International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

The Meaning Behind Surrender

ntaganda Hague hears DR Congo’s Bosco Ntaganda ‘ordered killings’

Former Congolese rebel leader Bosco “The Terminator” Ntaganda appeared before the International Criminal Court this week for pre-trial hearings on 13 counts of war crimes and 5 counts of crimes against humanity. News at The Hague reports that Ntaganda voluntarily surrendered at the US embassy in Rwanda last March as the Congolese M23 rebel movement was fracturing.

The question is why surrender at this point in time? For a man who has been in combat for so much of his life, why is it now his “last resort and his only chance of staying alive after splits within the M23 rebels?”

Human rights groups celebrate Ntaganda’s surrender to the court as a victory for international law and the victims of atrocities in the region, however, the admissibility of Ntaganda’s surrender remains in conformity with the prosecutorial policy of the ICC. This can create political and practical complexities that could hamper the Court’s initial role aimed to encourage national systems to fulfill their duties under the Statute and to prosecute international crimes. Does ICC policy render admissible all referrals where no action was taken by national authorities? Would this encourage “laziness” on the part of state parties to investigate and prosecute? What sorts of policies should the ICC improve on to encourage how can ICC encourage states to improve policies so that they don’t simply pass their duties onto the ICC? States benefit from referring the situation to the ICC by avoiding the financial costs of such prosecutions. If this becomes a trend, the ICC may be overburdened and end up not being able to cover cases that have even more significant judicial impact.

It makes sense to me to assume that the primary responsibility to protect the people within a state should be first, tried by the affected state concerned, so the international community would be assumed a secondary responsibility. How can the UN and ICC better reconcile the principle of sovereignty and its mandate to maintain international peace and security with the vision to promote the interest and welfare of people within the states experiencing armed conflict?

This challenges the traditional understanding of state sovereignty by allowing the international community to intervene in cases where serious human-rights violations are taking place. In the event that governments are unable or unwilling to protect their citizens from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing, is the international community the first line of responsible to protect those vulnerable populations?

Referring to ICC as the court of last resort is ambiguous in that “last resort” may imply different conditions for many states. When referrals have transferred the burden from the states to the ICC along with the political, financial, and social complexities, what is the best line of order to handle these situations, especially when ICC’s interventions have been accused as bias?

No one knows for certain why he surrendered, but there may be something to do with the deterrence of responsibility or a pressure by higher powers in Rwanda to turn himself in.


One response to “The Meaning Behind Surrender

  1. Alana Tiemessen February 14, 2014 at 8:02 am

    I think the Ntaganda case raises some interesting questions about how international justice figures into the “political calculus” of atrocities perpetrators. Akhavan makes the case that in cases like Uganda and Sudan, the ICC figured into the political calculus of the LRA and the Khartoum government. Is it possible that Ntaganda weighed his options and found that the ICC was his best chance of survival? The fact that Rwanda allowed for his transfer is significant too – what goes into its political calculus, given the RPF regime there could be implicated in Ntaganda’s trial?

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