On 3-4 October 2019, the judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC), held a judicial retreat near Arnhem (The Netherlands).
The retreat provided an opportunity for judges to have a private exchange on topics related to the efficiency and functioning of the judiciary. In particular, the retreat focussed on identifying concrete areas in which the judges may best contribute to strengthening the Court and the Rome Statute system.
The ICC President, Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji, said: “The Court’s judges are fully committed to positive and proactive engagement to ensure that the ICC stands an example of best judicial practice in the field of international criminal law”. He continued “at this retreat, guided by a strong spirit of collegiality, we take tangible and concrete steps to that end”.
The retreat achieved a number of concrete outcomes.
The judges agreed on the adoption of a consistent set of internal guidelines regulating the timing of key decisions at the pre-trial, trial and appeals stages, thereby enhancing the efficiency and predictability of proceedings. The judges agreed on 5 specific sets of time frames for rendering various types of decisions or judgments, including that a written decision on conviction or acquittal under article 74 of the Rome Statute should be delivered within 10 months from the date of the end of the closing statements. These guidelines for the timing of key judicial decisions now introduce a coherent, consistent and predictable system of timeframes regulating the work of all three judicial divisions. Combined with the guidelines relating to judgment drafting discussed below, they aim to achieve a significant step forward in respect of the efficiency and expeditiousness of Court proceedings. The details of the adopted guidelines will shortly be reflected in the Chambers Practice Manual.
Recognising the importance of cohesive and consistent decision-making, the judges also adopted ‘Guidelines for ICC Judgement Drafting’ and ‘Guidelines for ICC Judgment Structure’. These guidelines aim at establishing a unified approach to the judgment drafting process and setting out a structure for judgments on conviction or acquittal rendered by the Court. Drawing upon best practices and lessons learned, the judges agreed on the adoption of a methodology to ensure that trial chambers commence the preparation of judgments at an early stage and follow a coherent and consistent structure, while still being appropriately adapted to the need of specific cases. The adopted guidelines will shortly be incorporated into the Chambers Practice Manual.
The judges further discussed the management of transitions in the judiciary, critically assessing the available options to address extensions of the mandate of judges of the Court beyond their regular term in office. The judges discussed a number of challenges and parameters in the context of this issue and will provide a detailed report on this topic to the Assembly of States Parties.
Apart from the judges’ private exchanges, the retreat also featured a segment involving the staff working in the ICC’s Judiciary. Tailored to address needs identified in the Court’s staff engagement survey in 2018, this part of the retreat allowed for fruitful discussions between the judges and staff on effective working methods and the work environment.