OxBlog

Saturday, August 12, 2006

# Posted 1:39 AM by Taylor Owen  

JUSTICE AT WHAT COST?: Returning to Northern Uganda for a moment, there is an interesting dilemma hidden in Erin's account - one particularly poignant for liberal internationalists. By most accounts, the indictment of the LRA leadership was a positive international recognition of the war crimes that had for shamefully long gone unrecognised. However, since the indictments were not supported with viable implementation mechanisms, in many respects, they now present an obstacle to a regionally (as opposed to internationally) organised and sanctioned peace process. Frustrated that the international process was getting nowhere, the regional actors took the process into their own hands are close to a preliminary peace deal. The problem is that a component of this peace deal will almost certainly be amnesty for the indicted. A condition that Musevini has offered but that the international community flatly rejects.

The political explosiveness of this dilemma was evident in the British reaction to the peace negotiations. Two days after the meetings in the DRC, it was leaked that the British were going to table a SCR on the LRA that would extend MONUC and UNMIS mandates to Chapter 7 and go after LRA assets. In short, giving the indictment the legitimate enforcement mechanisms that they should have had from the beginning. First, somewhat superficially, the British are surely in part only acting as a reaction to the news that most LRA financiers are from London. Second, however, as Erin describes, is where the root of the liberal internationalists dilemma lies:
The timing of this is painful - it will not build confidence in LRA to talk, and having seen kids wearing the t-shirts of Guatemalan dead peacekeepers in Congo (not to forget those captive women and children) a military solution is not guaranteed to avoid a high cost or a victory. The victims of northern Uganda are almost outright hostile to ICC and anything international, viewing it as an obstacle to peace.
The questions then are threefold. First, idealistically, how does one weigh the symbolic value of the ICC indictments (international deterrent etc), against the realities of the conflict on the ground. Should peace and reconciliation, however imperfect, be prioritised over international punitive justice? Second, morally, is peace on the ground worth giving five war criminals amnesty? Third, practically, how does one separate victims from perpetrators in conflicts such as Northern Uganda’s and what are the consequences of this ambiguity for international action and actual, as opposed to idealized, reconciliation?

As someone who believes in the value, and even necessity, of international legal regimes, I am in some ways torn. Part of me thinks that what is needed is a raid on all foreign assets flowing to the LRA coupled with a 20,000 person force with a chapter 7 mandate to root out the LRA combatants. I say this, however, from a markedly privileged position. I have not been living this war for the past decade. I have not seen my child kidnapped and forced to rape and kill my wife, seen my government's soldiers slaughter innocents, and my people forced into horrific IDP camps with no hope of a future, while the international community does nothing. As Erin explains, even if a force could be deployed, killing the LRA will mean a lot more death and misery for the Acholi people. It will mean more war before, and if, it ever provides peace. Those who have lived this war want peace and traditional reconciliation, not punitive justice. Cruelly, the five indicted get amnesty, but at least the war’s victims get peace. This is the tough concession they are willing to make. Perhaps we should be too?
(13) opinions -- Add your opinion

Comments:
First, idealistically, how does one weigh the symbolic value of the ICC indictments (international deterrent etc), against the realities of the conflict on the ground.

It's a difficult question. To begin with, there is very little reason to trust the LRA in this matter and if they agree to lay down their weapons, what does one do if they pick them up again later?

Charles Taylor agreed to step down in Liberia and part of his asylum agreement was to avoid meddling in events in Liberia, bu that's exactly what he did and now he's deservedly in the dock in the Hague.

The LRA is also a little different in that they are a rebel group. Frankly, in their case I'm reminded all too often of the old fable about the scorpion wanting to cros the river and the frog putting his trust in him. That's a really bad move.
 
If Africans see neocons coming, they should run shrieking in terror. These neocons mean to 'help.'
 
If Northern Ireland is anything to go by - and that will remain an open question for some decades yet - amnesties are vital.

Look at what is currently happening in the former Yogoslavia. Croatia, and particularly Serbia, are still being treated as pariahs, by the inflexibility of the Hague tribunals that seems to think regional stability is less important than its own scoresheet. A tribunal, of course, that bears all the hallmarks of a show-trial despite the best efforts not to (aided by the policy of letting the prosector, not someone impartial to the trials themselves, be the person who judges the Belgrade/Zagreb governments).

The ICC seems to be quite happy to repeat all these same mistakes.
 
