Wednesday, March 14th, 2012 will stand as a watershed moment in international relations and in international law, specifically. Thomas Lubanga, former militia leader in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the first person ever convicted by the recently formed International Criminal Court (ICC). Though there have been dozens of convictions of war crimes suspects from the wars in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, these cases were process by temporary courts–the ICTY and the ICTR, respectively–and not the ICC. Lubanga was accused of conscripting, enlisting, and using child soldiers in the conflict in the Ituri region of the DRC. Rather than playing a role in the post-war political process, (which he had hoped) Lubanga was arrested in March 2005 and extradited to the ICC one year later. It is only now, seven years after his arrest, that a verdict on this case has come down.
Lubanga’s conviction is the end of a multi=year trial process, the legitimacy of which was undermined at times by the lack of prosecutorial professionalism, and other issues. For more about the trial, go here, and watch the videos below.
We will be analyzing international law next week upon our return from spring break. The recently established International Criminal Court (ICC), an independent (i.e., it has no linkn to the United Nations, unlike the International Court of Justice–ICJ) international court located in the Hague, has in its short existence (it came into force in 2002) been the subject of heated debate between those who view it as a bold and necessary step in the fight for international justice, and those who view its powers as undermining to a dangerous degree state sovereignty.
This week’s weekly letter from the International Crisis Group (ICG) contains a book review of Nicholas Waddell and Phil Clark’s “Justice in Conflict: The ICC and Peace Processes. The author of the review, Nicholas Gronko, writes:
The International Criminal Court (ICC) is now investigating or prosecuting individuals involved in three of the most devastating conflicts in Africa – Darfur, northern Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In each case, the ICC has been forced to confront the challenges inherent in pursuing peace and justice simultaneously. What happens – and what should happen – when efforts to prosecute perpetrators of mass atrocities coincide with a peace process? What is the best approach when the price of a peace deal may be a degree of impunity for those most responsible for such abuses? One common and convenient response is to hide behind truisms and make general statements of principle to the effect that no trade-off is required because peace and justice are inextricably linked. Clearly peace and justice are complementary in that justice can deter abuses and can help make peace sustainable by addressing grievances non-violently. But good things don’t always go together, and to present peace and justice as invariably mutually reinforcing is misleading and unhelpful when the difficult reality of peacemaking often proves otherwise. We review below arguments surrounding the ICC’s impact on prospects for peace in Uganda and go on to offer some general considerations that international policymakers should heed when seeking to balance peace and justice demands.
Here is a look at the 106 (most recent count) signatories to the Statute of Rome (which established the ICC). States in green are signatories to the statute.