THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor warned Wednesday that cutting her office's funding would hurt its efficiency, as the court's governing body began hammering out the 2013 budget for the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal.
Fatou Bensouda's warning comes as the 10-year-old court is getting busier by the year, but also at a time that governments which fund it are slashing their own budgets due to economic crises.
The 121-nation Assembly of States Parties should not "be blinded by short-term apparent savings that result in long term losses and greater inefficiencies," Bensouda insisted.
The assembly, made up of the court's member states, is being asked to approve a total 2013 budget of just over €118 million ($150 million), a rise of nearly 9 percent over the 2012 amount. Its meeting lasts into next week and negotiations on the budget are expected to be tough.
Bensouda's prosecution office wants €28.7 million ($36.4 million), an increase of 3.4 percent from this year.
Prosecutors are currently investigating and pursuing war crimes cases in nations including Congo, Sudan, Libya, Uganda, Ivory Coast and Kenya and have preliminary investigations underway in countries including Afghanistan and Colombia.
Bensouda also urged the court's member states to do more to arrest indicted suspects, among them Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, the notorious Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, and a rebel Congolese general accused of widespread atrocities.
Bensouda that that "the promise of ending impunity" will remain a dream unless the court's member states do more "to ensure the arrest and surrender of suspects is made a priority of the political agenda of all States Parties."
Al-Bashir, whose country is not a member of the court, has traveled extensively since he was indicted by the court first in 2009 and again in 2010 for crimes including genocide and extermination in Sudan's Darfur region,
The assembly's president, Tiina Intelmann, said on the eve of the meeting that member states would discuss cooperation not only on arresting suspects but also freezing and confiscating their assets.
The meeting, which ends Nov. 22, also will elect a new deputy prosecutor from a short list of three candidates from Canada, Australia and Finland.