International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Visualizing the Impact of International Tribunals

Take a look at this visually impressive report on the impact of international tribunals, authored by Daniel McLaughlin and published by the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice).

tribunals map

It graphically presents data on the atrocities, tribunals and cases, which gives you a sense of both their relative scope and impact. The author explains that

“despite the tribunals’ grasp on the popular imagination, they are the subject of significant misconceptions and confusion. Much of the media coverage dedicated to their work remains superficial, at best, and largely muddle over key distinctions between various tribunals, past and present.”

The report also provides a comparative cost analysis with other major events, like the Olympics or  US Presidential election. Do the results surprise you?

intl courts costs

How does this data aid in our evaluation of international tribunals? Based on this and assigned readings in class, how should we evaluate the legitimacy and effectiveness of international tribunals?


4 responses to “Visualizing the Impact of International Tribunals

  1. thewendyway January 26, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    A lot of the criticism about International Criminal Courts cite that they’re too expensive to manage, however, looking at the relatively low cost of the courts in comparison to the Olympics and Wall Street bonuses etc, it seems that there is more than enough money in to fund them. Of course, the nature of the ICC is that it is not owned by any one country and when the US does not ratify the ICC, it becomes more clear why the ICC has funding problems.

    This reminds me of the Leebaw reading from Week #1, when Leebaw drives home his argument that transitional justice reflects political dynamics. Unfortunately, without major financial support from many countries, it give the impression that ICCs aren’t a priority on the global agenda. I guess war crimes court doesn’t exactly have the same tourist attraction appeal or cash cow potential as the Olympics…

  2. masonnathaniel January 26, 2014 at 11:23 pm

    The visuals are certainly impressive! I found the graphic posted at the bottom comparing the cost of the ICC and tribunals to other major events such as the London Olympics or the U.S. Presidential election particularly interesting. The graphic attempts to contradict the claim that the ICC is extraordinarily expensive; the complete anticipated cost of the ICC from 2002 until 2015 is dwarfed in comparison to arguably less important causes, such as wall street bonuses given out in 2011. By looking at the financials of the ICC through a different lens, however, the ICC’s dependency on funding from european countries could possibly be interpreted as an issue which undermines the court’s legitimacy. In fact, I found an interesting (though clearly opinionated) article which questions the impartiality of the ICC based on the fact that the overwhelming majority of its funding comes from Western Europe. The article reports that 60% of the ICC’s 2009 budget was funding by countries from the European Union, 44% coming from Germany, Italy, France, the UK, and Spain alone. The author agues that the dependency on aid from western Europe contaminates the Court’s ability to remain legally independent, citing John Rosenthal who states, “It is a self-evident principle that the independence and hence impartiality of a court is only as sure as the independence of its financing”. This idea is closely related to the claim that the ICC and other international tribunals operate not to exact pure justice, but “victor’s justice”. To a certain extent this accusation is true. It is often the case that indictments are pursed more heavily on one particular side of a conflict than the other. However, I think it is dangerous to perpetuate the claim that this impartiality is a result of the ICC’s dependence on funding from western Europe. In the case of international tribunals, there are many factors which limit the scope and independence of courts to prosecute offenders on both sides fairly. In the case of Rwanda, for example, some criticize the tribunal for not prosecuting crimes committed by the RPF or reprisal killings which followed the genocide. This phenomenon can be explained in two ways. First, the tribunal needed the support and cooperation of the Rwandan government in order to facilitate successful prosecutions of Hutu extremists who perpetuated the genocide and would not receive support from the RPF if it sought to criminalize them, and second, the tribunal was interested first and foremost in the most serious offenders, not because it did not seek to recognize other offenders, but perhaps financial limitations impeded its ability to pursue indictments on both sides of the conflict proportionally. While there still might be an association between the risk of influence from special interests and the dependency of the ICC on funding from western european countries, it is destructive to argue (although perhaps implicitly) for more restrictions on the ability of countries to fund the ICC. This argument begs the question, from where would the ICC receive funding in lieu of funds from countries within the EU? Limitations to the ICC’s legal independence and ability to be impartial most likely can be explained by political and financial obstacles, but not by where it receives its funding. While looking at how the ICC operates financially can be rewarding to the process of evaluating its effectiveness and legitimacy, I do not think it is constructive to analyze its financial dependency on western Europe as a source of illegitimacy. The article from the New African magazine can be found here:

  3. garyjonmoore January 28, 2014 at 8:59 am

    Very interesting stuff – thanks for sharing. Particularly like the graphic comparing costs.

  4. jhgmitch January 30, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    I agree with Mason. It’s certainly a problem to have an ostensibly “international” and neutral entity being funded primarily by one country (which is why the United States has maxed out at contributing 22% of United Nations funding.) But Western Europe, despite the EU and some similar cultural factors, is clearly not one country. And Mason is right to say that most of the issues that have led to accusations of impartiality are not closely related to the fact that Europe is funding so many of these courts. Western Europe’s backing certainly might have an effect on whether or not the courts prosecute (western) Europeans, but it shouldn’t have much of an effect on how they prosecute others. One response to the argument, “It is a self-evident principle that the independence and hence impartiality of a court is only as sure as the independence of its financing,” is that it is equally self-evident that a court would not exist in the first place without financing… so it’s important to think about these things and try to develop truly independent financing, but in the mean time the fact that there is funding at all seems more salient.

    I disagree with the others about the cost-comparison graphic. It’s definitely a nice image to look at and is thought-provoking in a way. But I don’t think comparing the costs of tribunals to arbitrarily chosen big numbers makes for effective evidence in support of international criminal tribunals. I could easily make an infographic that might have the exact opposite effect by comparing the cost of international criminal tribunals to, say, the average salary of a schoolteacher or the GDP of Belize (about $1.5 billion), or the costs of an ordinary (domestic) trial. And, honestly, I don’t think that the infographic even made its point very effectively: To show that international criminal trials have cost much more than the Dodgers sale raised the question, SHOULD these courts cost more than a major sports franchise? And sure, Wall Street bonuses are huge compared to international court expenses–but that’s perhaps a better argument for decreasing Wall Street bonuses than it is a justification of the cost of these tribunals. Ultimately the infographic was unconvincing because you have to be pretty out of touch with reality to not see 6.28 billion as anything but a really really big number. Comparing a number with unrelated other numbers is not a productive exercise.

    When making claims about how economical courts are or, from the other perspective, how expensive they are, it is important to realize that there’s another argument you have to make: just because a tribunal is relatively expensive or relatively cheap does not not necessarily make it either a good idea or a bad idea. What is important to prove is why they are necessary, and then you can quibble over how much they should cost. But how much they cost does not seem to have a lot of bearing over whether or not they are necessary.

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