A failure of communication

There are some rather interesting points made in this article about why the International Criminal Court (ICC) seriously needs to consider reviewing its communications policy.

Written by a Kenyan human rights activists, the article emphasises a very real danger to the ICC’s communication strategy: that, by failing to properly explain the role of the court in situation countries, the ICC is playing directly into the hands of those that want to use the court for political purposes.

Which is precisely not what was intended when it was set up.

In every country in which the ICC has set up investigations, certain elements have managed to hijack the international justice for their own political aims.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, President Joseph Kabila and acolytes leapt for joy at news that Jean-Pierre Bemba, a powerful political adversary, had been indicted by the court. They were even happier when he was apprehended in Brussels. From what I hear, Kabila has not too hesitant in supplying evidence to the court. Bemba’s trial is due to begin next week.

In Sudan, the indictment of President Omar al-Bashir (which, after some persuasion, now includes a genocide charge) plays straight into the hands of American activist groups, which have for a long time held the government directly responsible for what is going on in Darfur (largely ignoring the tribal complexity of the region).

In Uganda, President Yoweri Musseveni was positively delighted to be rid of the Lord’s Resistence Army (LRA), headed by Joseph Kony and other goons now wanted by the ICC.

And in Kenya… well, see the article referenced at the start of this entry. As Muthoni Wanyeki says, “our lack of information about the ICC is making us vulnerable to spin”. The ICC is going to be an important element in the run-up to the 2012 election.

All of this is the inevitable consequence of establishing an international judicial body that is based on a western legal system. Whatever ideals might have given birth to the ICC, it is simply not possible to separate international justice from its political repercussions. This can never be done.

However, whilst one can never hope to severe this link, one might reflect on whether the opaqueness of the court is making things a whole lot worse.

I’m sorry to repeat the point that I made in a previous blog entry, but it is utterly disgraceful that the ICC was unable to give more information about the visit of Kenyan politician William Ruto to The Hague. A quick trawal through the Kenyan media reveals that, for this very reason, people on both side of the spectrum have used Ruto’s visit to score political points.

I am currently editing an article from the DRC, which highlights some of the astonishing misunderstandings that people there have about the court.

I think it is time to ask how these misunderstandings can be fixed – and how the use of the ICC for political ends can be, if not removed altogether, then at least curtailed.


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