ICC field office opens in Ukraine
The new office was created on the basis of an Agreement reached between the Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers and the International Criminal Court on 24 March 2023.
ICC field offices since 2005
During the first years of its existence the International Criminal Court saw no need for permanent local offices. It believed it could carry out its functions by sending regular field missions to particular countries. In 2005 the ICC altered its approach and today, apart from Ukraine, there are ICC field offices in Georgia and in various African countries: Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, the Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire and Mali. For several years the ICC has also been negotiating to set up a field office in Venezuela.
The functions of ICC field offices
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court was present at the opening of the new field office in in Kyiv but that office is not directly under his control. All ICC field offices form part of the Court’s Registry and in accordance with the rules governing its operation they have been created by the Court Registrar under a preliminary agreement with the President of the court on the basis of an agreement with the country in question. The agreement with the Ukrainian government was, therefore, signed on behalf of the ICC by Peter Lewis who was then serving as the Registrar of the Court.
The ICC field offices are entrusted with a wide range of functions:
- They are to provide technical, logistic and organisational support to: the staff of the ICC Registry and of the ICC Prosecutor’s Office; to defence attorneys; to representatives of the victims and to the ICC Trust Fund for Victims during its missions to other States;
- to inform the ICC headquarters of socio-political events and the situation regarding security in their particular country;
- to develop and support relations with key partners in the States where they have been established: State bodies, international governmental organisations, the media, and civil society so as to set up working ICC bodies and carry out their tasks; and
- to register statements by victims who are claiming compensation.
Since field offices provide support to those engaged in criminal proceedings who are pursuing quite different interests the principle underlying the activities of ICC field offices is neutrality.
The field office in Kyiv does not presently include investigators or forensic experts among its staff but this does not mean that the ICC will not send them to Ukraine in the future. A United Team (Ukraine) has been created as a sub-unit of the office of the ICC Prosecutor which is dealing exclusively with the investigation of international crimes committed in Ukraine. The Court’s 2023 budget provides funding for 22 international staff members of the United Team (investigators, experts, analysts and lawyers) and seven Ukrainian professionals who are to carry out field missions in Ukraine.
How ICC field offices are funded
The work of the ICC’s various field offices is funded from the Court’s budget: it is planned to spend 931,500 Euros in 2023 on the Kyiv field office, for instance, and 2,070,400 Euros in 2024. This may be compared to the planned allocations to the office in Cote d’Ivoire (650,100, 2023; 534,400, 2024) since both situations are at the stage of preliminary investigation. The substantially greater amount allocated to Ukraine is yet another indication of how important the situation in Ukraine is to the ICC.
ICC resources for its field offices are not unlimited and often the opening or expansion of one office requires a reduction in the funding or the closure of offices elsewhere. The opening in 2023 of field offices in Ukraine and Sudan, for instance, was funded by a reduction in the staffing of existing offices in Kinshasha (DRC), Cote d’Ivoire and Georgia and “a shift in priorities and resources” in the field offices in Uganda and Bunia (DRC). There will be yet more fundamental reforms, it seems, in the organisation of ICC field offices in 2024. The office in Georgia will formally be closed, leaving a single representative of the ICC Registry in that country whose activities will be guided by the head of the ICC field office in Ukraine. There will also be a reduction in the ICC’s physical presence and, consequently, the funding of its offices in Sudan and Kinshasha (DRC).
In part, this has been determined by the need to expand the funding of the newly-established office in Kyiv. In part this is a result of changes in other countries: the Office of the ICC Prosecutor has completed its preliminary investigation of the situation in Georgia; there is greater security in Sudan where the armed clashes of summer 2023 have died down.
Who heads ICC field offices
At first, the staff of ICC field offices were not subordinate to a single official. This resulted in parallel communications between officials in the field and the Court’s headquarters in the Netherlands. After the 2016 reform of the ICC Registry a formal head of a field office was appointed to whom all the staff were subordinate.
The introduction of this post, however, did not ensure the desired efficiency of ICC offices in the field. The situation with the ICC field office in Georgia illustrates some of the objective and subjective shortcomings. Estonian diplomat Kaupo Kand was appointed to head the Georgian office in 2017. He knew neither the Georgian or Ossetian languages which complicated dealings with local players (government bodies, victims and representatives of civil society), nor did he have experience of working with the ICC which made communication with the Court difficult. At first, the operation of the office in Georgia also suffered from a lack of staff and funding. Only with the passage of time and the active support of civil society was the office able to function successfully.
Kaupo Kand will be the first director of the new ICC field office in Ukraine. This year, moreover, he will formally head both the Georgian and the Ukrainian field offices, a combination of duties that is not a rare practice for the ICC. With the closure of the Georgian office in 2024 Kand will officially head the office in Kyiv while continuing to oversee the remaining ICC activities in the field in Georgia.
The staffing of ICC field offices
The size of any field office depends on the scale of the international crimes being committed in any particular situation, how far the Court has advanced in their study, security issues and other matters. It is considered highly desirable to draw local personnel into the work of ICC field offices although the risk that they hold certain preconceptions must be taken into account. According to Ukrainian and ICC officials the field office in Kyiv will be largest of all the court’s field offices worldwide. Such declarations should be balanced against the ICC budget for 2024: it has allocated funding for only seven international staff members, one national professional and nine locals.