An Uncomfortable Look in the Mirror: Canada in the World, Before and After the Ottawa Shootings

Ottawa. (Photo: Creative Commons / Endlisnis)

Ottawa. (Photo: Creative Commons / Endlisnis)

Amongst many Canadians, a popular response to the shootings in Ottawa that claimed the life of Nathan Cirillo earlier this week has been: “This doesn’t happen here… This is Canada.” And that’s true enough. Political violence of the sort we witnessed this week rarely touches Canadian lives. Ottawa is one of those curiously apolitically political cities – a place where the majority of the workforce works directly or indirectly for the government but a community where global politics rarely penetrates every day life. But the Ottawa shootings should bring into relief the need for the Canadian government and Canadians at large to look themselves in the mirror and ask a simple yet tough question: why did this happen?

The easiest answer, and one that has already been proffered by a host of observers, is that a single, crazed lunatic who hated Canadian values went on a murderous rampage. This is an attractive explanation because it diminishes the possibility that any of us, and any part of Canada or Canadian society, bears any responsibility for the shootings. But this is too easy and it is simply not true. Being radicalized into Islam or any other sect or religion isn’t “crazy”. And as has become increasingly clear since the attacks, the killer was politically inspired and motivated. Moreover, while he may have acted alone, this is likely a reflection that, in planning and perpetrating acts of terror, it is more effective to work alone than plan in large groups.

Canadians and the Canadian government should look to the case of the 2011 Oslo shootings. The same refrain (“This doesn’t happen here… This is Norway.”) was palpable in the wake of Anders Breivik’s attacks on Oslo and Utøya. The same explanation (“This is the work of a crazy lone wolf”) was popular. Indeed, Breivik was initially declared criminally insane by the country’s top psychologist and thus not liable for his crimes. However, Norwegians en masse rejected the idea that Breivik was “crazy”, instead acknowledging that his attacks were politically motivated and planned. That meant that Norwegians had to ask the toughest of questions: was there something about Norwegian society that could inspire someone to take such horrific actions against innocent civilians? Being introspective in the wake of what looks like senseless violence is never easy. But Canadians can be inspired by the courage Norwegians demonstrated in looking within themselves for answers rather than solely blaming violence on the mental stability of Breivik.

An uncomfortable reality is that Canada is no longer perceived as an innocent, liberal, peace-loving state anymore. Nothing brings this into sharper relief than the attacks on Ottawa. In speaking with a senior Canadian lawyer as the events unfolded, his response was: “This is no surprise. It was only a matter of time.”

Police officers in Ottawa move flowers to the War Memorial (Photo: Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Police officers in Ottawa move flowers to the War Memorial (Photo: Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

The Conservative government under Stephen Harper has undermined the country’s prestige and reputation as a producer and builder of global peace and justice. This may not be clear to all Canadians but it is certainly evident in the eyes of many across the globe. Having lived abroad for the last five years, I can attest to this. When I arrived in London and told people that my intellectual and academic interests lied with the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and the International Criminal Court (ICC), I would regularly be chided with: “that’s so Canadian.” It certainly was and I took pride in the fact that R2P was a principle which would not have been developed without the sponsorship of Canada and that the Canadian government played an instrumental role in the Rome Statute negotiations that led to the creation of the ICC.

But these principles have been abandoned. The Canadian government has actively pursued a political philosophy of retribution and control that tarnishes the country’s image as an ‘honest international broker’. Harper’s record attests to an unyielding mission to reshape Canada’s international identity as a tough and hard-power state. The Harper government plays the part of destructive belligerent in climate change negotiations and tar-sands cheerleader. It is first in line to threaten Palestine with “consequences” if Ramallah pursues accountability for alleged crimes committed by Israeli forces in Gaza. While it isn’t usually described as such (many prefer terms like “militarily engaged”), the reality is that Canada has been at war, primarily in Afghanistan, for most of the last decade. And while we should judge each decision to engage in wars on their own terms, the government has positioned itself as a military – rather than diplomatic or humanitarian – middle power. The role of Canadian citizens in the Afghan detainee scandal has been swept under the rug. The government willfully left a child soldier, Omar Khadr, to rot in Guantanamo and were the only Western government not to request the repatriation of their citizens from that nefarious island prison. It left Abousfian Abdelrazik, a Canadian citizen wrongly accused of terrorism, stranded in Khartoum for years and threatened anyone who tried to help him return to Canada with aiding and abetting terrorism. In a country that takes pride in seeing Lester B. Pearson as the father of peacekeeping, the government prefers to count the number of fighter jets it will buy than the number of peacekeepers it deploys. And, making matters worse, those who disagree with the Harper government’s approach to being “hard on crime”, “tough on justice”, and “a military power” are too often portrayed as naive or betraying Canadian values. Continue reading

