Case Selection and Prioritization at the ICC
To maintain transparency of the proceedings of the Prosecutor’s Office, Fatou Bensouda, announced the issuance of a Policy Paper on Case Selection and Prioritisation (in English and French). As mentioned in the policy paper, the resources available to the Office do not allow it to look into every possible alleged case or situation and as such, the OPT must prioritize while continue to carry out its mandate and ensure that the “exercise of [prosecutorial] discretion in all instances is guided by sound, fair, and transparent principles and criteria.” The purpose of this paper is to set out “considerations which guide the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in the selection and prioritisation of cases for investigation and prosecution.” Aside from the Security Council and State Party referrals, the Prosecutor may initiate investigation proprio motu in accordance with Art. 15.
This paper is intended to be an internal document without giving rise to legal rights, and thus is subject to revisions. It explains the distinction between situations and cases. It highlights the importance of preliminary examinations in deciding whether to open an official investigation. It identifies the “gravity” element, as defined in Art. 17(1)(d) of the Rome Statute, as one of the predominant case selection criteria. It reaffirms the importance of the Court’s cooperation with national jurisdictions in carrying out the principles articulated in the Preamble of the Rome Statute, especially in situations when cases are not selected for investigation or prosecution by the OTP.
Under the complementary criminal justice system, as defined in Art. 17 of the Rome Statute, the Office further states that it will “encourage genuine national proceedings … and seek to cooperate and provide assistance to States, upon request, with respect to conduct [constituting] crime under national law, such as the illegal exploitation of natural resources, arms trafficking, human trafficking, terrorism, financial crimes, land grabbing or destruction of environment.” This adds to the Office’s commitments one protecting environment by ensuring that the destruction to natural environment does not go unpunished.
Among the many criteria to be considered when selecting cases for investigation by the Office are the already mentioned gravity in order to focus on the “most serious crimes within a given situation that are of concern to the international community as a whole”; the degree of responsibility of alleged perpetrators to ensure that “charges are brought against those persons who appear to be the most responsible for the identified crimes”; and the charges where the Office states to focus on “crimes that have been traditionally under-prosecuted, such as crimes against or affecting children, … rape and other sexual and gender-based crimes, … and attacks against cultural, religious, historical, and other protected objects as well as against humanitarian and peacekeeping personnel.”