Ah, the beauty of anonymous comments. The neocons, as has been discussed on this blog, are among those highly skeptical of the ICC and such for precisely this reason.

It's a difficult question, certainly. Not entirely unrelated to the issue of amnesty for dictators-- penalizing dictators for stepping down rather than remaining in power means that, unsurprisingly, dictators will cling to power no matter what. But after the passage of time, and once the dictator has stepped down, priorities change.

It's all very well to want to punish the Pinochets of the world, but if that means actually preventing peace or preventing them from standing down (or sending bad signals of unfaithfulness to deals, preventing other groups later from standing down or making peace), that's a problem.

As you note, it's especially problematic when the ICC operates against the wishes of all parties actually in the dispute. Imperialism under a global name, perhaps. At the same time, perhaps some times the advantage of history means that the global community does know better. Sigh.
 
On the other hand, when one makes the argument that dictators may not step down because of fear of prosecution, then one is making a case for deterrence.

It is also quite possible that if threat of prosecution fails to get them to step down, then threat of prosecution can also keep those who may commit these vile acts in the future from committing. I cannot help but believe that the ICC indictments helped bring Kony to the negotiating table. Similarly, I cannot help but believe that Charles Taylor's prosecution helped bring Kony to th table.

That being said, I saw Kony today on CNN International's Inside Africa program. He has come to negotiate twice before: in 1994 and 2004. He also made the ridiculous claim that his group had committed no violence; that it had all been committed by Uganda.

As for the knee-jerk bashing of the ICC, it has having an impact with regard to Darfur and Samantha Power has more on the subject here.

If you want to use a better example than Northern Ireland, use South Africa: tell the truth about what you did or go to jail. frankly, I'd rather see a day when dictators face justice rather than demand amnesties. That's a far better way to put a permanent to dictatorships than amnesties.
 
"the British were going to table a SCR on the LRA that would extend MONUC and UNMIS mandates to Chapter 7 and go after LRA assets."

Has this become a blog on tax law?
 
I think it will take a long time for criminal justice to be reformed. Most of the lawyers are focused on class action suits like Vioxx Lawsuit because that is where the big class action firms focus on.
 
It is also quite possible that if threat of prosecution fails to get them to step down, then threat of prosecution can also keep those who may commit these vile acts in the future from committing.

Well, that is what makes it tough, certainly. But so long as there really is no consensus towards removing dictators who are in power, no matter how brutal they are to their own people, I just don't know where the balance will fall.

ICC indictments might restrain action, but only if people know that they'll actually be subject to them. Which generally requires some sort of military action. Kony is also being brought to the table because there's a military conflict; if he were an undisputed dictator of a country, he wouldn't be. Plenty of dictators seem to believe that atrocities help keep them in power by keeping people in line and destroying opposition; if staying in power is the best way to keep the ICC off your back, then the ICC can cause more atrocities.
 
As for the ICC and Darfur, note that Sudan is not a party to the ICC.

The ICC may be useful for keeping score *after* a civil war or military intervention helps topple dictators. But it seems to me like often the ICC either can't intervene against a sovereign country, or it has the problem of trying not to upset the negotiations of the parties themselves in a conflict.
 
Samantha Power's article, incidentally, only made it even more obvious that the ICC is useless with respect to Darfur. Sudan is not a party to the ICC. The indictments mean nothing without the will to back them up, or without rebel groups forcing Khartoum into a peace settlment.
 
John,

The fact that Sudan is not a party to the ICC is irrelevant. The UN Security Council can refer a case to the ICC if there is agreement to do so and that is exactly what has happened here.
 
agreed that whether a state is or is not party to the icc is irrelevant, but thacker is right in a way - whether a party or not, the state must be willing to arrest /and assist the prosecution. khartoum not party to icc, but stated it was willing to arrest. south sudan not party, but not willing to arrest. uganda party, and in fact referred the original case, but no longer willing to arrest. actually, none of them seem to be able to even execute the arrest even if they are willing.
 
If Uganda wants to make a deal, let them. I don't see what good an indictment does if all it can do is get in the way of ending a war.

I really do not see what indicting warlords is supposed to accomplish if the people writing the indictments have little or nothing to do with the people fighting the war or negotiating the peace. People do bad things in wars. If you can't get past that peace negotiations are difficult.

The alternative is total defeat of the enemy so you can bring the bad guys to justice, which makes the war go on longer. Indictments also make accepting a negotiated settlement less attractive.

In short, let people decide how much they need to get the bad guys vs. how much they want to end the war.
 
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