The International Criminal Court is considering building a new regional office in Japan -- the first of its kind outside The Hague --, in order to establish a stronger presence in Asia, a region underrepresented among the court's 123 members, its head said Friday.
"I personally would be keen for the ICC to have a permanent presence in the region, especially in Japan," said ICC President Piotr Hofmanski in an interview with Kyodo News in Tokyo during his first visit to Japan since assuming the post in 2021.
It is a "tentative option" that is still being considered, he noted, but expressed hope that creating such a presence would help to "promote the ICC in Japan and in the region."
The office could also develop a system to educate personnel in international criminal law at universities and law schools in Japan, while encouraging more Japanese professionals to apply for jobs in the ICC, he said.
The ICC counts on the "support and cooperation of Japan to help spread the idea of international criminal justice (in Asia) and attract more states in the region to join," he said.
Japan is one of the largest financial contributors to the ICC, earmarking 3 billion yen ($20 million) in the fiscal 2022 budget, as well as contributing to its operations and staffing, such as by dispatching prosecutors to assist on cases.
Japan is one of the ICC's biggest and most reliable partners, he added.
The ICC has 123 member states, including 19 from the Asia-Pacific, but some major countries such as the United States, China, India and Indonesia, are not members.
After Russia's invasion in February, the court drew global attention after launching a formal investigation into alleged war crimes in Ukraine based upon calls for an inquiry into Russia's conduct from 41 member states, including Japan.
Hofmanski said there are currently many investigators, forensic experts, analysts and other professionals in the country, collecting information and evidence about Russia's conduct in the war.
The court is cooperating closely with civil society and other organizations in order to gather information on victims of alleged war crimes, he said.
The ICC, the world's first permanent international criminal court, was set up in order to try individuals accused of breaching international law. It is said to be a court of "last resort," and exercises its jurisdiction only when states are unwilling or unable to do.