Gravity : the role and assessment of ‘gravity’ at the International Criminal Court

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Witten-Sage, Timothy
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This thesis investigates the concept and role of ‘gravity’ in the law of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Gravity most importantly relates to assessing admissibility of situations and cases before the Court and acts as ‘gatekeeper’ to ensure only the gravest examples are investigated and prosecuted. Gravity therefore influences where the ICC focuses its attention, which has significant ramifications for the Court’s perceived legitimacy internationally. The thesis draws on ICC case law, academic literature and the ICC Prosecutor’s policy papers to investigate how gravity is assessed in admissibility decisions. Gravity decision-making processes are analysed with reference to the concepts of a ‘gravity threshold’, ‘relative gravity’ and the Prosecutor’s discretion. The ICC has developed mandatory factors for assessing gravity that are appropriately broad in scope allowing many relevant factors to be considered. The use of consistent criteria is beneficial because it increases transparency of gravity decisions. The concepts of a ‘gravity threshold’ and ‘relative gravity’ are implicit in gravity assessments in admissibility decisions. This thesis argues that relative gravity should become a mandatory aspect of assessing gravity to ensure the gravest situations and cases come before the ICC. While the ‘gravity threshold’ concept is useful, thresholds change in response to changing circumstances and for this reason should remain an implicit rather than mandatory aspect of gravity assessments. Inseparable from assessing gravity is the Prosecutor’s discretion and this thesis argues the Prosecutors is the most appropriate person to assess gravity.
Second semester University: Maastricht University
International Criminal Court, international criminal law, legal theory