Every year, when ASP season at the ICC comes around, it is accompanied by the usual discussions about the budget of the Court. This year’s ASP was a little different with the question of African withdrawals taking the spotlight, but it does not change the fact that the budget remains a regular concern for all observers.
Matt Brown, over at opinio juris, has very clearly set out the problem. It is particularly striking to note that the ICC, with its wide geographical mandate, is functioning with less budget than the ICTY or the ICTR in their heyday, despite the fact that these two institutions were essentially dealing with what at the ICC would be one situation.
The absurdity of the situation is even bigger when observing the daily work of the Court. For example, it appears that the ICC, with its quite considerable workforce, does not have enough budget to run 3 trials at the same time. Not 20 trials, 3 trials. This is absolutely ridiculous.
Of course, this does raise another question, more tricky perhaps: how efficiently is the ICC budget used? Indeed, it’s one thing to consider that the ICC’s budget is too small, and that is arguably true, but it should not be a reason to put under the rug any obligation of self-reflection by the institution itself on how that budget is used.
To take the previous example, I cannot believe that not having the staff to hold three trials at once is only a budgetary issue. The whole point of the ICC is to hold trials! How can it be that this has not been prioritized internally? There are countless sections and sub-sections of the registry whose role, let’s be honest, is quite peripheral to the core activities of the Court. They should be the ones to be understaffed.
This of course highlights a broader issue with the ICC: it has transformed over the years (or was it always like that?) into a Brazil-like bureaucracy, as is always the risk with this kind of institution. As a result, administrative management, rather than being a tool for a fairer process, sometimes seems to have become an objective in its own right, where calendars are set for court hearing, for example, not in order to respect the rights of the Defense, or even to accomodate more generally the parties and participants, but in light of budgetary concerns, space availability, technical difficulties, etc. This is particularly problematic when talking about a judicial institution that has, at least in theory, sets itself the goal of achieving justice in full respect for fair trial principles.
On a lighter note, I have a small suggestion in terms of the budget. I follow the ICC newsfeed, and twitter, and I have the feeling that every second week, the Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, is travelling the world for various events in order to promote the ICC, with groundbreaking statements about ending impunity or the fact that children are our future. But the Prosecutor of the ICC should not be a PR representative of the Court. This should be done by its President or the Registry’s outreach section. The Prosecution is merely one organ of the Court and one party to the criminal trial. It should focus on this function, full stop. I am sure that the travel budget of Fatou Bensouda would be sufficient to hire an court usher to be able to hold 3 trials at the same time…