ICC Rights Watch

ICC Office of the Prosecutor Launches New Policy to Bolster Principles of Complementarity and Cooperation

By: Remy Kane

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – On April 25, 2024, in accordance with several new policies released recently, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor launched a new Policy on Complementarity and Cooperation. The Policy is the product of a global consultation process that began in October of last year that engaged States parties, civic society, academic institutions, and affected communities.

ICC Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan during a visit to Bangladesh. | Photo courtesy of ICC.

The goal of the Policy is to fortify the ICC’s application of the Rome Statute’s principles of complementarity and cooperation. The principle of complementarity calls for collaboration between national criminal jurisdictions and the ICC. In essence, while states have primary authority to investigate and prosecute international crimes, the ICC may step in on a case-by-case basis to ensure that these crimes are justly addressed.

The new Policy is aimed toward strengthening the ICC’s relationship with other criminal jurisdictions to serve the ultimate goal of investigating and prosecuting global atrocities. To effectuate this, the Policy proposes a two-track strategy that will promote cooperation and partnership with states as well as frequent complementary action, while remaining faithful to the ICC’s mandate to independently and impartially handle Rome Statute crimes.

This approach reflects the important balance the ICC seeks to maintain between its duties and that of other jurisdictions. If this equilibrium is disrupted, however, the principle of complementarity, which is bolstered by this new Policy, allows the ICC to take action. This notion is forthright in the body of the Policy which states, “if States step up, the Office will step out. But equally, the reverse is also true. If states do not step up, the Office will not hesitate to fulfill its mandate.”

The Policy, which is referred to as a “renewed partnership for accountability,” suggests four pillars for enhanced cooperation and complementarity: (1) creating a community of practice, (2) technology as an accelerant, (3) bringing justice closer to communities, and (4) harnessing cooperation mechanisms.

Each of the new ICC policies launched in recent months have put victims and survivors of crimes at the forefront, and this one is no exception. The Deputy Prosecutor, Mame Mandiaye Niang, expressed that the Policy’s partnership-centered approach stands to deliver more for victims by way of further increased vigilance to global atrocities.

To aid in the implementation of the Policy, the Office of the Prosecutor has established a trust fund specifically dedicated to complementarity and cooperation. Contributions to this fund will support complementarity activities, such as providing information and assistance to national authorities in the implementation of their Rome Statute obligations. Further methods of deepening the ICC’s relationships with other jurisdictions will be supported by the trust fund as well, including a Complementarity and Cooperation Forum and other accountability efforts.

For Further Information, please see:

ICC – ICC Office of the Prosecutor launches policy on Complementarity and Cooperation – 25 Apr. 2024

ICC – Policy on Complementarity and Cooperation – Apr. 2024

Legal Information Institute – Complementarity defined – ND


ICC Office of the Prosecutor Targets Slavery Crimes with Landmark Policy

By: Remy Kane

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

THE HAGUE, The Netherlands – On March 19, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor announced that a new Policy on Slavery Crimes is in the works. The policy will mark the first specific action taken by an international judicial institution to combat crimes of slavery. This reflects the ICC’s dedication to achieving justice for victims of such crimes and preventing the future commission of them.

Permanent premises of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Netherlands. | Photo courtesy of Human Rights Watch.

Modern slavery encompasses sex trafficking, forced labor, bonded labor or debt bondage, domestic servitude, and the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers. To quote Prosecutor Khan, “Slavery crimes are committed against an untold number of persons and populations, including child soldiers, persons forced to migrate or be trafficked, and persons detained, disappeared, or forced into marriage or labor that devolves into slavery.”

As of 2021, 49.6 million people were living in modern slavery per the International Labour Organization. Of those individuals, 27.6 million were subject to forced labor and 22 million were in forced marriages. Twelve percent of those in forced labor were children and more than half of these children were victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Child trafficking occurs in every country in the world and makes up a third of all human trafficking cases. Human trafficking and forced labor generate roughly $150 billion annually. These numbers are testimony to how slavery crimes are a grave and pressing issue.