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The ICC, Kenyatta and African States

Uhuru Kenyatta (right) at the International Criminal Court (Photo: ICC)

Uhuru Kenyatta (right) at the International Criminal Court (Photo: ICC)

It has been a dramatic and remarkable few days at the International Criminal Court (ICC). For the first time ever, an elected President appeared before the Court. So concerned was Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta that, on the eve of his appearance in The Hague, he took the extraordinary measure of temporarily stepping down and handing over his executive powers to his vice president William Ruto – who, as readers will know, also faces charges at the ICC. Over one-hundred Kenyan politicians flooded into The Hague to show their support for Kenyatta and spent the night in one of the most luxurious hotels in the Netherlands (it remains unclear precisely who paid their expenses). With their evidence either weakening or under attack, the Prosecution asked Judges to indefinitely adjourn or terminate the case against Kenyatta. The Defence asked the Judges to throw the case out altogether. It remains to be seen how – or even when – the judges will rule.

While I haven’t had time to blog about recent events at the ICC, I wanted to draw readers attention to two interview programmes that may be of interest to you.

The first was for BBC Newshour on the relationship between the ICC and African states. You can find that interview (and the full program) here.

I also had the opportunity to speak with UN Dispatch’s Mark Leon Goldberg about Wednesday’s hearings at the ICC regarding the Kenyatta case. You can find that interview here.

As always, share your thoughts and opinions!

Posted in Justice, Kenya, Kenya and the ICC | Tagged , | 7 Comments

The Complementarity Turn in International Criminal Justice


Former ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo in Ituri District, DRC (Photo: ICC)

It is no secret. The last few months and years have not been kind to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Fairly or not, the Court has been the target of a growing chorus of criticisms which insist that it unfairly targets African states and embodies the latest line of neocolonial tools imposed on weak states by the powerful West. In Libya, the ICC was left desperate and empty-handed in what was supposed to be its most recent legitimating exercise: i.e. intervening against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. The Kenya cases – the first investigations opened by the Prosecutor’s office itself (rather than by referral from the UN Security Council or an ICC member-state) – are hanging by the thinnest of threads. Some of the Court’s biggest fish – like Joseph Kony and Omar al-Bashir, and the targets many expect should be in the Court – like Bashar al-Assad, seem more than comfortable evading justice. For adherents of the ICC, it isn’t a pretty picture.

One result of all of this calamity in the realm of international criminal justice has been a re-calibration of the expectations of what the ICC can – and cannot – deliver. This has happened not just within the halls of NGOs, academic institutions and political institutions like the UN but more subtly, within the Court itself.

Most notably, there appears to be a softening of the lofty rhetoric that the ICC can “end impunity” for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Instead, there is a nuanced but important shift towards maintaining that the ICC can contribute to ending impunity – not by prosecuting bad guys in The Hague – but by helping states prosecute perpetrators themselves.

As readers will know, a foundational premise of the ICC is that it acts in a complementary fashion to national jurisdictions. This is embodied within the Court’s principle of complementarity wherein the ICC can only investigate or prosecute crimes when the relevant state is unable or unwilling to do so itself. The Court’s first Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, famously exclaimed that the ultimate success of the ICC would be a world where there were no cases being prosecuted in The Hague because states were able and willing to prosecute international crimes themselves.

Kwoyelo Uganda

The judges of the ICD in charge of the Kwoyelo case (Justice and Reconciliation Project)

As the ICC has been unable to demonstrate that the majority of its warrants would be enforced, that it could have uncontroversially positive effects on the conflict and post-conflict situations in which it intervenes, and that it had the capacity to deter crimes or “end impunity”, the importance of the Court’s role in encouraging states to prosecute crimes themselves has achieved a new level of relevance.

