(Brussels) - The International Criminal Court (ICC) needs to raise its profile in the countries where it is conducting investigations. With the annual Assembly of States Parties (ASP) meeting scheduled to start on November 28, Human Rights Watch issued a paper outlining recommendations for enhancing operations.
 
"With three investigations already underway, the ICC is at a critical juncture," said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch's International Justice Program. "As the ICC develops its strategy, it needs to put victims and witnesses higher on its radar screen."  
 
The past year has been a momentous one for the ICC. In October it unsealed its first arrest warrants for Uganda. For the first time, the Security Council referred a situation in Sudan, a non-State party, to the court. The ICC has established field offices in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It has begun to develop programs for witness and victim protection as well as victim participation in court proceedings. It is also formulating an institution-wide strategic plan for the next five years.  
 
However, Human Rights Watch said, more needs to be done if the court is to meet the expectations of those for whom it is working.  
 
"To take full advantage of the lessons learned by the ad hoc tribunals, the ICC must not only perform the difficult tasks of conducting effective investigations and fair trials," said Dicker. "It must bring a sense of justice to the communities where the crimes occurred."  
 
Unlike domestic courts, the ICC has to establish its legitimacy in polarized war-torn communities hundreds, if not thousands, of miles from The Hague. To fulfill its mission, it must engage the people most affected by its judicial work.  
 
"For the ICC's efforts to bring redress to the victims, the Assembly of States Parties should assist the court in forging a strategic vision that will maximize its impact locally," said Dicker.  
 
The Assembly of States Parties has responsibility to provide management oversight to the court and ensure it functions effectively. In addition to providing financial support, Human Rights Watch is urging the ASP to help the court secure cooperation for its investigations and prosecutions. Currently, one hundred countries have ratified the Rome Statute establishing the court.  
 
"The ASP needs to work with the court so the ICC can fulfill its mandate," said Dicker. This takes more than financial support. It requires the political will to use diplomatic muscle on behalf of the court it has created."