Congo Watch: ICC's Outreach Programme is active in Uganda, DR Congo, CAR and Darfur (Sudan)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

ICC's Outreach Programme is active in Uganda, DR Congo, CAR and Darfur (Sudan)

Currently, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Outreach Programme is active in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and Darfur (Sudan). The programme promotes access to and understanding of judicial proceedings and fosters realistic expectations about the court's work. This in turn has engendered greater local community participation by addressing their concerns and countering misperceptions.

From The Guardian in Nigeria, Wednesday, November 25, 2009:
ICC registrar presents outreach report to member states
By Francis Obinor
THE International Criminal Court (ICC) has presented its Outreach Report 2009 to representatives of States and Non-Governmental Organisations attending the Eighth Session of the Assembly of the States Parties to the Rome Statute in The Hague.

The court's head of the Outreach Unit, Claudia Perdomo, yesterday told The Guardian that the Registrar, Silvana Arbia, informed those present that during the period covered by the report, from October 1, 2008 - October 1, this year, more than 39,665 individuals participated in 365 Outreach activities.

According to her, the use of local radio and television stations was dramatically increased in order to expand the number of people receiving the message of the Court in a most effective way and to support daily Outreach activities.

"It is estimated that nearly 34 million people were regularly informed through the media during the yearly timeframe," she said.

Arbia recalled that the Outreach Programme was established to cultivate a level of awareness and understanding of the court's mandate and activities among the most affected communities of situation and cases before the court.

Currently, the Outreach Programme is active in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and Darfur (Sudan). The programme promotes access to and understanding of judicial proceedings and fosters realistic expectations about the court's work. This in turn has engendered greater local community participation by addressing their concerns and countering misperceptions.

Building on the experience of the last three years, in the upcoming period, the Outreach Unit will continue to apply participatory and interactive methodologies in all activities, and will prioritise themes agreed upon with beneficiaries of the Outreach Programme.

To facilitate this evolving process, the following four categories have been defined, under which activities and key target populations are grouped, and relevant thematic approaches are identified: the Community Outreach Programme engaging affected communities and civil society organisations; the Legal Outreach Programme engaging legal practitioners; the Academic Outreach Programme engaging schools and universities; and the Media Outreach Programme engaging journalists.

The Registrar concluded that "in all situations, to fulfill the mandate to communicate with affected communities support from States, including national authorities and local civil society organisations, remains crucial. Putting public radio stations and television channels at the court's service would ensure public access to the court's proceedings which is a fundamental element of a fair trial."

Lastly, a video documenting key findings of the Outreach Report in each of the situation related countries was shown. Questions asked by State's delegates attending the meeting, as well as Civil Society representatives, were answered by ICC staff, including the Outreach Co-ordinators who are based in the field, in the situation countries.

Meanwhile, ICC prosecutor has told judges at the international court that two Congolese militia leaders sent child soldiers and other fighters to wipe out a village in a revenge attack that left more than 200 men, women and children dead.

"Some were shot in their sleep, some cut up with machetes to preserve bullets. Others were burned alive after their houses were set on fire," Luis Moreno Ocampo said in his opening statement.

The two alleged commanders, Germain Katanga, 31, and Mathieu Ngudjolo, 39, both pleaded not guilty to three crimes against humanity and seven war crimes, including murder, rape, sexual enslavement and pillage.

It was only the tribunal's second trial since it began operations in 2002. The first case, of alleged Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga who is accused of recruiting child soldiers, started in January.

Prosecutors say Katanga and Ngudjolo led two mobs of child soldiers and older fighters armed with automatic weapons, machetes and spears to destroy the village of Bogoro in Congo's mineral-rich Ituri Province on February 24, 2003. Many of the victims were hacked to death.

The village was strategically located on a crossroad and was the base of a rival militia known as the UPC.

Ocampo said the attack went far beyond a legitimate military campaign to become revenge for earlier UPC attacks.

"The plan was to wipe out Bogoro," he said. "Destroy not only the UPC camp but the whole village."

Katanga and Ngudjolo both sat impassively as Ocampo outlined his case, accusing their soldiers also of raping women and forcing others into marriage or sexual slavery.

He quoted Katanga as boasting after the attack that "nothing was spared. Absolutely nothing. Chickens, goats, everything ... was wiped out."

Lawyers for some 345 victims - including some of the child soldiers forced to carry out the massacre - are also taking part in the trial.

"Their childhood was brutally interrupted and they have been in hell from one day to the next," said Belgian attorney, Jean-Louis Gilissen, who is representing child soldiers. He said the children were abducted and ordered to fight "as vanguard troops for the butchery of Bogoro."

Another victims' lawyer, Fidel Nsita Luvengika, said establishing the truth will allow his clients to mourn slain family members.

"They don't know what happened to their families. They don't know how they were killed or whether they were buried," he said.

Prosecutors plan to call 26 witnesses to support their case. In an indication of the ongoing climate of fear in Ituri, 21 of them will testify with their identities shielded from the public.

Among other cases at the world's first permanent war crimes court, former Congolese Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba is in custody and is scheduled to go on trial next year for alleged crimes in the Central African Republic. Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir and two other Sudanese have been charged with atrocities in Darfur. The leaders of brutal Ugandan rebel group the Lord's Resistance Army also are under indictment.
Cross-posted to Sudan Watch and Uganda Watch.

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