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Integrity in International Justice

The Hague, 1-2 December 2018

Programme | Policy brief on project | AV Bergsmo | AV Akhavan | AV Khan |

Sir Thomas More as painted by Hans Holbein the Younger (1527).


This project concerns the standards of ‘integrity’ and ‘high moral character’ in international justice institutions, with an emphasis on the ‘integrity’ of individuals. It is a joint project of CILRAP and the International Nuremberg Principles Academy.

The policy brief linked to above discusses the concept of the project, presents the questions it seeks to address, and provides some sources. It identifies and elaborates several clusters of issues, including the following four: a) What could States Parties do better to uphold the ‘integrity’ requirement, including in election or appointment of high officials and oversight? b) Which effective institutional measures are available to the international courts to give proper effect to the ‘integrity’ standard? c) How can individuals in international justice institutions increase their awareness of ‘integrity’ and make it an active part of their professionalisation? d) How do the principles of ‘integrity’ and independence relate to each other in international justice? 

A well-attended conference on the topic took place in the Peace Palace in The Hague on 1-2 December 2018. The conference lectures are available in CILRAP Film and linked to above. The conference had six main sessions: 1. Meaning of Integrity, 2. Awareness and Culture of Integrity, 3. The Role of States, 4. The Role of International Justice Institutions, 5. Integrity and the Lens of Cases, and 6. Independence and Integrity.

CILRAP Director Morten Bergsmo explained the logic of this structure in his conference keynote in which he introduced the terms 'Faustian curtain' and 'aspirational covenant'. He argued that there is no recognised justification for concealing impropriety of high officials in international justice institutions behind a 'Faustian curtain'. While addressing the importance of gaining and holding the confidence of public opinion in international justice, he asked what motivates the support of individuals for an international court. Quoting a 2017 publication that the "aspirations of individuals and communities made the [ICC] and continue to provide its foundation", he suggested that international courts "should capture the aspirational and motivational capacity that surrounds and buffers [them], in a forward-leaning and humble way". As the courts harness the goodwill of those who have faith in them, so will their power be. He referred to this as an 'aspirational covenant' or a virtual compact that can help align international courts with "what may be their most important constituency", and thus to "safeguard the courts against steadily more overt or perhaps even populist attacks". 

In his remarks at the conference, Ambassador Martin Sørby (Norwegian Embassy in The Hague) observed that ‘integrity‘ “is a term that is near and dear to all of us. It is inseparable from the idea of justice, including international justice. It is so fundamental that we may sometimes take it for granted. But the reality is that we all need to improve our integrity. None of us are beyond improvement. This is also true for our organisations and agencies. Enhancing integrity is a common challenge to international organisations, the international courts included. This is why Norway welcomes this conference and research project. It offers an opportunity to revisit integrity in international justice, and to consider the standard of integrity more systematically”.

An anthology will be published under the title Integrity in International Justice, with papers presented at the conference and some additional chapters. The book will be published in 2019. The organisers hope that the conference and book will contribute towards the crystallisation of a sub-discipline of ‘ethics of international criminal justice’.

Pictures reproduced with the kind permission of the International Nuremberg Principles Academy/Benjamin Arthur.

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