Again, this is a nuanced shift. Complementarity has always been a core element of the ICC’s mandate. So-called “positive complementarity”, wherein the ICC galvanizes domestic interest and capacity to prosecute crimes, was placed centrally in the Office of the Prosecutor’s 2009-2012 prosecutorial strategy. But what we are witnessing now is a move from an expression of complementarity as a principle that differentiated the ICC from previous tribunals (especially the Rwanda and Former Yugoslavia tribunals) and a lofty end-goal, to entrenching complementarity as a currentprimary and strategic goal of the the Court.  Continue reading

Posted in Complementarity, ICC Prosecutor, International Criminal Court (ICC), International Criminal Justice | 4 Comments

Justifying Justice: Verdicts at the ECCC

Kirsten Ainley, an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the LSE and the Director of the Centre for International Studies, joins JiC for a guest-post on the recent verdicts at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. Kirsten has published on the politics of war crimes trials, transitional justice, the International Criminal Court and responsibility for atrocity. She is currently editing a book evaluating transitional justice in Sierra Leone.

(Photo: Khmer Times)

The ECCC. (Photo: Khmer Times)

The Judgment in the first phase of Case 002 at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) was received with fanfare and considerable hyperbole on 7 August 2014. At a press conference to mark the verdict, David Scheffer, UN Secretary-General’s Special Expert on UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials, announced that: “Today, the winds of international justice swept though the fields, forests, and towns of Cambodia where millions perished.”

After a conflict that killed a quarter of the population of Cambodia and caused incalculable damage to its society, two defendants, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, were found guilty of crimes against humanity relating to the forced transfer of millions of civilians and the extermination of deposed Khmer Republic officials during the Khmer Rouge’s evacuation of Phnom Penh and other urban areas in 1975. It has taken the ECCC more than 8 years and more than $200m to get to this point (and the case is not over yet – the recent verdict is only for a limited number of charges. Case 002 was split to enable efficient handling, with the second part of the trial just started). The first phase of the trial lasted 222 days, included testimony from 92 individuals and 166,500 pages of written evidence, and was attended by over 100,000 people. So, was it worth it? As a follow-up to my previous critique of the ECCC, this post assesses initial responses to the verdicts in Case 2.

The responses I focus on below are from, for the most part, Western politicians, lawyers and NGOs. This is not to suggest that responses from Cambodians are unimportant – just that my focus here is on the way the Cambodian case plays into or disrupts the dominant discourse on international justice propagated by predominantly Western commentators. This discourse, as demonstrated by Leslie Vinjamuri, has moved from a focus on justice as intrinsically valuable towards claims that justice is instrumentally valuable because of the goods it can deliver. The outcomes or consequences of justice that are most frequently asserted are deterrence and peace, on the one hand, and democracy and rule of law, on the other. Much work has been done recently to provide evidence for these outcomes. For instance, Katherine Sikkink claims that prosecutions for human rights abuses deter future human rights violations, and Olsen, Payne and Reiter claim that transitional justice mechanisms have a positive effect on human rights and democracy measures.

Reactions to Case 002 at the ECCC are of particular interest because of the paucity of democracy and respect for human rights in contemporary Cambodia. Claims that justice has had instrumental value there would be very hard to substantiate. So what do its supporters claim? Early analysis shows that, in the absence of strong claims to make about the instrumental value of justice, proponents revert to making claims about its intrinsic value. Critics of the Court also focus on the intrinsic qualities of justice (criticising the court for delivering a poor quality of justice or too little justice) but do not engage with questions of whether justice has brought positive consequences for democracy, the rule of law and so on.

As would be predicted by Vinjamuri, supporters of the ECCC made some, though rather weak, claims about the instrumental value of justice soon after the Case 002 verdict. For instance, Stephen Rapp (US Ambassador for War Crimes) said the verdict would deter future crimes by sending a message to future generations that ‘[a]nyone in a position of committing such crimes will know that “Their day of judgment will arrive. There is no escaping it in this life.”’ ECCC National Co-Prosecutor Chea Leang stated
that the ECCC process had been ‘good for Cambodia, the rule of law and democracy’ and Kip Hale (formerly of the Office of the Prosecutor at the ECCC) argued that ‘[m]any thousands of Cambodians personally witnessed a functioning court of law conducting transparent and fair trials while delivering justice’ and that ‘[t]hrough day-to-day interactions between Cambodians and internationals, the ECCC has trained many Cambodian lawyers, court administrators, and other professionals who will work in various Cambodian public and private sectors once the ECCC closes.’ However, the contemporary situation in Cambodia refutes claims that the ECCC has had a positive impact on democracy and the rule of law. The HRW World Report 2014 lists multiple HR violations on behalf of the ruling CPP government or its allies, including excessive use of force by the police in response to protests about the fraudulent national elections; widespread land-grabs by economically and politically powerful actors; violence from security forces towards people peacefully protesting these land-grabs; political imprisonment; arbitrary detentions; and frequent and large-scale abuses by the security forces which are allowed to go unpunished. In a sign of its concern, the UN HR Council has extended the mandate for the Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Cambodia until Sept 2015.

