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1. The Democratic Republic of Congo had a devastating ethnic war in 1999. All sides have been accused of murder, rape, pillage and recruiting child soldiers. Three disarmament programs have taken place since 2004, when the thankless task of pacification began. Displaced refugees were only recently able to return home and the area is still not entirely stable.
In July 2006 rebel leader Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui demobilized his troops in exchange for general amnesty. He joined the Congolese national army as a colonel and was training in February 2008, when he was arrested by Congolese officials and handed over to the ICC.
Had he known that this was to be his fate, what are the chances that he would have demobilized? And, going forward, what are the odds that other Chui’s will lay down their arms?
2. In 2002, President Ange-Felix Patasse of the Central African Republic called upon Jean-Pierre Bemba, a citizen of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and his group of rebels, The Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), to help him contain a coup d’etat. Bemba obliged, though the coup succeeded anyway.
In 2004, the new CAR president, Francois Bozize called upon the ICC to investigate war crimes committed during the coup, which opened a whole new kettle of cod. In 2006, Bemba received the second largest number of votes in the DRC presidential elections. When his opponent, Joseph Kabila, took the presidency, Bemba settled for the Senate.
The new Senator fled the country in 2007 after a clash between government forces and Bemba supporters. Kabila has since accused Bemba of high treason. Though local law mandates that Senators automatically have immunity, Kabila was hoping to overturn this. The ICC saved him the trouble.
Bemba was indicted and arrested for war crimes committed in Central African Republic. The MLC, which has become a legitimate political party, has called for the ICC to respect national laws. They have been largely ignored. Congolese troops were dispersed to “quiet” Bemba supporters, who took to the streets to demand his release.
THOUGH PROSECUTING war criminals seems a very natural and harmless thing for an international criminal court to do, it is not always a benign activity. The ICC is completely disregarding national sovereignty and putting peaceful resolutions in jeopardy.
Leaders in these regions need to make difficult decisions. Sometimes this results in horrible men walking free. It isn’t justice. They drink margaritas on yachts despite their history of mass murder, torture, and other heinous acts. And it isn’t always effective. Charles Taylor of Liberia was accused of meddling in local politics despite being sent away on amnesty.
But oftentimes difficult compromises are necessary to staunch bloodshed. Bad men walk free but people’s lives are saved. Perhaps the price of justice can be too steep. This should be a question that countries wrestle with themselves without the ICC imposing an answer.
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