Vetting for High Moral Character and ICC Prosecutorial Elections

Vetting for High Moral Character and ICC Prosecutorial Elections

Every nine-years a new prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is selected. The 2021/2020 ICC prosecutorial elections saw the appointment of the ICC’s third prosecutor and an unprecedented discussion about the high moral character requirement. Common sense and article 42(3) of the Rome Statute require the prosecutor and deputies to be persons of high moral character, yet this election cycle marked the first time civil society action and the allegations of harassment and other forms of workplace misconduct catapulted the requirement, (and how it can to be assessed) to the fore. 

Whilst there were notable improvements in this election process and valiant attempts by specially mandated bodies, ultimately there was a failure to fully and thoroughly assess candidates’ high moral character through a comprehensive vetting process. I discuss this topic in my article published by the Oxford Journal of International Criminal Justice, “The Procedure for Appointing the International Criminal Court Prosecutor: High Moral Character and the Need for Comprehensive Vetting.” I cover: the normative regime for the nomination and election process; explain what is meant by vetting for high moral character and how it is commonly done; discuss the processes that unfolded during the election in relation to vetting and; finally I highlight the associated risks and consequences of failure to adequately vet.

It is important to state that this article and all the articles I have written on the topic (for example here, here and here) are not about individual people but about process. The ICC needs fair, transparent election processes as this will affect, amongst many other factors, its credibility and standing. As I elaborate in the article, “the ICC needs to build trust and that can partly be done through appointment procedures that are thorough and above reproach. Appointing well qualified leaders, who have no history of misconduct will go a long way towards the credibility of the institution and its ability to fulfil its mandate. Vetting cannot guarantee that you have flawless leaders but it can be a powerful and useful filter.” 

Take a look at the article to see what transpired and where I believe there is room for improvement. 

Whilst it will be some time before the next prosecutor is elected, vetting for high moral character should apply to all elections at the ICC and thus keeping the matter on radar is critical. The necessary changes require political will and meaningful discussions amongst states parties need to be held during the calm between election periods. Vetting for high moral character could not be more important given the much needed reckoning brought about by the #MeToo movement. Whilst advancements are being made including the due diligence agreement relied upon for the recent deputy prosecutor elections, there is much to be done.

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International Criminal Law
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