Police crack down on garment factory workers seeking higher wages in Phnom Penh (Photo: Joe Freeman and Jethro Mullen / CNN)

Police crack down on garment factory workers seeking higher wages in Phnom Penh (Photo: Joe Freeman and Jethro Mullen / CNN)

Equally, there is no evidence that the ECCC has had positive effects even in the more narrow field of the Cambodian justice sector. The US State Department’s report on human rights in Cambodia in 2013 found that: ‘A weak judiciary that sometimes failed to provide due process or a fair trial procedure remained a leading human rights concern as large portions of society were unable to receive fair adjudications of their legal concerns … The government prosecuted some officials who committed abuses, but impunity for corruption and most abuses by government forces persisted.’

In the absence of evidence of that the ECCC has instrumental value in Cambodia, rather than reassess their prior views of the value of the Court, supporters assert the intrinsic qualities of justice. Rapp, for instance, praised the verdict for recognising the death and suffering that victims and survivors had endured and argued that the ECCC had given Cambodians a lesson in their recent history. Chea Leang noted the participation of the Civil Parties and the attendance of the public (a position which assumes participation in justice is a good in itself) and Hale asserted that the verdict ‘has immense symbolic value’ both because it managed to place ‘formerly untouchable leaders in the dock’ and also because the grudging apologies or expressions of regret by defendants were ‘important cathartic moments for a still-healing nation’. The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) commended the role the ECCC played in giving ‘an opportunity for victims and civil society to contribute to shaping a shared narrative of the past’ and Craig Etcheson (formerly an investigator in the OTP at the ECCC) emphasized the ‘extraordinary cache of documents and testimonies’ amassed during the investigation and trial processes.

In short, supporters of the Court focused predominantly on the intrinsic value of justice, rather than its consequences. What about criticisms of the Court in the aftermath of the verdict? These, too, were directed at the quality or quantity of justice rather than its results. Human Rights Watch stated that ‘[t] he convictions of Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan are too little and too late to save the Khmer Rouge tribunal from being regarded as a failure … The goal of justice for Khmer Rouge victims has been irrevocably tarnished by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s political interference, long delays, and pervasive corruption.’ Amnesty International expressed similar views: “the … refusal of senior Cambodian government officials to give evidence, as well as allegations of political interference in other ECCC cases, is troubling and raises concerns around the fairness of the proceedings and respect for victims’ right to hear the full truth regarding the alleged crimes.’ Continue reading

Posted in Cambodia, Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), Human Rights, International Law, Justice, Transitional Justice | Tagged | 2 Comments

Laying the Law for a Future Syria

The following is an interview conducted by Adrian Gallagher with Yasmine Nahlawi of the Syrian Legal Development Programme. Adrian is a lecturer at Leeds University and the author of Genocide and Its Threat to Contemporary International Order

(A man scours rubble in Aleppo. Photo: Pablo Tosco / AFP / Getty Images)

(A man scours rubble in Aleppo. Photo: Pablo Tosco / AFP / Getty Images)

2015 will mark the 10th anniversary of the World Summit Outcome which endorsed the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) agreement. R2P embodies a three-fold responsibility:

1. ‘Each individual State has the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity’.

2. Second, ‘the international community should as appropriate, encourage and help states to exercise this responsibility’.

3. Third, if the state in question is deemed to be ‘manifestly failing’ to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing then the international community, ‘through the United Nations’ has a responsibility to use coercive and non-coercive measures in a ‘timely and decisive manner’ under Chapters VI, VII, and VIII of the UN Charter on a ‘case-by-case’ basis.

Against this background, the on-going crisis in Syria – which clearly fits within the remit of R2P – has led critics to question whether ‘Syria marks the death of R2P as a viable, functional concept’.2 Analysts began to debate its demise.3 Amidst this debate, UN Special Advisor on the Responsibility to Protect, Dr. Jennifer Welsh, has stressed the need to recognise that there are actors in international society, other than the UN Security Council (UNSC) which can help facilitate the R2P.4 This is not to downplay the failings of the UNSC but to highlight that if we look beyond it, we may see the valuable role being played by other actors as they strive to help protect civiliansin Syria. It is with this in mind that I takes this opportunity to interviewed Yasmine Nahlawi (YN) the External Affairs Director of the Syrian Legal Development Programme The following is a transcript of our discussion.

