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.
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.
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