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Knowledge and Perception of the ICC

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The ICC was established to bring the perpetrators of the worst crimes against humanity to justice and deter future commission of such crimes. The first arrest warrants issued by the ICC were for leaders of the LRA to face allegations of international crimes committed in northern Uganda.[1] This move, made in October 2005, was highly controversial. Some commentators insisted the LRA should be held accountable while others worried it would hinder peace negotiations. The 2005, 2007 and 2010 surveys all included questions about perceptions and knowledge of, and attitudes toward, the ICC among community members in northern Uganda.

The 2005 survey, carried out a few months prior to the Prosecutor’s announcement of the warrants, found that around 27 percent of the Acholi population had heard of the ICC. By 2007, the percentage had significantly increased to 70 percent of people in the Acholi region. The current survey, however, suggests that just 59 percent of the Acholi population has heard of the ICC. Since so many other 2010 indicators yield results that are consistent with the previous surveys, the change is unlikely to be due solely to the research design. However, it is possible that the results are affected by the change in sampling method (i.e., in previous surveys almost all respondents were in a few camps, while in 2010 they were mainly in villages). It is also possible that because respondents’ priorities had shifted toward fulfillment of basic needs and resettlement, many may no longer be interested in news about the conflict and have forgotten about the ICC. Finally, it is also possible that respondents had been hearing news about the ICC less frequently as the lively debate that existed in 2005 and 2007 has somewhat subsided. In addition, radios may have been broadcasting debates and opinions about the ICC less frequently. The latter possibility is supported by the finding that respondents appeared uninterested in obtaining more information about the ICC; only 6 percent of those who heard about the ICC stated that they actively sought information about the Court, and just 6 percent ranked their knowledge of the Court as being “good” or “very good.” In comparison, a recent survey representative of selected areas of the Central African Republic found that 32 percent had heard of the existence of the ICC, but 42 percent ranked their knowledge as “good” or above, and 51 percent indicated they had looked actively for information about the Court.[2]

Figure 29: Knowledge and Awareness About the ICC

Figure 29 - Knowledge and Awareness About the ICC

Interviewers asked the respondents who had heard of the ICC a series of follow-up questions to judge their knowledge and perception of the court. The following results refer only to the 59 percent of respondents who indicated having heard of the ICC.

Most respondents relied on radio as their most frequent source of information about the ICC (88%) in accordance with general patterns of access to information described earlier.[3] Others received information mainly through informal channels such as family and friends (7%), local leaders (3%), and other media (2%). Just 3 percent of respondents had participated in a meeting that discussed the ICC. Those meetings were organized by local leaders (36%), NGOs (32%), or the ICC (26%). Finally, although few learned about the ICC primarily from friends and family (7%), one in four respondents (27%) talked about the ICC with their informal network of friends, family, and neighbors, at least occasionally.

A majority of respondents (66%) described their knowledge of the ICC as being “bad” or “very bad.” Further questions about factual information on the ICC confirm that knowledge is relatively low. Regarding the creation of the Court, only 6 percent of those who had heard of the Court accurately stated the year it was created,[4] while 48 percent did not know who had established it, and 7 percent thought it was established by Uganda. Just 53 percent knew that the ICC was not set up only to investigate serious crimes committed in northern Uganda. When asked about other countries under investigation, participants mentioned Sudan (48%), the DRC (12%), Kenya (8%), and the CAR (6%).

Few respondents knew where the ICC headquarters are located. Although 16 percent said they knew, just 56 percent of those correctly identified the Hague, or the Netherlands. Six percent mentioned Europe, and 25 percent the United States. A larger percentage knew the ICC had an office in Uganda (39%), and among them, that it was located in Kampala (61%). Overall, the study suggests that factual knowledge of the ICC is relatively low. This lack of knowledge might create misunderstanding of the Court’s work, and in turn affect how the population views the Court.

Among those who had heard of the Court, just 36 percent believed it had an impact (negative and/or positive), most of those citing that it had helped to chase the LRA away (38%) and contributed to physical security (30%). Seven percent said it had brought attention to the conflict, while 6 percent said it hindered the peace process. A follow-up question showed that less than half of respondents believed the ICC had helped the general situation in northern Uganda (43%). About the same proportion felt it had no effect (40%) and some believed that the Court hindered the situation (10%). Those who said it hindered the situation most frequently said that Kony would not surrender and so the rebels still exist. Those who said it helped the situation mentioned that it had brought peace and security (40%), forced negotiations (35%), and brought more attention to the situation in northern Uganda (17%).

[1] In December 2003, President Museveni of Uganda referred the situation in northern Uganda to the Prosecutor of the ICC. Nearly two years later in October 2005, while standing next to President Museveni, the Prosecutor unsealed the arrest warrants against the five top LRA commanders: Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo, Dominic Ongwen and Raska Lukwiya. Currently Kony, Odhiambo, and Ongwen are still at large. The Pre-Trial Chamber terminated the case against Lukwiya after receiving strong evidence confirming his death. Vincent Otti is also believed to be dead but his case remains open pending evidence to prove this.

[2] Vinck P, Pham PN (August 2010). Building Peace, Seeking Justice: A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes about Accountability and Social Reconstruction in the Central African Republic. Human Rights Center, University of California, Berkeley.

[3] Among those who had heard about the ICC on the radio, 46 percent believed it was from the radio host that they heard about the ICC, 18 percent from government officials, 8 percent from local leaders, and 7 percent from an ICC representative

[4] Five percent said 2002, the effective creation date, and 1 percent said 1998, the year of the signing of the Rome treaty on the creation of the ICC.