Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

ICC Outreach Budget Gets Big Boost

Money comes at crucial time for court pursuing indictments in Uganda, Congo and Sudan.
By Katherine Boyle
The International Criminal Court's programmes to help explain war crimes trials are to receive a major financial boost next year.

The budget for outreach programmes, which provide information about the court to countries whose citizens are on trial, will jump by 90 per cent in 2007. This comes in sharp contrast to the cuts they faced in 2006.

The entire budget for the Public Information and Documentation Section of the court, which focuses on outreach, will be 2.7 million euro in 2007. In 2006, it received only 1.4 million euro. The 2005 budget was 1.75 million euro.

Outreach staff also translate court documents into local languages, train lawyers and judges involved in war crimes cases to be tried by national courts and counter misinformation about the ICC.

Although a committee from the Assembly of States Parties, ASP, nations, which signed the treaty creating the permanent court, had previously suggested that the outreach budget could be cut, the ASP recommended at their November conference that outreach receive all the funds the ICC had requested.

That was good news for the ICC, which admitted in a recent report to the ASP that its efforts to connect with communities affected by its trials needed to be stepped up to "ensure the quality of justice" and make the court a "well recognised, adequately supported institution".

The extra money also comes at a crucial time, with recent indictments in Uganda and the upcoming trial of indicted Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga meaning renewed efforts are needed to explain the workings of the world’s first permanent court to sometimes hostile local residents.

"Outreach is becoming one of the most important areas for the court," said ICC spokeswoman Claudia Perdomo.

The executive director of the International Bar Association, IBA, Mark Ellis applauded the ICC's effort to focus on outreach.

"You simply cannot effectively undertake these trials by short-changing the outreach programme," he said. "Often these cases and trials involve very complex and very politicised issues that are very emotional for citizens. They involve some of the most heinous crimes committed within a country."

Ellis added that without acceptance from the general public it is difficult for the trials to provide reconciliation and healing in local communities.

The ICC has faced criticism for focusing too little on outreach in the past.

A 2006 IBA report noted that one of its failures is its lack of "impact on national judicial processes, beyond sporadic engagement with judges and lawyers".

Others, including Maxine Marcus, a legal officer at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, have also said that the ICC needs to markedly increase its outreach initiatives.

"No outreach was done in Uganda until four months after the arrest warrants were issued," said Marcus, referring to the July 2005 indictments against five Lord's Resistance Army leaders.

The IBA report noted that in Uganda "the failure to conduct outreach work and engage with the key stakeholders appears to have diminished trust and goodwill toward the court quite considerably", saying that some Ugandans see the ICC as "a political tool of the Ugandan state".

Marcus has also worked at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, frequently held up as a model for other outreach programmes. She has personally seen the importance of outreach in reaching out to local populations, and believes the court's immediate, proactive approach to outreach and recognition of its value led to its success.

Marcus explained that there was a lot of animosity against the special court when it indicted pro-government militia members, but said, "Outreach saved the day.

Outreach is a way to make the justice process function and bring it to the people."

Outreach also helps alleviate unnecessary confusion and worry, Marcus added. She cited the widespread fear of many Ugandans that those recruited as child soldiers might face indictments - a fear that a successful outreach programme could dispel.

But Ellis said that in some jurisdictions, such as Uganda, "security issues can be a real challenge, and the political environment within a country can also create barriers to [outreach programmes]".

"I would be concerned had I not seen any outreach focus from the ICC, but I don't think that's the case," he said. "I think there's an understanding of the importance of outreach programmes, and I think as the ICC matures outreach will continue to play a very important role in the court's actions."

The ICC is currently investigating three situations: the Ugandan conflict; war crimes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and the atrocities and killings in Darfur, Sudan.

ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said recently that the court would seek to prosecute those responsible for atrocities in Darfur by February 2007, when they will submit their evidence to ICC judges who will decide if the case is strong enough to go forward.

However, it is unclear how outreach will be conducted in the Sudan, where the ICC has been blocked by the Sudanese government and is unable to maintain an investigative office. It instead operates out of neighbouring Chad.

Unlike the ad-hoc international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the ICC's outreach programme is contending with ongoing conflict situations, which further complicates its mission.

But Perdomo said the court still looked to the experience of the ICTY, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, ICTR, and the Special Court for Sierra Leone when formulating its outreach initiatives.

The ICC and the special court have both had outreach programmes since their inception, a lesson they learned from the ICTY and ICTR which didn’t.

Both the ICTY and ICTR programmes began in 1999, shortly after a UN Expert Group told the General Assembly that there was little to no understanding of the tribunals in the countries where the war crimes were committed.

Olga Kavran, deputy coordinator for ICTY outreach, said one of the main roles of their programme is to develop the local judiciary through training, workshops and conferences for judges and lawyers working in local war crimes courts.

However, she said communicating with the average person, for whom the tribunal is distant and inaccessible, is equally important. "The tribunal is 1,000 miles away from where the crimes took place," she said.

The ICTY has also coped with "years and years of huge propaganda on the ground in the former Yugoslavia", added Kavran. "They've convinced a certain segment of the population that the tribunal is the enemy."

Because of this propaganda and biases in some local media outlets, the ICTY has actively worked to disseminate accurate information and make it available to the population.

Since 2003, they have contributed a weekly "View from The Hague" commentary to a daily Belgrade newspaper.

But because the ICTY was issuing indictments and investigating war crimes for years before the outreach programme existed, they are involved in a fight to eradicate certain ideas about the tribunal as much as to promote new ones.

The ICTR has faced similar problems, as its outreach programme was created more than five years after its inception.

Both the ICTR and the ICTY have found cooperating with local organisations, schools and NGOs to be invaluable.

Although the literacy rate in Uganda is relatively high, the ICC may look to the ICTR's speeches, video presentations in schools and town hall meetings to help communicate with those who will not be able to read court documents and newspapers. Radio has also proved an effective tool for the ICTR, said outreach programme advisor Tim Gallimore.

In the end, of course, the outreach programmes' survival and success – and perhaps that of the courts – depends largely on funding.

The ICTY's outreach budget is at its lowest level yet - approximately 600,000 euro, compared with 900,000 euro in the past.

The ICTR's 2006-2007 budget, meanwhile, is about 330,000 US dollars, and is gleaned from the tribunal's voluntary trust fund whose largest contributors are the Netherlands and Belgium.

It is unclear whether the ICTY and the ICTR's outreach efforts will continue beyond the court's mandates - although Gallimore believes the need for outreach will remain after the tribunals have closed.

The fate of outreach at the ICC also depends on its funding, which will need to increase yet again as the court expands its investigations and begins prosecutions.

Ellis has said that cutting these important programmes in any way, shape or form would be a "devastating mistake".

"Outreach is absolutely fundamental to the success of any tribunal," he said.

Katharine Boyle is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

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