International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Tag Archives: ICTJ

Debate: Is the International Community Abandoning the Fight Against Impunity?

Over the next several weeks, starting Feb 9th, the International Center for Transitional Justice is hosting an online debate called “Is the International Community Abandoning the Fight Against Impunity?” Given persistent impunity gaps in places like Syria, North Korea, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Sudan, etc. and waning political will to ensure that those “most responsible” are held accountable, the debate is very timely.

The debate will be moderated by ICTJ President, David Tolbert and include several important figures in the field of international justice:

Fatou Bensouda, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Courtimpunity

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Michael Ignatieff, scholar and human rights expert.

Betty Murungi, legal and human rights scholar

Aryeh Neier, legal scholar, human rights activist, and former director of Human Rights Watch

This is a great opportunity for our class to engage directly with contemporary debates about international justice – both in terms of how justice should work in theory, and the challenges faced in practice. So, bookmark the page and I’ll send out reminders when the new debate positions are posted for your to read before class. You can also follow debate commentary on Twitter, with #ImpunityDebate and @theICTJ.  (The debate is open for public commentary online, and you are also welcome and encouraged to post replies on the ICTJ’s site.)

What is the “Case for Justice”?

This video from the International Center for Transitional Justice makes the “case for justice” by highlighting different examples of countries in transition from violence (e.g. Colombia, Egypt, DRC, Uganda, Cambodia, etc.) and where there are impunity gaps.

  • What arguments does ICTJ make for why justice is necessary?
  • What are the different obstacles to accountability across the cases?
  • How does ICTJ’s conception of “justice” compare to those we discussed in class and in the assigned readings?

¿La paz o la justicia para Colombia?

Last week saw the unfolding of two seemingly unrelated—yet intrinsically linked—events in the field of international justice: First, the commencement of formal peace negotiations between the Colombian government and leadership of the FARC guerillas; and second, the opening of the ICC’s eleventh Session of the Assembly of States Parties. While approximately 4,800 miles separate Havana from The Hague, the topics of discussion at ICC facilities in the Netherlands will have some bearing on the talks taking place in Cuba.

As asserted by Paul Seils, vice president of the International Center for Transitional Justice, this preliminary step towards ceasing violence and embracing peace in Colombia brings to light the multifaceted nature of the long-standing conflict—and the immense challenges that will accompany such a process. That being said, a successful transition to a state of relative peace in Colombia could have far-reaching positive implications for Latin America as a whole. Nevertheless, attempting to resolve such a structurally embedded conflict (in terms of the many strata of Colombian government and society that are involved, openly or otherwise) calls attention to the ever-present tension between peace and justice. Seils makes note of the unique definition of peace in the case of Colombia—the centerpiece of which is “establishing a credible state where the rule of law applies to all”—and this further tangles the web of attempting to attain peace while providing justice (both of which as a means of stability for the war-ravaged nation). How can stability and faith in the rule of law be restored without some sort of judicial proceedings?  At the same time, however, how will the threat of prosecution (on the international and/or the domestic level)—for those on all sides of conflict—factor into (and perhaps hinder) peace negotiations?

Meanwhile, this tension between peace and justice is on the agenda for discussion at the ICC’s Session of the Assembly of States Parties. It will be interesting to see what stance relatively new Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda takes (especially in comparison to that of her predecessor, the somewhat controversial Luis Moreno-Ocampo) and how that will affect the situation in Colombia and similar situations elsewhere in the world. While justice in Colombia, for example, may very well be pursued (if pursued at all) through means other than the ICC, her opinion (as a leading figure in the field of international justice) and actions as a result of that will most likely come to have bearings on the pursuit of transitional justice in all forums.

ICTJ report on Nepal

The International Center for Transitional Justice’s article titled “In Nepal Victim’s Silence Cannot be Bought” is one of relevance to our discourse on transitional justice. Within this piece, the issue of the Nepal’s absence of a comprehensive repartitions program is of importance. While the Nepal government, in cooperation with the Maoist insurgents, developed with Interim Relief Program-which provides financial support to the conflicted victims- after six years there has still been no more developments. Questions of whether or not the Nepal government has confused the “issuance of relief through material benefits for the implementation of a comprehensive reparations program” have surfaced. Keeping this in mind, I cannot help to recall Bronwyn Leebaw’s piece on The Irreconcilable Goals of Transitional Justice.

