Seriously, ICC, Update Your Website

by Kevin Jon Heller

The ICC’s website is its public face. Scholars, activists, and interested laypeople — many who live in the situations under investigation — rely on it as their primary source of information about the Court’s activities. So it is imperative that the Court update its website in a timely fashion.

Time and again, however, it does not. Case in point: three new documents concerning decisions by the Libya Pre-Trial Chamber appeared for the first time today, May 13. One is dated April 24; one is dated April 26, and one is dated May 10. None is more than a few pages long, and fortunately none is particularly substantively important. But there is still no excuse — much less any justification — for making them publicly available so long after they were issued by the PTC.

Even more troubling, the April 26 document — granting a request by Ben Emmerson for leave to reply to a recent motion by Libya regarding al-Senussi — mentions that the Registrar was required to “provide a report on the status of the arrangements of the visit to Mr Al-Senussi by his Defence counsel by Friday, 3 May 2013.” That report is obviously critical, as Libya has long been lying about its efforts to arrange such a visit. According to the PTC’s decision, the Registrar’s report should have been submitted 10 days ago. Yet there is no trace of the report on the Court’s website.

The ICC always emphasizes the need for effective outreach. It should start by keeping its website up to date.

UPDATE: Mark Kersten agrees and adds additional important thoughts at Justice in Conflict.

9 Responses

  1. As a side matter, I’d greatly appreciate the implementation of a RSS Feed on their website.

  2. Clement,

    Agreed! I’ve often wondered why they don’t create one or more feeds; it’s not exactly difficult to set up.

  3. Kevin,
    In addition to what you mentioned correctly, other deficiency of the Court’s website is that it is not user-friendly.

  4. Hassan,

    You said it. The whole website is a nightmare to use.

  5. It seems to me that courts generally are reticent to respond to political attacks, and if one adds to that the typical slothfulness of an international organisation it is a guaranteed losing combination in any political squabble. I feel as though as it could have the snappiest website out there and still wholly fail to lift itself in the public mind. But at least it would make research easier.

  6. Rob,

    Better outreach is certainly not a sufficient condition of the ICC being perceived as legitimate. But it is definitely a necessary condition of it.

  7. I agree it is necessary, but I just don’t know much it can achieve given that the underlying institution seems to be inherently unwieldy. And located in Europe.

  8. To my knowledge there is just one person at the ICC registry uploading all those documents, so there can be a backlog. As we all know, the Court complains about insufficient financial means provided by states parties, that on their part insist that the court is too expensive. IMHO, it is not, if you compare the workload of the ICC to the STL or the ICTR.

  9. Several issues can be identified, several of which have been named already and several not.

    1. “Never suspect malice where shortage of funds could also be an explanation.”
    But of course, malice might be cited as an explanation _FOR_ a shortage of funds… 😉

    2. A significant reason for longer delays in uploading documents is the requirement of redactions. So far, the quality and security of the redactions has been almost impeccably high. One can at times still speculate about of the content of redacted sections (and sometimes such speculations are very easy, as in the case of the second reason for judge Van den Wyngaert’s withdrawal from trial chamber V, about which Kevon Jon Heller has asked). But I have not yet witnessed any accidental slips and outings. Such diligent redactions and their counter-check on part of the court however take their time.

    3. The accused constantly and permanently diffuse briefs and applications to the media, long before they are uploaded to the court server and thus made public.
    Some of the complicit journalist cooperate in this scheme because they are paid by the accused’s “media litigation departments”. Other do so out of the perceived pressure of competition. Very frequenty however, such pre-distributed excerpts are doctored and tailored to meet the accused’s needs and intent. A very good example is the near-total silence that the Kenyan media studiously uphold about the ongoing article 70 investigation. They are very important because they can results in warrants of arrest, and that exactly is the cause why they are not even mentioned to the Kenyan public.

    4. The OTP’s outreach section does much less than it could do.
    While a certain amount of restraint is laudable in case of an independent neutral prosecution (civil law style), such as the OTP is, one might be inclined to say that OTP is at least co-responsible for the present credibility deficit of the court in Africa, because it does not speedily and efficiently rebut or correct wrong renderings on part of the accused’s media departments.

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