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ICC prosecutor vows to strengthen investigations

By Carol Natukunda

Added 4th August 2019 11:20 AM

The review will, among other issues, focus on the areas of online and financial investigations, and the use of special investigative techniques.

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The review will, among other issues, focus on the areas of online and financial investigations, and the use of special investigative techniques.

LAW  JUSTICE

International Criminal Court (ICC) office of the prosecutor will work with national agencies to deal with challenges that come with investigating complex environments.

The review will, among other issues, focus on the areas of online and financial investigations, and the use of special investigative techniques.

The revelations are contained in the 2019-2021 Strategic Plan released by the Court recently.

It noted that while it has benefited greatly by hiring investigations, analysts, and prosecutors from different judicial systems and with diverse backgrounds, the challenges were enormous.

“ The investigative challenges which arise for cases at the ICC are significant; requiring operating initially in countries where no community network has been established, where cultural and linguistic differences come into play… and where specialized investigative methods used in national contexts to penetrate criminal structures are not always available,” the Strategy reads in part.

“During the period 2019-2021, the office will review with partners from national investigative and prosecutorial agencies the challenges posed by these complex environments to identify adaptations that are needed to its investigative strategies and methods,” it added.

The document stressed that international investigations and prosecutions take time - “to understand the full scale of criminality and its actors, connect with the country, prepare operations in terms of languages, staffing, logistics, security;  obtain cooperation, adequately process information and evidence, and to build a viable case where warranted.”

Yet, proceedings must be expeditious in order to respect and serve the rights and interests of victims and their communities, suspects and accused persons among others.

“The Office is committed to an expeditious execution of its activities, which is a complex and challenging task not only because of the external factors impacting on it,” said the plan.

The new strategic plan also takes into consideration existing and anticipated challenges for the work of the prosecutor. It seeks to achieve a high rate of success in court; as well as to increase the speed, efficiency, and effectiveness of preliminary examinations, investigations, and prosecutions.

Further, it calls on the need for state parties of the Rome Statute to increase the arrest rate of persons wanted at the ICC.

“The timely execution of arrest warrants remains a weakness within the Rome Statute system. Too many suspects are still at large, depriving victims, affected communities, and other stakeholders of the Rome Statute system any return on the investment of significant time and resources put into cases involving suspects at large,” the Strategy says.

Without arrests, there are no trials, and all the efforts up to that point by the Office and others, including cooperation partners and victims and witnesses, are effectively rendered nugatory.

 At least 15 suspects in six different situations remain at large. This includes Uganda’s Lords Resistance Army(LRA) rebel leader, Joseph Kony and his top commanders, accused among other crimes, of killing and displacing millions of people in northern Uganda.  In this situation, only the former LRA Sinia Brigade commander Dominic Ongwen is in detention and is currently undergoing trial at the ICC.

“From the Court’s perspective, all these arrest warrants are important, and efforts at securing the arrest of suspects are ongoing. However, the court’s ability to effect arrests is necessarily limited. Only if states increase the number of arrests and transfers, can there be more judicial proceedings,” the strategy stresses.

Other goals of the plan are reinforcing its approach to victims of sexual and gender-based crimes and crimes against or affecting children; managing resources effectively, and bringing the impunity gap. 

"This strategic plan charts a promising and forward-looking course for the Office in the next strategic period, and represents our ongoing commitment to the effective and efficient discharge of our mandate under the Rome Statute and to continuous improvement", said Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

Additionally, Bensouda’s office is finalizing a comprehensive policy on the protection of cultural heritage within the Rome Statute legal framework, which will also cover victimization in the context of such crimes

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