Adrian Galagher (AG): Can you tell us a little bit about your organisation?

Yasmine Nahlawi (YN): We are a Manchester-based non-aligned and non-governmental organization that promotes and disseminates legal education (most particularly but not limited to international law) to enable the Syrian people to work towards a Syria that is premised upon human rights and the rule of law. We do this through a combination of educational media segments (both radio and video) as well as on-the-ground training workshops, and currently focus on three main areas of public international law (PIL), international humanitarian law (IHL), and international human rights law (IHRL). Our PIL programme, for example, is aimed at helping Syrians to contextualise their situation within the wider international legal framework and to understand why and how certain measures are being imposed upon their country (for example, what is the Security Council, and what is its significance in authorising international action on Syria? What is asylum, and what does it mean to be a refugee?). The IHL programme is targeted at non-state armed groups and wider civilian population to facilitate an understanding of the basic laws of war, with hopes that such awareness will help to minimise the adverse consequences of the conflict upon civilians and state infrastructure. Finally, our IHRL programme is designed to create an understanding of the rights and responsibilities of the governing and the governed, enabling the Syrian people to hold their governments accountable for securing them their basic rights.

We operate from the premise that an informed civil society in which citizens are aware of their rights and responsibilities is most conducive for a successful post-conflict rebuilding process. We also infuse our programmes with cultural, linguistic, and religious elements to increase the receptiveness towards our work. In carrying out our work, however, we do not advocate for any specific solution, nor do we seek to impose our own vision of what should happen in Syria. Rather, our sole purpose is to disseminate knowledge of the law among the Syrian people to enable them to make informed decisions when charting the future of their country.

AG: Why do you identify yourself as a non-aligned, non- governmental organisation?

YN: Our commitment as an organisation lies to the Syrian people. A number of Syrian organisations are already working towards specified political solutions for the crisis, or, with respect to states, each is pursuing its own national interest in the country and wider region. We are not interested in engaging in the debate of what should happen in the immediate or long-term future of the country. Rather, we are keen on ensuring that the Syrian people are in a position to understand and engage with the legal issues that are most pressing to their current situation, but also to appreciate the globalised nature of the international legal order and determine what role they envision their country assuming within it. In our role as education providers, we strive to ensure that we are neutral and independent so that we can best accomplish these goals.

AG: What do you think are the key challenges facing the Syrian crisis and how are you addressing these in your approach?

YN: Primarily, the fragmented nature of Syrian society, combined with the international community’s failure to take meaningful action to alleviate the current situation, has led to the deterioration of confidence in any sort of authority, inclusive of the state, opposition groups, and international bodies (most notably the UN Security Council). This lack of acceptance or recognition of any sort of authority has severe implications for Syria’s future. It has already led, for example, to the proliferation of ad hoc legal systems (both civil and religious-based) as well as the multiplication of armed groups. It could also lead to a Libya-like scenario in which armed groups refuse to lay down weapons in the post-conflict phase, thus making it extremely difficult to establish law and order. Continue reading

Posted in Guest Posts, International Law, Justice, Syria | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

International Justice and ISIS – An ICC Intervention in Iraq?

Young men are covered in dust as they flee violence in northern Iraq (Photo: Rodi Said / Reuters)

Young men are covered in dust as they flee violence in northern Iraq (Photo: Rodi Said / Reuters)

Despite ongoing violence and the alleged massacre of eighty Yazidi men in northern Iraq by Islamic State militants, there is remarkably little debate about whether or not the deteriorating situation in northern Iraq should be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC). But if violence continues, it should be expected that the murmur of voices calling on events in Iraq to be investigated by the ICC will grow. In some respects, the unfolding crisis and conflict in northern Iraq is tailor-made for an ICC intervention. But what would such an intervention look like?

It is important to keep in mind that Iraq is not a member-state of the ICC. As a result, the Court cannot investigate current events in northern Iraq without a United Nations Security Council referral. However, despite it not being a member-state of the ICC, it is also important to remember that the Court is already investigating events in Iraq. Specifically, investigators are examining a trove of evidence suggesting that officials from the UK (which is an ICC member-state) are responsible for the commission of mass human rights violations in Iraq between 2003 and 2008. But, again, because Iraq itself is not a member-state of the ICC, the Court does not have jurisdiction to investigate, let alone prosecute, other crimes committed on Iraqi territory.

