Tag Archives: International Criminal Court

Griffiths on international law

From an excellent article about Charles Taylor’s lead lawyer, Courtenay Griffiths, and his thoughts on international criminal prosecution. H/t to Kate Thomas.

I ask Griffiths why he thinks this liberal hypocrisy persists. ‘I think that’s because, however deceitful an idea is, it will always catch on if there is truth at one level in it’, he answers. ‘And the truth is that Africa has suffered more wars and more destruction than most other continents over the last 50 years. So there is a need for an end to impunity in Africa. But it’s the way the West is going about it in a selective fashion. A selectivity of denunciation, a selectivity of investigation, a selectivity of prosecution, and even within Africa, a selectivity of indictment. Everyone knows, for example, that [Rwandan president Paul] Kagame and [Ugandan president Yoweri] Musaveni have got their hands covered in blood in eastern Congo. But the West is never going to go after them because they’re Western allies.’
There are limits to this critique of international law, however bracing and insightful it is. It assumes that the main problem is simply that international law is too partial, too selective.  But would everything be okay if international law was genuinely universal? Would everything be hunky-dory if there really did exist arbiters sitting high above human affairs capable of administering justice impartially and without selectivity? In short, would it be okay if Bush and Blair were tried at the ICC, too?

[Griffiths says:] ‘And the truth is that Africa has suffered more wars and more destruction than most other continents over the last 50 years. So there is a need for an end to impunity in Africa. But it’s the way the West is going about it in a selective fashion. A selectivity of denunciation, a selectivity of investigation, a selectivity of prosecution, and even within Africa, a selectivity of indictment. Everyone knows, for example, that [Rwandan president Paul] Kagame and [Ugandan president Yoweri] Musaveni have got their hands covered in blood in eastern Congo. But the West is never going to go after them because they’re Western allies.’

There are limits to this critique of international law, however bracing and insightful it is. It assumes that the main problem is simply that international law is too partial, too selective.

Liberia, the ICC, and support for the idea of a national war crimes tribunal

This month’s International Center for Transitional Justice newsletter (page 3) highlights two developments in Liberia:

  1. A coalition of Liberian civil society groups is asking the Liberian government to reconsider its decision to go along with other African countries in refusing to comply with the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
  2. Stephen Rapp, the new US Ambassador for War Crimes, says the US and the international community will support the establishment of a war crimes tribunal for Liberia if the Liberian government requests one.