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

International Justice/ICC: Apr/May '10

IWPR journalists attend ICC's landmark review conference in Kampala.
By IWPR

As representatives from more than a hundred countries recently gathered in Kampala to assess the work of the International Criminal Court, ICC, a team of IWPR journalists was there to report on this historical event.

The ICC review conference, which took place eight years after the international court began its work, aimed to take stock of the court's achievements so far, and consider how the rules underpinning the institution might be amended.

While observers who attended the gathering – staged at the lavish Munyonyo Conference Centre - welcomed the opportunity to take a look at some of the issues and concerns surrounding the court, critics pointed out that affected communities often found it difficult to relate to discussions.

It was this observation, repeated by a number of conference attendees, which helped to shape IWPR's coverage of the event that took place at the end of May.

“There seemed to be a disconnect between what delegates were discussing at the review conference and the issues that mattered to people on the ground,” said Blake Evans-Pritchard, IWPR's Africa Editor, who led the team in Kampala.

“By using local journalists, and talking to people outside of the conference environment, IWPR was able to fill a crucial gap and to bring the ICC review conference to ordinary people.”

Godfrey Odong, a former child soldier who served with Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army, LRA, between 1996 and 1998, said that he was extremely pleased to learn that an organisation such as IWPR was in Kampala to cover the conference.

“For people like me, and many others from the regions most affected, it is very difficult to see the relevance of holding the conference at all,” he said. “IWPR's reporting of the conference is very welcome, as there is a huge need to sensitise people about what the ICC is doing, so that we can prevent these kinds of atrocities from happening again.”

He added that discussion in Kampala need to be translated into action on the ground, referring to the fact that none of those who are wanted for war crimes in Uganda have yet been caught.

Five of IWPR’s Ugandan trainees followed discussions taking place in Kampala, with a view to producing a series of reports looking at different themes that were identified during the conference.

Each journalist was given a specific issue to research, focusing on how it related to people on the ground.

The articles will be published over the next month or so, and constructive feedback provided to all journalists who participated in the project.

Florence Ogola was one of the IWPR journalists who attended the conference.

“The ICC review conference in Kampala was a wonderful experience for me,” she said. “Through attending the various discussion sessions, I got to learn more about the ICC and the impact it has had on victims and affected communities in various conflict areas around the world. I also got to meet journalists from different countries, with whom I exchanged ideas.”

Ogola, who comes from Gulu in northern Uganda, contributed to an IWPR report highlighting widespread concerns that ICC justice is perceived by some in Uganda to be one-sided, with the ICC investigating rebel Lord’s Resistance Army fighters but appearing to overlook alleged abuses by government forces.

“I enjoyed researching the article for IWPR,” Ogola said. “It gave me an opportunity to interact with the victims of the LRA insurgency in northern Uganda and to gain an insight into what they think of the ICC.”