The chocolate was really rather good: I grabbed the last truffle from the box circulating amongst the less fortunate: we the NGOs, high up in the conference room, separated from the delegates down on the floor.
Each candidate to be a judge at the ICC – this meeting is electing six of them – had provided some sort of lobbying to the states delegates – a goodie bag with sweeties or just a CV and a photo.Being at the ASP is like being at a party where you think you know what will happen – games, presents, something to eat – but instead the rules keep changing. To start with, on the first day a few states were named as wanting to be observers: the US, Russia, China and…Palestine. No objections? And bang went the gavel. Suddenly Palestine is in! Of course it doesn’t mean that Palestine can now suddenly be investigated by the ICC. It hasn’t actually joined up. But it is hugely symbolic. And it just slipped through like that. Then there are the extraordinary rules for electing the judges, all based on distribution and fairness. If you want to know more, see these great drawings. But the reality is that many countries aren’t voting for whoever might be ‘best’. They are voting for countries – their friends – like at the UN. Annoyingly, many states apparently didn’t even know the rules. At least three kept on spoiling their ballots during the first rounds.
And now, the election of the judges is going on and on. So part of the time we’re hearing the statements from states on their view of the ICC. But the rest of the time is milling around…feels very much like a waste of time.
The new head of the ASP, Sidiki Kaba from Senegal, has clearly got everyone’s respect. The African delegates are glowing with pride that one of their own is running the show. And he has a lovely gap-toothed grin when he makes an occasional mistake.
The side events are what makes it worthwhile. NGOs and states join hands to present a paper or a report. You can gauge the temperature of the Court through these side events. This year, the events are all focused on problems with state cooperation and the challenges of investigations and evidence.
And then there’s the big lounge outside the main room, overlooking the Hudson River. Just looking to see who is meeting whom is fun. Impolite to hover too long so I just glide past the big squishy armchairs.
The NGOs – fundamental to the development of the ICC – haven’t had an easy ride here. The room is quite small and three-quartters of it belongs to the states and other official bodies. So only 50 NGO reps are allowed in each morning or afternoon. A lot of snarly security guards to contend with, and swopping badges in the freezing rain outside the main entrance.
So whose chocolate was it? The Congolese judge candidate. Extraordinary that the poorer the country, the be. tter the goodies. And he’s doing quite well now in the voting rounds when I last checked.
Photo: Janet Anderson/Justice Hub