On 5 December 2022, the Nuremberg Academy organised a side event, hosted by Germany, at the twenty-first session of the Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court (ICC ASP), which took place in The Hague from 5 to 11 December 2022. The panel discussion was titled “The Trials at the ICC – How Long is Too Long?” The Nuremberg Academy presented its report analysing the length of the proceedings before the Court.
This report, which researchers from the Nuremberg Academy and the International Criminal Law Research Unit of the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (ICLU) jointly created is the result of a detailed analysis commissioned by the German Federal Foreign Office in response to a 2018 resolution of the German Bundestag, requesting the government to conduct academic research into what the Bundestag described as the “disproportionate length of the proceedings at the ICC”, and seeking recommendations for their acceleration.
After welcoming remarks from Dr Wiebke Rückert, Deputy Director General in the German Federal Foreign Office, the panel discussion began with a short presentation by Dr Gurgen Petrossian, Senior Researcher from the ICLU.
Dr Petrossian’s presentation focused on the unique status of the project and of the report, which was presented in draft form to ASP delegations and to representatives of the ICC and of civil society, and which forms the first systematic analysis of ICC proceedings. It depicts in detail the various phases of the trials and analyses the reasons for delays solely on the factual basis of the cases. The main finding, which also compares data from the ICC with that from other international courts and tribunals as well as from national proceedings, is that although the trials are long, they are not disproportionately long. For this finding, the research team applied the criteria established by the European Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in cases where defendants had complained about the length of their proceedings before domestic courts.
The recommendations for expediting proceedings focused on two key actors who could impact length: the Judges and Presidency and the Prosecutor. In relation to the Judges and Presidency, the report called for better management skills; strict schedules, time limits and deadlines; standardisation of the Court’s work and steps making the Chamber Practice Manual binding. In relation to the Prosecutor, the report called for better strategy in each case, in particular in relation to indictments; guidelines on the Document Containing the Charges; and redesigning the redactions regime.
Following Dr Petrossian’s presentation, the expert panel discussed the issue in greater detail. The panel comprised Judge Piotr Hofma?ski, President of the ICC; Judge Ekaterina Trendafilova, President of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers; Dr Fabricio Guariglia, Director of the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) Hague Branch and former Director of Prosecutions at the ICC and Jennifer Naouri, former President of the International Criminal Court Bar Association (ICCBA).
President Hofmanski introduced the most recent efforts of the ICC judges to accelerate the proceedings, for which the ICC Chamber’s Practice Manual plays a key role. President Trendafilova reflected on the importance of well-structured and organised evidence handling as a key element for timely decisions. Maître Naouri reminded the audience that the question of the duration of the trials is much more than a technicality, since in all trials the defendants, who are presumed innocent, are in provisional detention for many years and thus deprived of their liberty, their family relations and their social life. Dr Guariglia pointed to the increasing need for better organised trials and pointed to the immense amount of digital evidence, stemming from social media and other sources which would require innovative means of processing and review. All panellists highlighted the uniqueness of the study undertaken and praised the quality of the report which forms in their view an excellent basis for further discussions on the acceleration of proceedings before the ICC.
The Nuremberg Academy welcomed the opportunity to engage with other key stakeholders on these issues during the Assembly of States Parties, including representatives of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor and members of the ASP Study Group on Governance. The Nuremberg Academy circulated limited advance copies of the report and intends to organise a formal launch of the report to the public in an event in The Hague in 2023.