Comment on the Peace Lecture Question: “To what extent can the ICC advance peace around the world?”
Many discussion concerning the rise of the ICC focuses on the importance of the post-conflict, ad hoc tribunals in the distribution of justice and recognizing the need to eliminate impunity. The ICC, then, arose as a permanent institution with a mandate of more than just retroactive, retributive justice; prevention and peace promotion is one of its goals. In considering to what extent this is possible, it is important to keep in mind what the court can actually do and how this influences the rise of conflict in the first place. I would like to repeat the thoughts of several previous comments in that this is dependent on situation and location. Though we have seen that the establishment of global norms certainly do impact particular places around the globe, through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is important to consider the local impacts of international law, as practiced by the ICC. Many of the greatest perpetrators of crimes against humanity are state, political, and military leaders—and these have been, appropriately, the subjects of ICC indictments. If the ICC functions properly as a mechanism to deter national and regional leaders from committing atrocity, then the ICC will indeed make great strides in contributing to world peace. However, I would like to consider the many other instances of crime around the world, crime which is not limited to that done on massive scale. In this case, I do not see the establishment of an international rule of law as an institution that holds much sway. We must consider that the majority of the world’s population is unaware of this court, and in their lives, the existing justice systems in their region of interaction will be the most influential legal body. Thus, the management of the majority of global conflicts depends on national and regional institutions. With this in mind, it is clear that the project of international justice is very much limited by the legal systems of individual nations. However, this is where the idea of contingency comes in. In nations without an established rule of law, where international justice is frequently articulated and where these legal norms are higher than any local justice standards, an effective ICC could perhaps greatly contribute to peace. Here I am thinking of the actions of the ICC in the Congo, and its notoriety in trying perpetrators of crimes against humanity. However, it is unrealistic to imagine the ICC serving as a substitute for local legal security in the Congo, and, moreover, for all other countries with similarly ineffective national justice systems. As it is difficult to judge possible peace-inducing influences of the ICC’s work in the Congo after the past 10 years, I would suggest that a greater focus be placed upon the establishment of local and regional rule of law in these contexts.
Therefore, I would say that the ICC can promote peace to the extent that it is effective in preventing international leaders from committing human rights abuses. Of course, this is assuming, in the most ideal sense, that the existence and actions of the ICC do serve as a deterrent.
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