“Think Again: International Courts”
November 20, 2012
Posted by on
I recently came across an extremely pessimistic article about international justice (the caption reads: “It’s time to abandon the false hope of international justice”). It’s from a few years ago, but I felt like it fit in nicely with what we have been discussing through the course thus far. It specifically hits on the ICTY and ICTR. The author claims that neither Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians, nor Rwandans through the tribunals aided in the reconciliation process. Less than 36% of Rwandans thought it did promote reconciliation in 2002. She also points out that the justice process is long and expensive. Milosevic’s trial took years, prolonging the hatred in the hearts of many Serbs, and the ICTR took “10 years to complete the same number of trials that Nuremberg conducted in less than a year.”
The author also lacks faith in the truth-telling process, citing Spain and Mozambique as having been successfully reconciled by taking a “don’t look back” approach to resolving their issues. She then goes on to refute the claim that “Giving Amnesty to War Criminals Encourages Impunity.” If we look at South Africa and Mozambique, she says, we will find that while both implemented amnesties, the rule of law actually improved because the leadership was focused less on prosecuting and more on rebuilding. Politics may also have a greater effect on the rule of law than justice, she suggests. Kagame’s authoritarianism in Rwanda undermined the rule of law even though his government was prosecuting many convicted of war crimes.
Lastly, she claims that the world does not need the ICC. “We can predict that the ICC will be no more effective than the international courts for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda in improving the lives of war-zone residents who are its primary stakeholders. That is, not very effective at all.”
She lacks solid empirical evidence in some areas and some of her fact-finding seems inadequate. (I am never a fan of researchers quoting some people they met on the ground and then extrapolating their answers as if they were representative of the entire population.) However, I feel like it’s a good measure to test what we’ve learned so far. If you support international justice, it may be worth going through her arguments and seeing if what we have read so far allows you to refute any, if not all, of her claims.