Paper: The Role of Outreach in Managing Perceptions of the ICC: A Viewpoint from Kenya


I Background

Unlike the ad-hoc tribunals established before it, the International Criminal Court (ICC) established by the Rome Statute is a permanent institution with potentially universal jurisdiction.[1] With one hundred and twenty two States being party to the Rome statute[2] the ICC’s mandate spans different constituents and diverse contexts.  The objective of the Court is to end impunity for ‘the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole’ and to ‘guarantee lasting respect for and the enforcement of international justice’[3] in its member states. This is an ambitious mandate, one that can only be accomplished with the co-operation support and understanding of member states, civil society organizations and all other beneficiaries of the Rome statute.[4]

Indeed to have an impact, the ICC’s work must be understood in the communities most affected by the crimes in its jurisdiction.[5] In this regard, “Outreach” as understood under the ICC regime so far, involves establishing a sustained, two-way “dialogue” between the court and affected populations to promote understanding about the court’s work. Often referred to as outreach and communication “Communications” refers to the court’s relationship with and use of international and local media, including print, radio, or televised media.[6]Outreach is particularly important where the State authorities and civil society are less supportive of the ICC’s presence.[7]

The ICC at inception did not undertake outreach comprehensively. By 2004, only three professional staff based in the Hague were in-charge of ICC communications under the Public Information and Documentation Section.[8] This was surprising bearing in mind the lessons learnt from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).Both these tribunals as well as the Special Court for Sierra Leone all of which were established with limited jurisdiction, to address extreme violations of human rights learnt albeit late the value of an outreach programme. Initially the ICTY for example merely focused on prosecution. Created through Security Council Resolution 827, there was no language in the resolution suggesting the court would have any further responsibilities beyond prosecuting individuals who had committed “serious violations of international humanitarian law”[9] Yet the prosecution  would mean nothing if the local population did not accept the rulings reached by the tribunal.

The SCSL learning from ICTYs mistakes established an outreach programme from inception, to educate the population about the court’s mission and procedures. It enjoyed better support and acceptance than any other tribunal at the time[10] and even to-date.

The ICC nonetheless was lethargic in the rolling out of its outreach programme, and despite an increase in its activities, it only undertook comprehensive outreach in 2006.[11] It was expected that networks of international and local non-governmental organizations and media could implement most of the court’s outreach functions.[12] PIDS’s primary role was limited to coordinating these efforts.[13] In 2006 however a strategic plan for outreach and communications was submitted to the Assembly of State Parties and approved.[14] This strategy included specific plans for each of the country situations under investigation at that time (Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Darfur, Sudan). “The strategy recognized the importance of outreach to the court’s work, the need for activities to start as early as possible in the situations under investigation, and that primary responsibility for outreach activities lies with the Registry, in collaboration with other organs—such as the Office of the Prosecutor —and the defense.[15] The strategy also proposed the creation of a specialized Outreach Unit. [16]  The ICC has since grown in its outreach work and has developed an integrated strategy for external relations, public information, and outreach for the Presidency, the Office of the Prosecutor, and the Registry. The strategy is aimed at effectively coordinating the diverse communications activities of these organs in a common plan with mutually reinforcing messages, activities, and goals[17]

It must be said from the onset however that, although outreach to a great extent is an effective strategy in obtaining support for the courts work, manage perceptions of the court and eventually fulfill its mandate, it is not a panacea for ensuring the Courts success.  Effectiveness of the ICC and its legitimacy therefrom is derived from correct application of laws and legal principles[18], justifiability of the existence of the regime alongside perceptions by the relevant communities towards the court.[19]

The court’s outreach strategy cannot and should not be expected to erase legitimate dissatisfaction that may arise, nor should it be expected to curry universal support for the ICC. A well-tailored outreach strategy can, however, contribute to greater understanding about the court’s work and can improve its impact overall.

Yet, outreach is important. Below is an analysis of the extent to which outreach affects perceptions and effectiveness of the ICC and the extent to which it does not. Read more


[2] last cited 29th November 2014

[3]Outreach and Communication, last cited 1st December 2014; Rome Statute

[4] Article 98 Rome Statute



[7] Budget and Finance Team Coalition for the International Criminal Court Submission to the International Criminal Court on the preparation of its draft 2006 budget last sited 1st December 2014

[8] Outreach and Communication Accessed 30th November 2014

[9] (United Nations Resolution 827 of   1993).

[10] Donna E . Arzt, Views on the Ground : The local perception of International Criminal Tribunals in the former Yugoslavia and Sierra Leone , Accessed 29/11/2014

[11] Outreach and Communication Accesed 30th November 2014

[12] Outreach and Communication Accessed 30th November 2014

[13] ASP, “Draft Programme Budget for 2005,” ICC-ASP/3/2, July 26, 2004, (accessed June 9, 2008), para. 432. Beyond outreach, the Public Information and Documentation Section is also responsible for the internal court’s library, public information and communications with the media, publishing court decisions, and maintaining the court’s internet/intranet.

[14] ICC, “Integrated Strategy for External Relations, Public Information and Outreach,” p.1.

[15] Outreach and Communication Accessed 30th November 2014

[16] ibid

[17] ICC, “Integrated Strategy for External Relations, Public Information and Outreach,” p.1.

[18] Gravity and the Legitimacy of the International Criminal Court Margaret M. deGuzman_ Fordham International Law Journal is produced by The BerkeleyElectronic Press (bepress).

[19] ibid

Photo: The Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court met at Rome from 15 June to 17 July 1998. Secretary-General Kofi Annan speaks at ceremony for the opening for signature of the Treaty on the Establishment of an International criminal Court at City Hall (“Il Campidoglio”) of Rome, Italy. To his left are Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini; Giovanni Conso (Italy), president of the Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of the Court; and Philippe Kirsch (Canada), Chairman of the conference’s Committee of the whole. To his right are Francesco Rutelli, the mayor of Rome; Cherif Bassiouni (Egypt) chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Conference; and Hand Corell, United Nations Legal Counsel, 18 July 1998 (UN Photo)

Njonjo Mue

Njonjo Mue is a Kenyan human rights lawyer and transitional justice expert. He has previously worked as Head of Advocacy for the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and Africa Deputy Director of the International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ). He is currently a Senior Advisor to Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice (KPTJ) and serves as Vice Chair of the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists.

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