Visible Justice

Justice can only promote positive change if it is visible. Located in The Hague, the Netherlands, the International Criminal Court (ICC) is situated far from most countries and situations under investigation and preliminary examination. As such, it is crucial that the ICC is known, understood, and seen in action by those interested in the ICC’s delivery of justice.

Outreach and public information

The Court’s communications work – conducted through public information, external relations, and outreach – is one of its core functions. The Court aims to reach out, most importantly, to victims and affected communities. The Court also reaches out to governments, regional and international media, civil society, and the public at large to make its work known and to counter misinformation.

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Part of the Court’s mandate

The Court’s public information and outreach activities arise from strong mandates in the ICC’s legal texts. Their inclusion in the ICC’s envisioned framework reflects their critical importance to the successful implementation of a wide range of Court policies, strategies, and operations.

ICC judges have highlighted outreach as crucial to enabling victims’ participation in the trial and reparations phases of the Court’s proceedings.

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Outreach brings the Court closer to victims and affected communities

ICC outreach activities are designed to promote understanding of and support for the Court’s mandate in ICC situation countries. Through outreach as such, the Court is able to manage expectations and address misconceptions. By engaging victims in a two-way dialogue, these activities also enable affected communities to follow and understand ICC processes from a distance where necessary.

For these reasons, outreach becomes vital to creating conditions conducive to facilitating participation and legal representation of victims in ICC proceedings; explaining due process rights; facilitating redress for affected communities; and creating an enabling and supportive environment for field engagement and presence.

Early and direct outreach with victims and affected communities can eliminate surprises that may encumber proceedings or exacerbate misconceptions about the Court, which in turn helps ensure the cost-efficient implementation of the ICC’s legal mandate regarding victims’ participation.

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Need for adequate resources

Consistent over-stretching of the limited resources available to the Court for communications activities has hampered its ability to maximize its impact through such activities.

Despite the recognized importance of conducting outreach as early as possible to prevent misconceptions and misrepresentations taking hold, the Court has seldom had adequate resources to communicate during preliminary examinations or immediately when a new investigation is opened.

Crucial opportunities to reinforce the positive impact of Court have been lost due to resource constraints. When setting the annual ICC budget, member states should support the Court’s ability to take advantage of such opportunities as they arise.

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Countering misinformation

The political context in which the Court operates is becoming ever-more prominent as its global reach widens. Misinformation about the Court is a tool widely used by those who oppose the ICC. Political challenges launched at the ICC during its early history include accusations of victor’s justice and suggestions that the ICC is a ‘western court’ imposing itself within non-western contexts. 

Civil society is working with the ICC to equip itself for the challenging situation it finds itself in: having to continuously and coherently counter misinformation, including political attacks.

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States must redouble efforts

States need to assume a greater role in complementing the work of the Court. They can do so by convening seminars or other public fora to increase awareness of the ICC’s mandate, activities, and jurisprudence in countries around the world where it does not have a presence.

Governments should also take greater steps to mainstream expressions of support for the ICC, universality and complementarity, the rights and needs of victims, and gender justice in a wide range of state resolutions and statements.

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How do I learn more?

For more information on Visible Justice, visit the ICC website

Get in touch with the Coalition