The Policy on Slave Crimes will aim to take a survivor-centered, trauma-informed and gender-competent approach, and will be “rigorously implemented” once formulated, according to the Prosecutor. It will be in alignment with other recent policies tackling similar issues, including the 2022 Policy Paper on Gender Persecution, the 2023 Policy on Gender-Based Crimes, and the 2023 Policy on Children.

The Office of the Prosecutor has consulted survivor communities, civil society organizations, national authorities, international organizations, and other justice actors to help shape the Policy. To further aid in the process, the Office is also seeking input from the public. External experts are welcome to offer substantive comment on how the Policy can be best effectuated. Such comments will be accepted via email until April 30, 2024 (see more information about submissions on the ICC website, linked below).

For further information, please see:

ICC – Office of the Prosecutor Launches Public Consultation on Policy on Slavery Crimes – Mar. 19, 2014

ICC – Policy on Children – Dec 7, 2023

ICC – Policy on Gender-Based Crimes – Dec. 4, 2023

ICC – Policy on The Crime of Gender Persecution – Dec 7, 2022

International Labour Organization – Forced Labour, Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking – Sept. 12, 2022

Lexology – ICC Opens Consultation for New Policy in Slavery Crimes – Mar. 20, 2024

UNICEF – UNICEF and The Fight Against Child Trafficking – Nov. 9, 2022





ICC to Hold First In Absentia Hearing Against Ugandan Rebel Leader

By: Tatiana Vaz
Journal of Global Rights and Organizations
, Associate Articles Editor

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – On March 4, 2024, the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Pre-Trial Chamber II issued a decision granting Prosecutor Karim Kham’s request to hold a confirmation hearing in the case against Joseph Kony in his absence, should he not appear, to commence on October 15, 2024. This is will be the ICC’s first in absentia hearing.

The International Criminal Court’s Headquarters at the Hague. | Photo courtesy of ICC.

Joseph Kony was the founder and leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (“LRA”) in Uganda. The LRA is a Ugandan rebel group that currently operates in the border region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR), and South Sudan. The group was established by Kony in 1998 with the claim of resorting to the honor of his ethnic Acholi people and installing a government based on his vision of the Ten Commandments. From July 1, 2001, until December 31, 2005, the LRA, an organization within the meaning of Article 7 (2)(a) of the Rome Statue, carried out widespread and systematic attacks against the civil population of northern Uganda.

Joseph Kony is suspected of twelve counts of crimes against humanity including murder, enslavement, sexual enslavement, rape, and inhuman acts of inflicting serious bodily injury and suffering. He is also suspected of 21 counts of war crimes, including murder, cruel treatment of civilians, intentionally directing an attack against a civilian population, pillaging, including rape, and forced enlistment of children between the years of2003 and 2004. The ICC issued a warrant for Kony’s arrest in 2005. However, he remains at large and is the only remaining suspect.

The Rome Statute, which is the treaty that governs the ICC, allows for a confirmation hearing proceeding at the pre-trial stage in the absence of the suspect. The confirmation hearing is not a trial, but it allows the prosecutor the opportunity to outline their case before the court. The Pre- Trial Chamber II consists of Presiding Judge Rosario Salvatore Aitala, Judge Tomoko Akane, and Judge Sergio Gerardo Ugalde Godinez.

Following the receipt of documents containing the charges against Kony and the Registry report on its efforts to inform Kony on those charges, the Court found that all reasonable steps to inform Kony of the charges against him have been taken within the meaning of Article 61 (2)(b) of the Rome Statue. The Court decided that the confirmation of charges hearing is to be held in the absence of Kony, should he not appear, and will begin October 15, 2024.

The Court also stated that it would ensure Kony’s right to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defense under Article 61 (1)(b) of the Rome Statue, and Rule 121 (1) of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence will be fulfilled. The ICC stressed this right in light of the fact that, should the Court definitively decide that there is a cause to authorize a confirmation of charges in Kony’s absence, counsel will have to be appointed to represent his rights and interests in the proceeding.

