Civil Society and Amicus Curiae Interventions in the International Criminal Court

Authors Sarah Williams, Emma Palmer

ISSN: 1996-2088
Affiliations: Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, UNSW Australia, Associate, Australian Human Rights Centre; Faculty of Law, UNSWAustralia
Source: Acta Juridica, 2016, p. 40 – 65


The role of civil society in drafting and the adoption of the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court (ICC) is well known, as is the contribution of civil society to advocating for States to ratify the Statute and implement its provisions. However, despite the importance of these efforts, such opportunities do not constitute direct participation in the formal proceedings of the ICC. Other than the role of civil society actors as a witness, be it as an expert or a factual witness, the primary option for direct participation of civil society in ICC proceedings is to participate as an amicus curiae. This article addresses the practice in relation to the amicus curiae in proceedings before the ICC, particularly the reliance by civil society actors on this mechanism. It sets out the legal framework for the amicus curiae in the ICC, and examines the process and criteria applied by ICC Chambers when considering applications to appear as an amicus curiae, as well as the range of topics on which amici have sought to make submissions. The article then analyses the types of civil society actors that have sought to appear as an amicus curiae, highlighting the mixed experiences of African civil society with this mechanism. It concludes that the ICC has so far been cautious in its approach to the amicus curiae. Yet, in certain circumstances, acting as an amicus curiae can provide civil society actors with an avenue for presenting perspectives concerning novel areas falling within their expertise.