TEN years after its creation, the International Criminal Court (ICC) is yet to address the negative perception it bears in most of the African countries in which it operates.
This observation is contained in a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report issued to mark the 10-year anniversary of the Rome Statute establishing the ICC in the Netherlands in The Hague.
The court was created to bring justice to the victims of gross human rights violations around the world.
The HRW report, Courting History, said the courtâ€™s investigations have been quite professional, but there was need for the office of the prosecutor to better its image.
â€œDespite this considerable progress, our field research in the DRC, Uganda, and Chad in 2007 revealed that misinformation and negative perceptions surrounding the courtâ€™s work are deeply-rooted and will require more intense and creative efforts by the court to address them effectively,â€ the report read.
Released yesterday, the report assessed the courtâ€™s first five years.
The rights body urged greater international support for the ICC in meeting its political and financial challenges.
The report said the ICCâ€™s failure to either investigate or prosecute Uganda Peoplesâ€™ Defence Forces (UPDF) abuses or to explain why this was not being done, had further tarnished its image.
â€œAs a result, the prosecutorâ€™s work in Uganda is perceived by many of those in the affected communities as one-sided and biased.â€
It said assistance provided by the UPDF to the ICC, such as armed escorts for travel in the region, while understandable at times due to security concerns, has compromised perceptions of the courtâ€™s independence and impartiality in its work in northern Uganda.
The rights watchdog called upon the prosecutorâ€™s office to explain its policy regarding the gravity threshold in selecting cases, as well as the limits imposed by its temporal jurisdiction in pursuing cases against the UPDF.
â€œThe negative perception is aggravated by the office of the prosecutorâ€™s failure to communicate effectively with affected communities about its activities with regard to crimes committed by the UPDF.â€
HRW called upon the UN court to focus onÂ outreach withÂ affected communities in Uganda. It, however, pointed out that the ICC had made progress in bringing justice for the worst crimes despite its mistakes.
The ICC prosecutor has opened investigations in the DRC, northern Uganda, Darfur and the Central African Republic. It is currently considering issuing an arrest warrant for Sudan president Omar al-Bashir.
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ICC suffers negative image in Africa