In Bronwyn Leebaw’s The Irreconcilable Goals of Transitional Justice, she highlights several downfalls of transitional justice, claiming that “more attention should be given to ways in which efforts to expose, remember, and understand political violence are in tension with their roles as tools for establishing stability and legitimating transitional compromises.” Important in this dissection is the issue of efficiency. Moreover, is the assertion that “individual healing is often in tension with other transitional justice goals.” Accountability is a key element in transitional justice; one that the Nepal government has ignored in light of their financial expenditures. Through this, one can find that Leebaw’s claims are in fact vindicated. The sluggish pace of criminal prosecution and thus legal accountability, if any are in process, are not in sync with the inherent human feelings of revenge. Consequently, this ideological opposition, according to Leebaw, may lead to renewed violence….

Transitional Justice and the EU

On Friday, the European Union (EU) won the Nobel Peace Prize “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe” (source). Because this award touches on many concepts that the class has discussed in the past two weeks, I wanted to explore the role of EU in the realm of transitional justice.

About two years ago, ICTJ’s Laura Davis wrote a report titled “The European Union and Transitional Justice”. In summary, many of the EU member countries have experienced legacies of mass violence and the reconciliation process that followed. The EU is very committed to “promoting peace, to the protection of the EU’s rights and to strict observance and the development of international law.” However, the report also states that the EU has no strict policy on transitional justice. Rather, it has a three-fold plan to combat impunity, which is outlined on page 11 of the report.

It is interesting because the EU, despite being lauded this past Friday for the advancement of peace and reconciliation, has largely been a donor rather than an actor in the field of transitional justice. It provides political and financial support to the ICC, ICTY, ICTR, truth commissions, etc. The lack of a formal transitional justice policy raises concerns about how the EU addresses transitional justice. By providing so many sources of funding for different transitional justice institutions and ventures, the EU is essentially borrowing definitions of transitional justice from different places—this may lead to conflicting stances on transitional justice by the EU. As the report suggests, the EU should create its own policy and approach to transitional justice. On another hand, the EU encompasses a variety of countries with distinct cultures—perhaps the EU is doing its role as a facilitator and supporter of transitional justice and striking a balance between international norms and respect for local traditions and cultures? In this way, the EU avoids some of the problems outlined by Leebaw in the paper, “The Irreconcilable Goals of Transitional Justice” and allows other institutions, such as the ICC, to do what they believe is the best.

Photographing the Road to Reconciliation in Colombia

As someone who loves all things Latin American and all things journalistic, this announcement on the International Center for Transitional Justice’s website caught my eye. As part of “Memory Week” in Colombia, the ICTJ and the Center for Historical Memory organized an amateur photography contest, the theme of which was “Images to Resist Oblivion.” Each of the three series of photos calls attention to a different set of past atrocities and intimately explores the effect they have had on the surrounding community. Not only are these photos worth looking at simply to further our understanding of the violence in Colombia, but they also raise questions about the role that alternative forms of remembrance can play in the process of reconciliation.

As Charles Villa-Vicencio succinctly writes, “There is no general agreement concerning the nature of reconciliation. Each context makes its own demands of the concept” (The Politics of Reconciliation, pg. 68 of Telling the Truths, ed. Tristan Anne Borer). Expanding upon Villa-Vicencio’s line of thought, ever-changing conceptions of the meaning of reconciliation require new approaches to (ideally) reaching that state. Photo contests/exhibitions (curated by victims themselves) may provide an effective avenue for those whose communities were torn apart by atrocities to take a step towards reconciliation on a more personal level while simultaneously increasing overall awareness of said atrocities. Serving as a form of visual remembrance, in addition to documenting what actually happened, photographs can—perhaps most importantly—call attention to the emotional aftermath in effected communities. This can in theory provide a sense of catharsis for victims while also reassuring them that they do have value as human beings, that they will not be forgotten or overlooked, and that their struggles will be taken into account in the pursuit of justice—all of which are important steps on the (elusive) road to reconciliation.

“The Case for Justice” by ICTJ

This video from the International Center for Transitional Justice makes the “case for justice” by highlighting different examples of countries in transition from violence (e.g. Colombia, Egypt, DRC, Uganda, Cambodia, etc.) and where there are impunity gaps.

  • What arguments does ICTJ make for why justice is necessary?
  • What are the different obstacles to accountability across the cases?
  • How does ICTJ’s conception of “justice” compare to those we discussed in class and in the assigned readings?