Between 5 to 9 December 2022, Al-Haq attended the twenty-first session of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) held at the World Forum Convention Center in the Netherlands. In his speech before the ASP, the ICC Prosecutor Mr Karim Khan KC declared that one of his objectives next year is to visit the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT). Al-Haq welcomes Prosecutor Khan’s announcement and stresses the importance of this visit to Palestinian victims of Israel’s settler-colonial and apartheid regime who have been craving justice for decades.
Throughout the session, Al-Haq delivered and joined two statements during the general debates. The first statement was delivered jointly by Al-Haq, alongside Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights (Al Mezan) and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) and addressed the delayed justice and double standards in relation to the Situation in Palestine. The second statement was delivered by No Peace Without Justice on behalf of Al-Haq, Human Rights Watch (HRW), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Parliamentarians for Global Action and the Ukrainian Legal Advisory Group, and addressed issues pertaining to the ICC budget, the financial needs of other sections of the Court in addition to the Office of the Prosecutor, and voluntary contributions and judicial independence. The Statement welcomed the States’ strong show of support for the Court’s role in Ukraine and urged them to “show the same level of enthusiasm and support across all situations”. Al-Haq also delivered a joint statement during the plenary session on cooperation, on behalf of HRW, Al Mezan, FIDH, PCHR and the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, urging the ASP President to protect civil society organisations (CSOs) and human rights defenders (HRDs) cooperating with the Court.
Furthermore, Al-Haq co-organised two side events in parallel to the ASP 21st session. The first, which was titled: “Countering the Global Crackdown on Human Rights Defenders and Civil Society: What Role for the ICC and States Parties?”, took place on 7 December 2022 and was co-sponsored by Chile, Finland, Ireland and Sweden, as well as the following civil society organisations: Al-Haq, Coalition for the ICC (CICC), Open Society Foundation (OSF), HRW, Amnesty International, FIDH, Al Mezan, PCHR, and Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice. This side event highlighted common challenges facing HRDs worldwide, the need to support HRDs facing increased attacks and threats, and the role that the ICC, the ASP, and the international community can play to support and protect their work to advance justice.
The second side event took place on 8 December 2022 was titled: “Equitable Access to Justice: The Case of Palestine”. This side event was co-sponsored by the State of Palestine, South Africa, as well as the following civil society organisations: Al-Haq, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, PCHR, Amnesty International, INTLawyers, Defence for Children International - Palestine, Addameer - Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, OSF, and the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam. Crucially, the side event discussed complex challenges and constraints as well as the perception of selectivity in the prioritisation of Situations and the damaging implications of these factors on the legitimacy and credibility of the Court.
In addition, Al-Haq attended several side events organised by partner civil society organisations and the ICC, the Office of the Prosecutor, and States Parties. Al-Haq also attended several meetings organised by the Coalition for the ICC, including with the ICC Prosecutor, Mr Karim Khan KC, the President of the ASP, H.E. Ms Silvia Fernandez de Gurmendi, President of the ICC, Judge Piotr Hofmański and the ICC Registrar, Mr Peter Lewis.
During the ASP, civil society organisations and human rights defenders from all around the court showed heart-warming solidarity with Palestinian civil society organisations, especially with the six organisations brazenly outlawed by the Israeli settler-colonial apartheid regime.
At the closing of the ASP, President Silvia Fernandez de Gurmendi reiterated that the ASP and the ICC “have a shared responsibility to promote and protect the goals and work of the Court including from any threat or attack against the Court itself, its officials and those cooperating with it”. She also highlighted that concerns relating to security risks for HRDs by virtue of their work in support of the Court have been expressed by several States Parties and CSOs, including during Al-Haq and partners’ side event specially dedicated to this important matter. The President also announced that she intends to consult with the Court, the Bureau, and other stakeholders to identify appropriate measures to address these concerns. Finally, Her Excellency also assured that she intends to look into ways to enhance the security of all those that come to participate in the ASP sessions, confirming that “the concerns that have been expressed are taken very seriously”.