The Court also required that Counsel have sufficient time to prepare their case Kony’s absence. As a result, the Prosecution must provide the Court with information in terms of the evidence and witnesses they plan to call within four weeks of the notification of the present decision. The Court further instructed the Registry to commence the process of searching for counsel to represent Kony’s rights and interests during the confirmation process and confirmation hearing, should this take place in his absence. The Registry is instructed to report back on their progress within three weeks of the notification of this present decision, whom they will appoint in time for the Prosecution’s disclosure of witnesses and evidence they plan to present.

The ICC’s decision is most certainly a step in the right direction, as many affected communities in Uganda believed it was over and lost hope. The confirmation hearing provides many victims with the opportunity to finally have their voices heard. The ICC has also taken other steps for the victims affected. Earlier this year the ICC granted reparations of more than $56 million to the victims of one of the convicted commanders of the LRA. Victims include former child soldiers and children born as a result of rapes and forced pregnancies. The ICC is currently seeking more state and non-partner assistance to capture Kony.

For further information please see:

AP – ICC Awards $56 Million in Reparations to Thousands of Victims of Convicted Ugandan Rebel Commander – 28 Feb. 2024

AP – International Criminal Court to Hold First Ever in Absentia Hearing Over Ugandan Rebel Leader Kony – 4 Mar. 2024

Counterterrorism Guide – Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) – ND

FIDH – Uganda and the ICC: Justice at Last? – 14 Feb. 2024

ICC – Information on the Kony Case – ND

The East African – ICC Prosecutor Seeks Support in Hunt for Ugandan Warlord Kony – 4 Feb. 2023

Reuters – ICC Allows in Absentia Hearings in Case against Ugandan Warlord Kony – 4 Mar. 2024


ICC Postpones Delivery of Judgment for Malian Crimes Against Humanity and Gender-Based Persecution Case

By: Joo Young Lee

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

THE HAGUE, The Netherlands – On January 15, 2024, Trial Chamber X of the International Criminal Court (ICC) postponed delivery of its verdict for The Prosecutor v. Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud (hereinafter “Al Hassan”) pursuant to article 74 of the Rome Statute.

Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud at the International Criminal Court in The Hague (Netherlands) on May 23, 2023. | Photo Courtesy of the ICC.

Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud is accused of perpetrating war crimes and crimes against humanity in Timbuktu, Mali. He is facing charges of persecution based on religious and gender grounds, rape, torture, sexual slavery, and forced marriages that occurred between April 2012 and January 2013. The delivery of the judgment by the ICC was originally set for January 18, 2024, and a new date will be announced in due course.

Notably, the Al Hassan case marks the ICC’s first prosecution of the crime against humanity of persecution on grounds of gender pursuant to the Rome Statute. The prosecution contends that Al Hassan and his group specifically targeted women and girls for breaking a strict dress code, restrictions on freedom of movement, and rules on segregation of the sexes. According to prosecutors, Al Hassan led a police force created by the al Qaeda-linked Ansar Dine group that tormented Timbuktu, particularly targeting women who faced rape, forced marriages and sexual slavery.

The United Nations’ Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda recognizes sexual violence as a weapon of war and acknowledges that it can amount to international crimes, calling for enhanced criminal accountability.

During a hearing on May 9, 2022, the defense argued that faced with dire circumstances, Al Hasan became involved with armed groups as a survival strategy. The defense maintained that Al Hasan was wrongly selected for prosecution and portrayed him as trying to maintain order in a chaotic situation in Timbuktu following the rebel takeover. The defense also argued that Al Hasan’s role in the conflict was too minor to warrant charges at the ICC for crimes against humanity.

Closing statements occurred before the ICC between May 23 and 25, 2023. Trial Chamber X of the ICC will deliver its decision on conviction or acquittal pursuant to article 74 of the Rome Statute. The Chamber bases its decision only on the applicable law and on evidence submitted before it at the trial.

