Human Rights Watch is usually a big fan of the International Criminal Court. This makes its latest report even more surprising and potentially damaging to the reputation of the court and its chief prosecutor, whose office comes in for plenty of criticism. By SIMON ALLISON.
The 50-page HRW report released on Thursday took a long time to come to a few very simple conclusions about the International Criminal Court.
Firstly, it’s understaffed, and can’t deal with the amount of cases it already has, never mind the ones it wants to add. Secondly, it doesn’t have enough money to deal with the caseload, and it doesn’t help that the ICC is under huge international pressure not to increase its budget. This inevitably affects its ability to prosecute effectively. “The ICC may take on more situations, but do less and less in each situation to square demand with limited resources—especially in difficult economic times,” the report says.
Thirdly, and most seriously, the report says that the office of the prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo is failing to provide the leadership necessary for the pursuit of genuine international justice. “In four situations—DRC, Uganda, CAR and Darfur—the absence of more coherent and effective strategies has undermined perceptions of independence and impartiality, threatening the court’s credibility.” The report adds later: “Some decisions have led to a sense that the Office of the Prosecutor is not responding adequately to the justice needs identified by affected communities—that is to say, that the Office of the Prosecutor simply ‘doesn’t get’ what is needed to redress the serious crimes committed.”
Most serious are the allegations that the ICC overlooks key perpetrators of crimes in countries it’s probing. Case in point: Uganda, where the court has been very active in charging Lord’s Resistance Army commanders. The ICC’s investigations there were launched to much fanfare at a press conference with Ocampo and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. But, despite documented cases of gross human rights abuses committed by Ugandan government forces, no one’s been brought to book, making the ICC seem biased and its investigations politically motivated. DM
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