March 31, 2006
Criminal tribunals in places such as Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia were created to help oppressed people. Instead, they squander billions of dollars, fail to advance human rights and ignore the wishes of the victims they represent, says Helena Cobban of Christian Science Monitor.
Cobban exposes the true condition of international courts:
- The courts do not promote peace. The Hague uses the courts to perpetuate feelings of hatred still harbored by many Serbs, and less than 36 percent of Rwandans surveyed feel the courts promote peace.
- War crime tribunals neglect the advancement of human rights. In Uganda, the International Criminal Court issued five arrest warrants for the brutal Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) -- against the advice of the local community. As a result, the LRA stepped up attacks against civilians and aid workers.
- Victims do not always demand prosecutions. In Mozambique, the 1992 peace accord, which ended a 15 year civil war, mandated a blanket amnesty for all those who committed war crimes. Because almost the entire nation committed war crimes, the Mozambicans expressed great satisfaction with the amnesty.
- Giving amnesty to war criminals does not necessarily encourage impunity. Despite Rwanda's efforts at trying to prosecute the over 130,000 citizens accused of the 1994 genocide, Rwanda lacked such political rights and civil liberties that Freedom House declared Rwanda "Not Free." By contrast, after Mozambique's peace accord, which granted amnesty, the political leaders quickly moved past the injustices and focused on social and political reconstruction.
- War crime prosecutions do not appear to deter future atrocities. Slobodan Milosevic witnessed indictments of the Bosnian Serbs and arrests of Bosnian war criminals. Still, he proceeded with ethnic cleansing of most Kosovar Albanian inhabitants in 1998.
Source: Helena Cobban, "Think Again: International Courts," Foreign Policy, March/April 2006.
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