ICC Considers Regional Offices, with Japan a Strong Candidate for Asia Site; Court Seeking More Cooperation, More Members

Reuters file photo
The International Criminal Court building is seen in The Hage.

BRUSSELS — The International Criminal Court, based in The Hague in the Netherlands, is considering setting up regional offices in four locations globally, with Japan a strong candidate for the Asia site, diplomatic sources told The Yomiuri Shimbun.

The ICC will present an overview of its plan for the offices to its member states by the end of this month.

The court aims to open the offices in 2026 after getting approval for the plan at a general assembly planned for the end of the year. The regional offices are intended to not only deepen collaboration with the 124 states that are party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, but also to improve nonmember countries’ understanding of the court’s activities and encourage them to join.

Asia, Africa, South America and eastern Europe are the four regions for which candidate sites for regional offices are being considered.

Due to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the ICC set up a special office for gathering proof of war crimes in Ukraine in September last year. But the court so far has no offices aimed at enhancing cooperation with its member states.

Discussions about opening regional offices have been gaining momentum since the end of last year, spurred by a greater awareness of the importance of the rule of law in response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, an act that ignores international law.

Cooperation of the ICC member states is essential for the court to execute arrest warrants and gather evidence so that it can charge individuals involved in genocide and war crimes. However, some members do not cooperate with ICC investigations due to their friendly ties to other nations.

According to the ICC, about a third of U.N. member states, including the United States, China and Russia, are not party to the ICC. Of the 55 U.N. members in Asia, only 19 are ICC members. Nonmembers are apparently concerned that their military staff could be charged for war crimes.

For the ICC’s regional office in Asia, both Japan and South Korea are being considered as sites. Japan is the largest financial contributor to the court, and ICC Judge Tomoko Akane was also elected president of the court earlier this month. These factors could help draw the Asia regional office to Japan.