For further information, please see:

Al Jazeera – ICC prosecutors: Mali rebel “enthusiastic” war crimes perpetrator – 23 May 2023

Courthouse News Service – Closing arguments begin in trial over Mali war crimes – 23 May 2023

Diplomat – ICC Trial Chamber X to deliberate on the Al Hassan case – 25 May 2023

ICC – Al Hassan case: Trial Chamber X postpones delivery of judgment – 15 Jan. 2024

ICC – Trial Judgment in Al Hassan case on 18 January 2024 – Practical information – 10 Jan. 2024

ICC – Al Hassan case: ICC Trial Chamber X to deliver Trial Judgment on 18 January 2024 – 6 Dec. 2023

ICC – ICC Trial Chamber X to deliberate on the Al Hassan case – 25 May 2023

Justice in Conflict – Writing the Jurisprudence of Gender-Based Persecution: Al Hassan on Trial at the ICC – 15 July 2020


ICC Office of the Prosecutor Implements New Policy to Promote the Inclusion of Children in the International Criminal Justice Process

By: Rebecca Pioso

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

THE HAGUE, The Netherlands – On December 8, 2023, the ICC Office of the Prosecutor implemented the “Policy on Children” to address the worldwide suffering that children face regarding their historic underrepresentation and lack of appropriate engagement with the criminal justice process.

Cover Page of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor Policy on Children | Photo courtesy of ICC Office of the Prosecutor.

The ICC’s Rome Statue grants the ICC jurisdiction over international crimes involving genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression. Article 54 of the Rome Statute mandates that the Office of the Prosecutor devote special consideration to investigations and prosecutions against children. Children have the right to partake in the criminal justice process, just as adults are. However, the ICC has acknowledged the routine failure of tribunals to appropriately include children in international criminal justice processes, which in turn violates their human rights.

Addressing children’s participation in the international criminal justice processes is crucial. Nearly one third of the global population is under eighteen years of age, yet children’s experiences and their key roles within the accountability processes are largely overlooked or otherwise ignored based on misconceptions, stereotypes, and failures to devote appropriate resources to support proper methodologies that account for the specific needs of each child. For example, tribunals traditionally have an adult-centric view which largely excludes children and often stereotype them as a homogenous group, regardless of their unique needs and capacities. Moreover, crimes impacting children are routinely under-reported, under-investigated and under-prosecuted.

The ICC has recognized the necessity of improving the understandings of and adaptation to children’s experiences and facilitating their engagement in the international criminal justice processes. The Court has committed to increasing children’s access to justice by implementing a children’s rights approach. It will ensure that children’s voices will be affirmatively heard in each case and situation that they are involved in under the Rome Statute so that their unique vulnerabilities and the manners in which they are targeted and ultimately impacted based on their status in society regarding their physical, mental, psychological development, and ability to engage with criminal justice process, can be better understood.

The Prosecutor’s new has specific objectives to:

  • Remedy the historic lack of representation and engagement of children in the international criminal justice process.
  • Bring attention to the viewpoint that crimes under the Rome Statute can be committed against and impact children.
  • Ensure that, in all dealings with children, the Office of the Prosecutor takes a child rights, child-sensitive, and child-competent approach that is guided by the child’s best interests.
  • Actively adapt and reflect topics including intersectionality, children’s developmental stages, their capacities and abilities.
  • Re-emphasize the Office of the Prosecutor’s commitment to building an international community that facilitates effective investigation and prosecution of crimes against children.
  • Promote the exchange of knowledge regarding best practices and accountability efforts.

The Policy focuses on recruitment, training, external collaboration, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation, with the goal of promoting a more effective and equitable system for prosecuting crimes against and impacting children. The Policy also reflects the ICC’s awareness of their place within a global ecosystem of accountability, and specifically, the Office of the Prosecutor’s commitment to broadening and then reflecting its understanding as to the unique impacts of Rome Statute crimes involving children, and to improving the processes for effectively including children in the international criminal justice processes.

For further information, please see:

ICC – How the Court Works – 2024

ICC Office of the Prosecutor – Policy on Children – Dec. 2023

ICC Office of the Prosecutor – Statement by ICC Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan KC – 8 Dec. 2023

ICC Office of the Prosecutor – Policy on Children (2016) – Nov. 2016