International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Can (Well-Meaning) Individuals Impede Peace and Justice?

As we saw in the ICC documentary shown in class as well as our various reading assignments related to the court, former chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo certainly (even if inadvertently) had a polarizing effect on the international community’s response to ICC actions in pursuit of justice. The fact that Moreno-Ocampo so significantly colored nations’ perceptions of the ICC brings up a bigger question: To what extent can an individual influence the attainment of justice?

Making this question more pressing is the news of Carla Del Ponte’s involvement with the UN’s Independent International Commission on Inquiry, currently charged with investigating alleged human rights violations in Syria. Del Ponte, the “feisty” (to say the least) former chief prosecutor of the ICTY and ICTR has taken up the cause of ensuring that justice is served to those responsible for the Syrian atrocities. Keeping in mind the fact that her behavior is credited with the decision to split the ICTY/ICTR chief prosecutor’s responsibility between the two courts, I wonder what impact her stubborn disposition (which she claims to be quite proud of) and abrasive means of interacting with state leaders will have on the situation unfolding in Syria.

While the answer to my aforementioned question may seem obvious—one person does have the potential to jeopardize justice (this is, of course, a debatable claim though)—it is complicated by the potential tension between peace and justice. If Del Ponte takes a hard line advocating for justice for Assad (and, in light of recent news, maybe even rebel leaders as well) in the form of criminal trial proceedings, will that impede an end to the conflict? Furthermore, when it comes to polarizing—albeit well-meaning—individuals such as Moreno-Ocampo and Del Ponte, how do we reconcile their personal strategies (as prominent leaders in the field of transitional justice) for seeking justice with the broader strategies for achieving peace and justice on the macro-level?


3 responses to “Can (Well-Meaning) Individuals Impede Peace and Justice?

  1. dhsong November 12, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    When I read Victor Peskin’s “Beyond Victor’s Justice?” and “Caution and Confrontation in the International Criminal Court’s Pursuit of Accountability in Uganda and Sudan,” I wondered whether these prosecutors should have been so aggressive and inflexible. Del Ponte struggled against the Rwandan government to prevent victor’s justice there, ultimately causing her to lose her job in Rwanda. More specific to Sarahupp14’s post, Ocampo did not withdraw the arrest warrant for LRA leader Joseph Kony and did not “allow” the peace talk in Uganda and possibly end the conflict.

    As Professor Tiemessen mentioned during her lecture, it could be the case that the government would now have no bargaining chip after the withdrawal for Ocampo’s case. There might not have been any peace talk at all without the arrest warrant. It may be the case that impunity is not in Kony and Assad’s calculations of continuing violence or not. However, it could be the case that someone genuinely considering stopping the violence is prevented from doing so because of the possibility of being tried once peace comes. No matter what, I think harsher stances like Del Ponte and Ocampo’s are often necessary for justice even if it may harm peace prospect.

    As Ocampo’s experience with Uganda and Sudan shows, diplomatic maneuvers trying to appease the state or those pursued do not often work. Ocampo eventually took a harsher stance on both Sudan and Uganda, and the change was answered with eviction of humanitarian organizations in Sudan and breakup of the peace talk in Uganda. Croatia and Rwanda responded similarly by resisting her investigation when Del Ponte took more assertive stance. However, although the states seemed more cooperative when the Court and the tribunal took more diplomatic approach, their noncompliance was only in the form of pretension of cooperation. Those who are unwilling to cooperate will not cooperate no matter what, while giving in to demands like LRA’s would “jeopardize the integrity” of the ICC and the tribunal and let the world know that justice is open to bargaining (2009, 682). To prevent victor’s justice in Croatia and to ensure justice in Uganda, Del Ponte and Ocampo were right to take their harsh, stubborn stances. I would argue that their actions were what “justice would do.”

    I still think individuals can impede peace and justice, not because of their seemingly harsh stance, but because of their lack of competence or certain political moves that allow them to be criticized. Both prosecutors did what they could to protect their institutions and accomplish justice, although they were not without their faults. Del Ponte’s poor administrative performance and slow progress on genocide cases in Rwanda and Ocampo’s brash behavior and mistakes in the Court put them under further criticism, giving their enemies “endless round of ammunition to assail” their institutions and fundamentally undermine works of justice by pitting it against peace (2005, 224). Going back to Syria…before any specific steps to justice are taken in Syria, I would argue that the concern of Assad’s noncompliance is rather from the fundamental tension between justice and peace, not from individuals involved.

  2. karolinaswider November 12, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    I agree with dhsong and sarahupp14 that both Del Ponte and Ocampo were faced with a difficult balance and struggle between peace and justice. I also believe, however, that individual political motives of both prosecutors can also play a factor in the actions taken by the Court and the Tribunals, especially when combined with political pressure like that from the US and Great Britain regarding the ICTR. In Peskin’s article “Beyond Victor’s Justice” he writes “Some current and former ICTR officials, believing that Del Ponte likely had enough evidence to hand down indictments, suspect that Del Ponte chose not to do so for political reasons—perhaps due to intense American and British pressure or to safeguard her reappointment at the ICTY” (2005, 227). It is clear that in the case of the ICTR, Del Ponte’s actions were limited and/or guided by the international community’s reaction to the tribunal along with the counter-pressures from the Rwandan government.

    I think similar problems could arise upon investigation into the events that occurred in Syria. One can hope that at this point, Del Ponte will be able to learn from her actions in the ICTR and the ICTY to formulate an plan of action that best addresses justice and peace for the community.

  3. mjbarnes1 November 12, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    Sarah, I completely agree that in certain situations a combative approach from a prominant individual may alienate opportunities for transitional justice, particularly when conflict is on-going. However, I also think that strident people, such as Moreno-Ocampo and Del Ponte, have a significant and importance role to play in ensuring accountability and justice. I view Moreno-Ocampo and Del Ponte as (to borrow Cass Sunstein’s term) norm entrepreneurs who have a strong conviction of justice and deliberately use international organisations as platforms to standardise these views. Throughout history these people have had a wide and expansive impact on international society because, of course, social norms do not just appear out of thin air. The forceful nature of Ocampo and Del Ponte helps to raise awareness about the challenges facing transitional justice, and help to normalise the idea that war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide are unacceptable under any circumstances.

    I think this is important because the idea that international crimes will not go unpunished has not necessarily developed into an unspoken and intractable international norm, especially as states continue to allow crimes to go unpunished or grant amnesties to those most responsible e.g. David Cameron indicating that safe passage for Assad was an acceptable outcome. Of course, why is it so important for this idea to become a norm? Isn’t peace for valuable instead? It is important because it is crucial to the notion of deterrence. While deterrence may not stop all atrocities from occurring as long as leaders have any miniscule chance of avoiding accountability, crimes will continue to be committed more often and on a larger scale. Therefore, in short-term, combative personalities of people like Ocampo or Del Ponte may harm transitional justice goals, yet, long-term, I think they will lead to a better and more just international society (or at least I hope it will).

    Additionally, as a side-note, I thought the Peskin article (particularly Caution and Confrontation) demonstrated that Ocampo was acutely aware of his political power. Initially, Ocampo attempted to be moderate and conciliatory in the justice process, but continual state defiance forced him to change his approach and adopt a more combative stance in the hope that his personal conviction would lead to an international norm cascade of justice.

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