A number of inspirational and enlightening NGO side events took place in Kampala yesterday. In one event, African NGOs shared their perspectives on the Court, and panelist Oby Nwankwo described how Nigerian NGOs mobilized to convince their government to rescind a state invitation to Sudanese President Bashir because of the ICC indictment. Several Uganda and Congo-based NGOs, who were not officially accredited at the conference, conducted a day-long event next door. Unfortunately, few delegates from the official conference attended and heard their insights. OSI and the University of California-Berkley put on a panel on outreach to victims, comparing the experiences of Sierra Leone, Cambodia, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and the ICC.
A key takeaway from these and other conversations: The International Criminal Court faces a crucial challenge of explaining what it can and cannot do for victims. There is the incredibly high expectation that the Court can provide victims’ assistance or reparations to those who have suffered, but this optimistic view assumes resources that the ICC simply does not have, at least not right now. I worry this is a train wreck waiting to happen.
Back at the official conference, the real stock-taking of the first eight years of the Court began, with issues of peace and justice taking center stage. Hopefully, the working groups will be more productive than the general debate thus far, now that the long series of opening remarks from delegations have concluded.
David Abramowitz is the director of policy and government relations at Humanity United. Previously, he served as chief counsel to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where he was responsible for advising the committee on issues such as international law, international justice, and global human rights, and democracy.