Friday, October 8, 2010

Progress & challenges at the ICC

The International Criminal Court today ordered the resumption of the trial of Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo. The trial had been stayed in July when prosecutors refused to release the names of some witnesses, arguing that doing so would endanger those witnesses. It's not immediately obvious how that issue will now be resolved.

Lubanga's case illustrates two crucial challenges to the Court's success. First, trials tend to last a long time (the arrest warrant dates back to early 2006). Second, the Court's cases are likely to primarily focus on regions where law & order continues to be uncertain at best, putting at risk both those directly affected (for example as potential witnesses) and some groups that have nothing to do with the trial at all.

Illustrating this last point, the New Republic earlier this week published a sad story about the life of a child bride in Sudan. The girl in question had been getting some assistance from a local organization, SEEMA, which in turn was funded primarily by CARE International. CARE International, however, was kicked out of Sudan last year, after the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Sudan's President, Al Bashir. So this girl, who has no apparent connection whatsoever to the case the ICC is pursuing in Sudan, nevertheless feels the effects.

The fault lies, of course, with the Sudanese government, not the ICC. It is not the ICC, after all, which cares so little about its own citizens that simply out of spite it will kick out organizations whose only purpose in being present in Sudan is to help those same citizens. However, it is probably too much to hope that, if and when Al Bashir is finally arrested, this pointless and spiteful violation of human rights (Sudan acceded to the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Covenant of the International Human Rights Charter in 1986) will get added to the crimes he is charged with.

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