By João Pires
Sanji Mmasenono Monageng has been an ICC judge since 2009 and the first vice president of the court since 2012. She started her career as a magistrate in Botswana. She soon became a member of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, she was later appointed as the Commission’s chairperson.
Earlier this month, she welcomed a group of journalists from West Africa who came to The Hague to gain a better understanding of peace and justice institutions.
On the role of the media:
“Anyone can see immediately that the suffering of thousands of victims forges a strong engagement for justice, and independent, impartial and fair justice. This is what the ICC is about: bringing justice to thousands of victims who have no other venue to seek justice and recognition of what they have suffered.
“Within the context of the ICC, the media plays a crucial role in demonstrating the impact the ICC can have in the world. The media can both be a support for the court and criticize it.
“By reporting on the court’s activities, the media helps the court to breach the gap between it and those who need its legal protection: the victims and survivors of the world’s most reprehensible crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
“On the national level, with its limited resources, the ICC has developed its own outreach and public information programs. However, the success of this program also requires your cooperation and efforts. Without your support and the important role you play, it would be almost impossible to explain to the concerned and affected communities what the court is doing and their rights before the court.
On why the interaction of the judges with the media are always so careful:
“As a judge, everything that is said may be preserved as an indication of our future decisions, thus creating a conflict with the necessary independence.
“As a general rule, judges do not discuss cases that have been presented to them. Judges cannot give the impression of having pre-judgments or sentiments of what their future decisions would be. The same rules apply in any occasion that may lead the general public to misperceive their personalities and/or their professional conduct.
“That’s why judges speak through their decisions, carefully written and thoroughly considered. This also ensures the continuity of their work in impartiality and full independence”.