The Hidden Costs of Strategic Communications for the International Criminal Court
40 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2016 Last revised: 20 Apr 2017
Date Written: January 7, 2016
In little more than a decade, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has received nearly 11,000 requests for its Prosecutor to conduct atrocity investigations around the globe. To date, no such communication has resulted in an official investigation. Nevertheless, the act of publicizing these investigation requests has proven to be an effective, attention-getting tool that can achieve valuable, alternative goals. This fact explains the increasing popularity of “strategic communications” — highly publicized investigation requests aimed not at securing any ICC-related activity, but at obtaining some non-Court related advantage. This Article, which is the first to identify this trend, explains why the international legal community has accepted the instrumental use of the ICC’s communication process with little reflection. It demonstrates why this tolerance is unwise by identifying the potential costs of strategic communications. It then establishes the significance of these concerns by illustrating the specific costs created by the most widely-publicized communication to date: the call for the ICC Prosecutor to investigate Pope Benedict XVI “for rape and other forms of sexual violence as crimes against humanity.”
The goal of this article is to encourage the international legal community to revisit its unexamined acceptance of strategic communications. This can lead to a debate that, at a minimum, should prompt Court supporters — specifically civil society members — to think carefully before engaging in conduct that creates dangerous consequences for the ICC.
Keywords: ICC, International Criminal Court, Article 15, Pope, Crimes Against Humanity, NGOs
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation