This article offers a new perspective on the gravity notion in Article 17(1)(d) of the Statute. It demonstrates that it is impossible to determine gravity to ‘exacting legal requirements’, as the Pre-Trial Chamber in the situation of the registered vessels of the Union of the Comoros, Greece and Cambodia found. Instead, the Prosecutor is equipped with some ‘interpretative discretion’ that allows adjustment to the factually diverse situations that the International Criminal Court (icc) is confronted with. This form of discretion, however, is distinct from those procedural discretionary processes that have to be used to select which situations to investigate. Interpretative discretion nevertheless requires as much consistency as possible. As pathways to achieve that, this article challenges the concept of situational gravity. It further proposes to exclude any perpetrator-based element in the gravity assessment to harmonise the interpretation of gravity for potential and real cases before the ICC.
International Criminal Law Review / Volume 17 / Issue 5 / October 2017 / pp. 960-984
Over the years, the conduct of preliminary examinations has gained increasing importance at the International Criminal Court (ICC). One notable aspect in this area is the hugely diverging length of such examinations, ranging from one week for the situation in Libya to 12 years (and rising) for the situation in Colombia. This article critically interrogates the repeated claim of the Prosecutor that the absence of any provisions regulating the length of preliminary examinations was a deliberate decision of the drafters of the Rome Statute, leaving her with unfettered discretion in that area. Instead, it is suggested that the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in prioritizing preliminary examinations is legally limited through the obligation to ensure effective investigations, demanding reasonably swift responses because evidence vanishes over time — witnesses disappear, memories fade, and data gets lost (the ‘golden hour’ principle). Furthermore, the conduct of preliminary examinations is also limited through the legal and policy commitment to impartiality, including the appearance of impartiality. A robust debate about a structured and transparent process of prioritization at the preliminary examination stage is thus overdue. It is proposed that the Prosecutor should introduce a policy commitment to conclude preliminary examinations within a defined time limit. Such a policy would be an important step towards a more structured method of situation selection, and would reduce the possibility that decision-making processes in more contentious situations are postponed for obscure reasons.
Journal of International Criminal Justice / Volume 15 / Issue 3 / July 2017 / pp. 435-453