Statement of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim A.A. Khan KC, on NGO roundtable on trauma-informed approach to investigations and prosecutions
From 27-28 November 2023, my Office was delighted to welcome 124 representatives of 56 civil society organisations (CSOs) from 36 countries at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to participate in a roundtable meeting on a trauma-informed approach to investigations and prosecutions.
This third CSO roundtable event attracted the largest number of participants since the launch of our commitment to expand engagement with CSOs across thematic areas through biannual events - building on the first meeting on crimes against and affecting children in November 2022, and the second thematic meeting on the crime of gender persecution in May this year.
Underscoring the importance of our enhanced engagement with CSO representatives, the roundtable event focused on the intersection between mental health care and accountability efforts, in recognition of our duty to protect the safety and wellbeing of victims and witnesses that have suffered the effects of violence and criminality. It highlighted scientific research around trauma, standards and best practices.
In my opening remarks, I underlined that a trauma-informed approach to investigations and prosecutions is an imperative from two perspectives. It is essential to understand the dangers of re-traumatisation and the secondary trauma to investigators and civil society organisations often dealing with most horrific and vivid accounts. Likewise, it also needs to be understood from an evidential point of view. A witness that is more comfortable, a survivor that feels safer is more capable of giving a complete narrative that will help build solid cases in the courtroom.
In sessions with trauma experts and staff from my Office, participants actively engaged on issues such as supporting victims of sexual and gender-based crimes and torture, the specificities of trauma responses in children, secondary or vicarious trauma affecting accountability professionals, cross-cultural and regional experiences, and support mechanisms. A final session reflected on how to ensure trauma-informed judicial proceedings at the ICC.
Participants offered practical and useful inputs that would contribute to enriching our approach towards gender-based crimes (GBC) and crimes against and affecting children (CAAC), ahead of the launch of two new policies by the Office on these themes in the margins of the Assembly of States Parties in New York in December.
The roundtable also provided an opportunity to discuss how to effectively implement the Guidelines for Civil Society Organisations on documenting international crimes and human rights violations for accountability purposes, jointly launched by my Office and Eurojust last year. Particularly, the need to prevent over-documentation and re-traumatisation of witnesses and victims has been a critical point of discussion.
The outcome of this roundtable will inform the formulation of a Handbook on Trauma-Informed Investigations and Prosecutions, to be prepared by my Office.
Furthermore, this work to improve our policy framework is matched by efforts to strengthen our Office’s capacity to adopt a trauma-informed practice, including by ensuring that there is a dedicated psycho-social expert within each Unified Team engaging directly with witnesses and survivors. We look forward to working with more civil society actors in our next roundtable in 2024.
I would like to extend my gratitude to a dedicated team of colleagues for successfully organising this meeting. This event was made possible by voluntary contributions from States Parties to the OTP’s Trust Fund for Advanced Technology and Specialised Capacity. We are deeply grateful for this continued support.