The Onion Targets the ICC

Mark Kersten ICC

(Photo of ICC: Mark Kersten)

International criminal justice and transitional justice are rarely funny. There are a few jokes. But outside of the hilarious, periodically knee-slapping pieces by Amanda and Kate at Wronging Rights, jokes about this stuff are few and far between.

Every now and then, though, international justice is made fun of. And it’s doubtful that anyone has done it better than The Onion. Their jokes are wickedly incisive. In their most recent gag, they take aim at the ICC’s record on sentencing:

Militia Leader Sentenced To 6 Months’ Probation For War Misdemeanors

THE HAGUE—Following his 15-minute appearance today before the Civil Ordinance division of the International Criminal Court, Mai Mai Kata Katanga militia leader Emile Kyenge was sentenced to six months’ probation for several war misdemeanors committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, sources confirmed. “Mr. Kyenge’s crimes against the community, from trespassing on private land during nighttime raids to torching entire villages without a burn permit, have been a disruption to public order,” said Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, adding that Kyenge has previously appeared before the tribunal for littering public grounds with the bones of his enemies, failing to pay taxes on sales of captive women, and allowing child soldiers to sit in his armored vehicle’s front seat. “In light of the damage he has caused, Mr. Kyenge will be required to complete 30 hours of community service and submit a letter to the tribunal apologizing for his actions. He will also be levied the standard fine of $250, as well as the $50 International Criminal Court processing fee.” Bensouda added that under the terms of Kyenge’s probation, the rebel warlord must henceforth inform the court whenever he leaves the state of Katanga to massacre civilians.

This isn’t the first time The Onion has taken aim at the ICC or international justice. They have targeted the lack of public interest in atrocity crimes and genocide. Perhaps their best came in 2011 with this gem: “International Criminal Court Announces New ‘3 Strikes’ Genocide Policy”. They’re funny. But they are also insightful and, because they masquerade deeper truths within absurd story-lines, sad. Maybe there is something to Mark Twain’s observation that “The secret source of humor is not joy but sorrow.”

If you have any good international justice jokes, be sure to share them!

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About Mark Kersten

Mark is a PhD student in International Relations at the London School of Economics. His work focuses on the nexus of international criminal justice and conflict resolution. Specifically, he is examining the effects of the ICC on peace processes and negotiations in northern Uganda and Libya.
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