracusa International Institute for Criminal Justice and Human Rights, with the support of the Italian government. The retreat concentrated on proposals developed by the judges in response to the Report of the Independent Expert Review conducted in 2020 (“IER Report”), and on related proposals, focussing in particular on the recommendations concerning victims’ participation and the reparations process.
At the retreat, the judges acknowledged that victims’ participation and reparations constitute one of the key aspects of the Rome Statute. The judges discussed at length the participation of victims at the initial stages of proceedings. It was agreed that at the preliminary examination and investigation stage, victims should be encouraged to present views and concerns directly to the Office of the Prosecutor, although this is without prejudice to their participation in judicial proceedings at early stages when judicial intervention becomes necessary.
The judges highlighted the manner in which recent innovations already incorporated into the Chambers Practice Manual, such as the adoption of a model for the decision on the ‘Directions for the Conduct of Proceedings’ and the use of the ‘A-B-C Approach’ for considering applications for victims participation are already functioning to enhance efficiency and consistency. The judges further agreed that a working group of judges would continue working on victims’ participation and reparations.
The judges also continued their ongoing discussion on ensuring accountability for ethical conduct and improving the working conditions of staff members in the judiciary. Reflecting upon an evaluation of working conditions in the judiciary completed by the Independent Oversight Mechanism in July 2022, the judges agreed to establish an informal mechanism, within the judiciary, by which staff members may seek assistance from judges to informally address any concerns as to discrimination, harassment, including sexual harassment, and abuse of authority by judges. Such informal mechanism supplements the available Court-wide formal and informal mechanisms. The judges of the Court also agreed to amend the Code of Judicial Ethics to provide that the Court’s Administrative Instruction on Investigations of Unsatisfactory Conduct and the Administrative Instruction on Addressing Discrimination, Harassment, Including Sexual Harassment, and Abuse of Authority apply to judges, thus enhancing transparency, accountability and the application of consistent principles, procedures and obligations to all categories of persons working at the Court.
The judges also adopted three fundamental principles concerning the decision confirming the charges, which will facilitate drafting and the efficient transition of cases from the pre-trial stage to the trial stage.
During their stay at the Siracusa International Institute, the judges of the Court participated in a ceremony to honour the Institute’s fiftieth anniversary, with the President of the Court, Judge Piotr Hofmański,