The long road to justice

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has now been in existence for almost eight years.

It finally came into being in 2002, four years after the official signing of the Rome Statute – they had to wait until the 60th country joined.

Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ireland, Jordan, Mongolia, Niger, Romania and Slovakia all claim that place – since they all ratified at the same time.

So far, it’s achievements have been less than noticeable.

Okay, no one has so far died whilst in prison – as happened to Slobadan Milosovich at the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia.

But, equally, justice seems as far away as ever for the people that have suffered such appalling attrocities in the places that the ICC is trying to deal with.

Only a handful of indictees have so far been arrested, mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), although one Congolese was arrested for his involvement in the Central African Republic.

Abu Garda, a rebel from Sudan, has also voluntarily presented himself before the Court – although he has not yet been arrested, and so could always abscond into the Darfuri bush.

Many of the warlords of Uganda, which have committed some appalling acts, still remain at large. Others have died. None have been arrested.

The first trial before the ICC – that of Thomas Lubanga – only began at the start of this year and has since been beset by delays. It should resume in January for another protracted session.

It is small wonder that the signatories to the Rome Statute seem to be getting a little weary of supporting the Court, since they can’t actually see what it is doing.

Of course, one must always be careful with any judicial proceedings that there is no miscarriage of justice. Which explains the delays, I suppose.

But there are even a few lawyers that are privately muttering that the whole process does seem to be taking rather a long time – and if even they are saying that, then one has to start to wonder…

The persistent delays of the ICC are worrying for another reason.

Victims of a crime in Europe or America might understandably become frustrated with such a lengthy delay before they could see justice. But they could wait.

But, in Africa, where  life expectancy in many places tends to be around the 40 mark, there is a real danger that many of the victims’ families who now calling for justice may not live long enough to see such justice meted out.

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