Ibrahim Pam Seeks to Put Nigeria on World Stage as ICC Registrar

As the only Nigerian among the 12 candidates jostling for the position of the Registrar of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Ibrahim Pam, is poised to take the lead with his broad experience in administrative and criminal investigations in multiple jurisdictions around the world, writes Vanessa Obioha 


By June 2023, the office of the Registrar of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in Hague, will be vacant. The current Registrar, Peter Lewis, who was appointed on March 28, 2018, will end his five-year tenure on April 16, 2023.

Although it’s a few months away from the next appointment, many have begun to eye the seat. According to the President of the ICC Assembly of States Parties, Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi, 88 applications were received by the court on equal representation and to ensure gender balance according to the provisions of the court.

The ICC’s registrar’s office is a delicate one as it is the principal administrator of the court and ensures smooth operation and services. The registrar acts as a frontier between the judges, the defendant, the plaintiff and the court.

Of the 88 applicants, only 12 people have been shortlisted for the post. A Nigerian, Ibrahim Pam, who has a broad experience in administrative and criminal investigations in multiple jurisdictions around the world, is among those shortlisted and keen on emerging as the next registrar of ICC.

Pam, a native of Berom, Jos, in Plateau State is currently the Head of the Independent Integrity Unit at the Green Climate Fund and chairs the ad hoc external advisory panel on work culture for the Office of The Prosecutor (OTP) of the ICC. 

Before his present role, he served as the Resident Investigator to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.

Pam started his career at F. O. Fagbohungbe & Co., (Legal Practitioners) in Lagos in 1989 as a junior counsel. He later moved to Continental Merchant Bank Nigeria Plc, Lagos in 1991 where he served as a senior supervisor. He continued his legal practice, serving as the senior counsel in J Y Pam & Co., in Jos in 1995, and in 2000, was a Special Legal Assistant in the Human Rights Violation Investigation Commission (Oputa Panel).

From December 2005 to March 2012, Pam was the Analyst and Investigator/Trial Coordinator at the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP), ICC. From there, he proceeded to the African Development Bank in Tunis/Abidjan where he was the Chief Investigations Officer in the  Integrity and Anti-Corruption Department.

Pam is a graduate of Law from the University of Jos and has an M.Sc in Criminal Justice Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

With strong leadership experience and specialisation in investigation of mass crimes, human rights abuses, fraud and financial crimes in the last 22 years, Pam is poised as the right candidate to take over the reins from Lewis. 

Should he get the coveted position, Pam in his pitch said he would ensure the preservation of the court’s dichotomy as a judicial entity and an international organisation in such a manner that guarantees independence while ensuring seamless efficiency. 

“This noble mission of the court is one that deeply resonates with me and one that must be at the heart of the operations of the Office of the Registrar. In my professional career I have had the privilege to serve the course of justice at both national and international levels, particularly in countries across Africa that have borne the scars of mass atrocities, including Nigeria, Chad, Central African Republic, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, Mali, Senegal and Kenya,” he said.

The international lawyer also said that he would prioritise a conducive workplace in order to attain the noble mission of the court. This, he said, is very key and will provide adequate resources and motivate the staff of the ICC to execute their tasks, and to ensure that the work environment is both physically and psychologically conducive to the fulfilment of the mission of ICC personnel.

“I am aware that this is currently an important issue in consequence of the report of the Independent Expert Review Panel appointed by the Assembly of States Parties as part of the overall Court-wide review of the ICC.”

He continued: “In my experience leading accountability functions in UN field missions, at the African Development Bank, and at the Green Climate Fund, I have helped to create value-based work cultures that respond to the aspirations of working personnel, and meet the basic standards set for the international civil service and by the administrative tribunals.

“By executing my primary function in providing integrity oversight at the Green Climate Fund, I enabled the formation of administrative responses to address workplace issues. Some of the features of the reforms that were instituted by the Executive Director of the Fund include open and transparent consultation processes that defined the values of the institution and created an improved Employee Value Proposition; strengthened internal redress mechanisms of the Fund to create effective alternative, non-conflictual redress options for staff conflicts (including a strengthened Ombudsman function and an office mediator); and enhanced capacity for managers and supervisors to improve their management practices in addressing staff conflicts. I would be looking to implement a similar approach at the ICC.”

As a registrar, Pam said he would familiarise himself with “the status of implementation of the recommendations of the IER Panel report, starting with the creation of a coordination mechanism to define implementation modalities common to the three Organs of the Court. I will engage in discussions with the Presidency and the OTP to work towards the modalities for implementation of the report, and to identify areas of immediate concern to achieve resolution of any impediments to reform.”

Continuing, he added that “Also, with due regard to the independence of the Presidency and the OTP in the exercise of their judicial functions, I will lead the application of the “One-Court” principle in the administration of the non-judicial aspects of the work of the ICC. I will seek to undertake this under the strategic guidance of the Coordination Council established by Regulation 3 of the Regulations of the Court. 

“Broad consultations will be undertaken to properly identify the scope and parameters of this principle in line with the provisions of Article 43 of the Rome Statute. I would lead a proactive, consultative approach to implementing common human resources and administrative standards across the court, as well as in undertaking a coordinated initiative with the Presidency and the OTP in streamlining common services and functions which may currently be duplicated and therefore either weakened, or potentially risky to the operations of the court. 

“To enable me to do this, I would undertake an operational audit to identify such existing duplications of functions and processes, and then in coordination with the other Organs of the court drive the resolution of such duplications.”

The criminal investigator said he would have zero tolerance for breaches of financial rules and regulations and procurement processes since these are critical for avoiding waste and fraud. 

“The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners estimates that corporations lose five per cent of their revenues annually to fraud. I will therefore enforce 100 per cent compliance with all financial regulations, including procurement processes.”

To effectively achieve this, he said he would employ a two-pronged approach of both training and awareness-raising (to overcome lack of awareness and excuses) and also design a preventative mechanism using a data-driven approach to identify risks of fraud and breaches.

“At the Green Climate Fund, we have built a statistical model based on machine-learning that uses historical data to predict the occurrence of fraud in projects and corporate procurements. This is a highly reliable tool for predictive analysis, and it provides an opportunity to implement effective preventative means to avoid integrity breaches and financial loss. I will replicate this method at the ICC, and I will also ensure that any breach of procurement rules will be subject to applicable disciplinary processes,” he said.

Understanding that the participation of victims and witnesses in Court proceedings is a unique feature of the Rome Statute, as set out particularly in Article 68 and is the responsibility of the Registrar to facilitate their participation in proceedings including legal representation, and to ensure their security through The Victims and Witnesses Unit (VWU), Pam said that he will ensure that VWU is strengthened in its capacity to discharge its statutory obligations, and also enhance cooperation with the OTP.

“I will pay special attention to matters related to the detention and custody of individuals, as well as to the management of detention facilities of the Court. Ensuring the efficient functioning of the detention facilities and the conditions of the detention of persons before the Court are essential for ensuring compliance with judicial decisions, and for preserving the rights of persons submitted to judicial proceedings in the ICC.”

He added that he will pay attention to the terms of the Relationship Agreement with the United Nations, particularly as it provides for participation in proceedings, exchange of information, personnel matters, reports, use of the UN laissez passer, and financial matters.

Pam is married to Nwakego, an educationist and an administrator who had also worked in the ICC as an administrative assistant to a director. She also worked with the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) as a judge’s assistant and is a recognised Speech Therapist.

Related Articles