One might be tempted to argue that, because of the UK and US’s 2003 invasion of Iraq and the incessant allegations that individuals from both states committed international crimes during that time, these permanent, veto-wielding UN Security Council member-states would be loathe to refer Iraq to the ICC. Indeed, this might even explain some of the radio silence regarding a referral of Iraq to the Court.

There is no doubt that Western citizens allegedly responsible for crimes committed in Iraq should be held accountable – and it is a welcome sign that these crimes are currently being investigated the ICC. But those allegations can be held separately from the alleged atrocities currently being committed in the north. As they have in the past, UN Security Council states could tailor a referral to ensure that any ICC investigation be strictly focused on recent events in northern Iraq. Of course, whether or not they should is another matter.

The 2011 referral of Libya to the ICC restricted the Court to investigating crimes committed since 15 February 2011. This had the effect of shielding Western states from scrutiny or investigation for their role in rehabilitating the regime of Muammar Gaddafi and entering into nefarious political, economic and intelligence relationships with him.

An ISIS convoy in Iraq (Photo: AP)

An ISIS convoy (Photo: AP)

The UN Security Council’s referral of the situation in Darfur to the ICC in 2005 provides a precedent for restricting an ICC investigation to a specific region – rather than an entire state. So too does the 2003 referral of northern Uganda to the Court (albeit after the Government of Uganda first sought to refer the Lord’s Resistance Army to the ICC).

There should be no doubt that any Security Council referral of Iraq to the ICC would seek to constrain both the temporal and spacial jurisdiction of the Court. This is how the political relationship between the Council and the Court works. Certain states (i.e. Russia and, to a lesser extent, China) won’t want an ICC investigation leaking into neighbouring states (i.e. Syria). Other states (i.e. the UK and the US) won’t want an ICC investigation delving into events in the rest of Iraq and into the past.

Crucially, there exists a broad consensus that ISIS is beyond the pale. The militant group and its allies do not need to be additionally demonized for a consensus about their savagery to emerge. The Security Council has already passed a resolution which levied targeted sanctions against six individuals associated with ISIS and Al-Nusra Front. The Council took the unusual step of immediately naming its targets and noted, of ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front, “the negative impact of their violent extremist ideology and actions on the stability of the region, the devastating humanitarian impact on the civilian populations and the role of these groups in fomenting sectarian tensions.” Continue reading

Posted in International Criminal Court (ICC), International Criminal Justice, Iraq, ISIS | 7 Comments

Rough Justice: A Review

(Photo: John Sinden / American University)

(Photo: John Sinden / American University)

I recently had the opportunity to review David Bosco‘s Rough Justice – The International Criminal Court in a World of Power Politics, for the Journal of International Criminal Justice. Bosco’s is one of the best books published on international criminal justice to date. I highly encourage anyone and everyone interested in the politics of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and international justice more broadly to read the book.

Here’s a snippet of the review:

Despite a growing body of literature on the politics of the International Criminal Court (ICC), remarkably little is known about how states view and engage in the project of international criminal justice. Even less is known on how the ICC relates to states, state power and how this shapes its decision-making.

David Bosco’s Rough Justice is one of — if not, the — most significant contributions to understanding relationships between states and the ICC in recent years. Impressively researched, accessibly composed and cogently argued, Bosco — an Assistant Professor of International Politics at American University — skilfully lays out a political history of the Court that not only elucidates why and how powerful states engage with the ICC but also how the Court manages its relations with the states upon which its legitimacy and effectiveness depend.

The primary aim of Bosco’s monograph is to interrogate major power relations with the ICC. How can the differential engagement between major powers and the ICC be explained? How should changes in the engagement of specific states with the Court be understood? How does the ICC prosecutor respond to the political interests of states? To answer these questions, Bosco offers a conceptual framework for analysing and assessing relations between states and the ICC.

Bosco suggests that major powers display one of four types of strategies in their engagement with the Court: active marginalization, passive marginalization, control or acceptance. What makes Bosco’s work unique is his subsequent consideration of the feedback in the relationship between powerful actors and the ICC, namely the prosecutor’s behaviour towards states. As Bosco observes, the ‘singular focus’ on how major powers interact with the ICC is ‘characteristic of much scholarship on international institutions’. This occludes, however, the interaction between the institutional interests of actors like the Court and the political interests of states. Bosco maintains that the prosecutor can respond to state strategies towards the Court by assuming its own strategic positions, which he describes as: apolitical, pragmatic, strategic or captured behaviour. Continue reading

Posted in International Criminal Court (ICC), International Criminal Justice | Tagged , | 2 Comments