International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Is justice counter productive?

One recent news article pertaining to the ICC caught my attention in particular. It highlights the role the UN Security Council plays in assisting the ICC in its tasks.

Although the article mainly discusses the joint effort of the UN and the ICC in ensuring that war crimes/crimes against humanity don’t go unpunished–providing the example that the UN Security Council referred two cases to the ICC regarding alleged crimes in Libya and Sudan’s Darfur region–its main point is not what struck me most.

Instead, the following statement most piqued my interest: “While the ICC’s contribution is through justice, not peacemaking, its mandate is highly relevant to peace as well…”

This quote by ICC President Sang-Hyun Song made me wonder, are justice and peace totally separate entities? How should we define these two terms? And with regards to whom? Does defining them with regards to different groups of people change their definitions?

An at-a-glance assessment of human rights, justice, and peace may lead one to assume that the benefit of attaining justice would be the onset of peace–that bringing about justice for those incriminated in a given case would not only bring about peace to the affected individuals, but also to the larger topic area of concern. If we sit down to actually deliberate the meaning of these two words, though, and assuming that it is true that the ICC manages the justice/injustice of an issue and are not harbingers of peace, we can extend the conversation into how justice for one party may not be justice for another. Meaning, that because justice for one is injustice for another, it is likely that a spiral of turbulence/violence may ensue even after the ICC has done its job of punishing those at fault (in its point of view). Even if a human right is “inalienable” or “universal” in nature, somewhere, somehow, it is being violated because a group of people is advocating for the opposite of this particular right.

This leads me to believe that finding more global definitions for these words–justice and peace–are crucial to the realm of human rights. Assessing to whom they pertain in a given situation, and accurately assigning their responsibility to entities like the ICC, could help to ensure that we are after both justice and peace at all times. Simply seeking justice could be counterproductive. Who even are our current peacemakers?


4 responses to “Is justice counter productive?

  1. lseyferth October 19, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    This post reminded me a lot about the discussion concerning victor’s justice. The aim of the ICC and UN tribunals is to persecute those held most responsible for crimes committed, however, who ultimately determines responsibility? Furthermore, how can responsibility be properly assigned if states, whose cooperation is necessary for the success of trials, refuse to cooperate on grounds of self-preservation? As outlined in Peskin’s article “Beyond Victor’s Justice”, he discusses the issue also of powerful international actors who can tip the scales of balance between states and the court. With so many limitations and factors involved in the process of the administration of justice, it is a wonder if justice is truly administered in the best way possible. While justice may be being attained for some victims, if others feel that the wrongs of the past have yet to be reconciled, then idea of peace will have a much hardre time establishing itself within a community.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say that seeking peace could be counterproductive, but it certainly opens the door for more potential conflict. Without lasting resolution between the two sides, can peace ever be established? Furthermore, as the post’s author also points out, the idea of justice for one person or group of victims can differ from another’s, all from a matter of perspective. That being said, if the idea of justice is perpetually biased, then does it follow the the hope for peace is distant?

  2. awoodz October 19, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    This post brings up a lot of good points. But in addition to your question of “is justice counterproductive,” I would also venture to ask if pursuing only peace is counterproductive as well. Like you mentioned, the definitions of the “global” terms of “justice” and “peace” (and even “law”) are so fractured, depending on which community you are talking to and which culture you are trying to apply them to, that I wonder how the notion of peace came to be in so intertwined with the notions of justice and law in the first place.

    In many of the articles we have reviewed for class, peace stands as almost a given of justice (peace is established as the ultimate goal without much discussion). Of course, this does make sense because one of the main reasons international law exists is to prevent destructive war, crimes against humanity, and genocide. However, does it immediately follow that if international law exists to stop heinous behavior, that is also automatically exists to promote peace? What I am trying to question here is the natural dichotomies that the idea of international law seems to perpetuate: war vs. peace, innocent vs. guilty, conviction vs. impunity, justice vs. injustice, democracy vs. everything else, etc. It seems to me that most situations that the ICC and other international law institutions deal with cannot be recapitulated in such easy terms. Especially when thinking about reconciliation, it just doesn’t seem right pushing reconciliation of war-torn communities because the international community thinks that peace is highest good. I keep thinking, if you were a slave in America after the Civil War, how would you feel about being pushed to “reconcile” with the people who have oppressed you for so long? Sure, fast reconciliation means less conflict and more “peace” for the nation, but it also doesn’t seem respectful to the subjective experience of the slave. What if you don’t want peace? Do you or do you not have a right to not reconcile with your opponents? Following this thought, I also think ICC President Song’s use of “relevance” to describe the relationship between peace and justice is intriguing, and brings up the interesting question of whether or not the jurisdiction of international law includes the assertion of peace, in addition to justice.

  3. parvathy249 October 21, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    I think this post makes a valuable contribution to our class discussion on justice through the ICC. While I think that justice can at times also bring peace, I strongly believe this peace is temporary and conditional.

    Even though, cases taken to the ICC tend to be of high international profiles, the aftermath is often forgotten after the verdict is given. This makes the peace process superficial and unsustainable.

    The recent addition of Rwanda to the UN Security Council ( addresses my previous point. Even though perpetrators of human rights abuses in Rwanda have been convicted in the past, the complete neglect of current abuses being done by Rwandans undermines severely the actions taken towards justice. The UN’s decision to add Rwanda to the UNSC signals that justice is transitory and peace is temporary.

    Recently, there were documents released indicating that Rwanda delivers aid to Congolese rebels. In fact, Rwanda has been in contact with the DRC rebels since the nineties. Both Congo wars have been direct products of Rwandan intervention. Even though, they are a smaller country compared to the DRC, they are the principal backers of the rebels.

    The issue here is that other countries gathered in an international body voted Rwanda in, knowing full well that its human rights record is atrocious even by regional standards. My point being: how can “justice” or “peace” even begin to coexist if neither processes seem to be sustainable and long lasting?

    As soon as the ICC delivers a verdict, the international community fails to follow up on the consequences of those results, thus not holding accountable those who are left to pick each country up. It is not enough to convict people in the ICC, if other international bodies then give those countries full-fledged authority to make international decisions – as if it were a reward for doing something correctly when there is nothing to speak for the results.

    This is the same sort of action process that led to the UN Human Rights Council becoming a circle of authoritarian leaders.

  4. seohchoi October 22, 2012 at 12:11 am

    It is true that justice for one side can mean the opposite for the other side; however, this does not necessarily mean that every time justice is served, the victors receive their due justice while ‘losers’ are completely neglected. We may look at the verdict for the Rwandan genocide and claim that victor’s justice was apparent in it because many more Hutu extremists were charged with crimes although Rwandan Patriotic Front got away with murdering thousands of civilians.

    The issue with this example is not between victors vs. losers. The bigger issue here could be the negligence by the International community to serve justice to civilians who were sandwiched in the conflict between these two groups. For example, Hutu extremists may have persecuted some moderate Hutus who have not participated in the genocide. However, when RPF was on their way to overthrow the Hutu extremist regime, these moderate Hutus may have been murdered due to the fact that they were ethnically Hutus. The spotlight on this particular group was perhaps too small.

    Without making sure that a ‘multi-dimensional’ justice is served to these different groups, I wonder how it would be possible to anticipate peacemaking among these groups of people.

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