International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

“Think Again: International Courts”

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.


3 responses to ““Think Again: International Courts”

  1. dpu26 November 22, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    I agree with yaljarani that this author is overly pessimistic. Based on our study of the Rwanda Gacaca Courts, we learn that the share multitude of victims and perpetrators are simply far too numerous to be dealt with in a former court process. I think the Gacaca Courts is a very balanced example to study both the positives and negatives of the truth-telling process and international justice as a whole. Due process violations are certainly a huge issue with the Gacaca Courts. However, I am in favor of the process in general because it allows some form of resolution rather than just sweeping the matter under the rag as you pointed in the Spain and Mozambique case. While I would agree that there should be more supervision of how such truth-telling commissions are run to try to limit violations, I would argue that any accounts arguing against the necessity and worth of such commissions are grossly underestimating their impacts on societal reconciliation and the prevention of revenge bloodshed.

  2. awatt14 November 24, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    Although this article may be extremely pessimistic, I think it raises some very valid points that get lost in the overly accusatory language. The most important is the ability of a country to choose its own path to justice .

    I do believe that citizens should be able to choose if and how they want to prosecute those who commit atrocities in their own country. However there are two reasons that may make this particularly difficult. The first comes from the video we saw on the ICC, particularly the section that showed a group of villagers in Uganda being asked if they wanted to use their own form of justice on the LRA. If this was not a substantially prejudicial clip, then it may be acceptable. Yet, given the lack of context of the clip and some of the issues inherent in the process, namely the presence of soldiers as well as the potential language barrier, make it impossible to tell if these were the true feelings of the citizens. This goes to the feasibility of asking citizens, particularly in remote locations, their feelings on the topic of prosecution.

    Second, given that many of the crimes that are prosecuted in the ICC are enacted by high ranking state officials, would it really be possible for the citizens of these tyrannical governments to speak their mind and ask for justice? Although the citizens may want justice, they may be too afraid to ask given that the people they will be putting on trial are the ones who have extreme influence over the government.

  3. brandon459 November 25, 2012 at 9:40 am

    In my opinion, the ICTY and ICTR should be in a different position than the ICC when analyzing its effectiveness in “improving the lives of war-zone residents who are its primary stakeholders.” They were ad-hoc courts for specifically those events. These were also the initial precedents for what the ICC based its establishment on. She says that these trials took 10 years to do what Nuremberg did in less than year, but there were totally different circumstances. She is comparing the aftermath of a World War to a specific country. Of course there is a different sense of urgency. For me, she makes no new points that have not been brought up about the ICC process, of which many come from being such a new (law-enforcing) organization in a complex international system. There are some legitimate concerns to worry about the effectiveness of the ICC, but her claims are no on a firm base.

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