09 January, 2007

The International Criminal Court & Uganda

Here is an interesting article in the Guardian about the International Criminal Court and Uganda: African search for peace throws court into crisis. It seems that having asked the ICC to deal with the case of Joseph Kony (leader of the scary Lord's Resistance Army), Uganda's President Museveni has now decided that he would rather agree some kind of peace deal with Kony and sees the ICC's attempts to indict Kony for crimes against humanity as being akin to neo-colonialism.

Aside from the question of Museveni's erratic behaviour, the dispute raises some interesting questions over whether it is more important to pursue local peace deals or to pursue those accused of crimes against humanity. I lean towards the idea that crimes against humanity are in a separate order of badness than other crimes, and that in their very nature they are crimes against all of us rather than merely against their immediate victims. I therefore do not think that local deals can allow these kind of criminals a get out of jail free card. I recall thinking the same thing during the Pinochet extradition case - the general may have made his peace with the Chilean politicians he graciously allowed to succeed him, but he cannot do a deal with humanity.

The Ugandan case is a bit more complicated. Seeing a peace deal unravel and the LRA continue its murderous war would be a perverse outcome, but so to would allowing Kony to go free. An important part of the ICC and the internationalisation of justice is that maniacs now have a distant threat of justice dangling over them. A cynic will undoubtedly contend that no dictator or condotierre is likely to show up before the court if they are a pal of the USA, but today's client of the overlords is often tomorrow's indicted pariah. I reckon that the ICC would be right to face down Museveni so that future Konys think more carefully about where their actions might lead them.


Paul said...

I remember when I was studying International Law a few semesters ago, I was fascinated by the concept of 'universal jurisdiction'. It has only been tried out in seven or eight cases. The idea is basically the same as the ICC: that through invoking universal jurisdiction somebody can be tried on the basis of violating the basic principles of humanity (or something). The key difference is: universal jurisdiction requires no institution - ultimately it could become a ius cogens dealy. This would eliminate the bullshit power politics that goes hand in hand with these international institutions, and it wouldn't matter that the US refused to recognise the ICC.

That's not to say ius cogens stuff is implemented perfectly either of course...

By the way, this post could have sparked off a raging debate on Dublin School. I'm sure all our classmates would love to get to grips with the old 'ius cogens' again. Oh, the fun we had in those International Law lectures. How we laughed. Ha, hahahahahaha haha ha.

ian said...

Ius Cogens, that's the Dutch Prime Minister?

ian said...

I'm joking of course. I know all about Ius Cogens - this thing about how certain things which everyone knows are entirely beyond the pale of civilised human conduct can be prosecuted anywhere. or something. While Universal Jurisdiction is when you say your domestic courts are entitled to try certain Very Bad Crimes no matter where they were committed. The problem with Universal Jurisdiction is that countries with it are deluged by everyone trying to have everyone else, making the whole thing look like a farce. Far better to stick with a system that allows the world's major powers of 1945 the right to veto anyone's international trial.

Paul said...

Here's an article on the ICC and Somalia. I recall you expressing an interest in the Somalian situation.

You reckon:
"The problem with Universal Jurisdiction is that countries with it are deluged..."

But I think (though it's a while since Int. Law) that the point of universal jurisdiction is that ALL countries can exercise it. However, I suppose you're right in that the reality is that most countries wouldn't want to use it, so the deluge may still happen.

Paul said...

Forgot to post link to ICC/Somalia article.