"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

7.15.2009

into the sunset

I was okay until that wide-angle shot of Luis Moreno-Ocampo walking down the beach, all alone, lost in his thoughts of justice at all costs.

Did anyone else watch The Reckoning last night on PBS? While I wouldn't exactly characterize it as "epic," it was at least not a total hagiography along the lines of Luis Moreno-Ocampo: Crusader for Human Rights, and it avoided many of the expected cliches. The film struck me as a good introduction to the court and its work for someone with little prior knowledge of the subject. I'll probably show it to my International Organizations class this fall. But I'll show it while still assigning a lot of supplementary reading, because goodness knows the film fell far short of telling the whole story. What was missing?
  • A fuller accounting of how badly the Office of the Prosecutor bungled the Lubanga case, which should've been open-and-shut. There's videotape of his child soldiers being trained, for goodness sakes. But when your prosecuting attorney opens with the line, "This case is about the children," things can only go downhill.
  • An explanation as to why the ICC can afford ridiculously fancy software to pinpoint the locations of crimes against humanity, but cannot get a warrant issued for war criminals against whom there is abundant evidence in less than 13 months.
  • Perspectives from international legal experts who are not 1) John "creepy mustache" Bolton or 2) members of the prosecution at the ICC on the court's strengths and weaknesses.
One thing I liked about the film was the inclusion of perspectives from the people the ICC purports to be helping. To hear former child soldiers in the Congo speak of their experiences and to show clearly that there's no such thing as a single "Acholi opinion" on how to balance justice and peace in northern Uganda was refreshing. Perspectives from local civil society leaders are normally absent from films of this sort, so I'm glad the filmmaker chose to include them in The Reckoning.

That said, the film's opening scene in a field in Ituri, obligatory human skull and all, was really sad. I think it made me feel that way not just because of the horrible crimes that were committed there, but also because the notion of "international justice" is so very, very remote for someone who lives in Bunia or in an IDP camp in Uganda. The prosecution and conviction of someone like Thomas Lubanga has great symbolic significance, but it doesn't do much to improve day-to-day life for those who have lived through unimaginable horrors. The insistence of many Acholi participants in Uganda's peace process that justice should be handled locally, according to traditional norms is touted by ICC employees as a success in building the rule of law, but is it really necessary to spend millions of dollars on beautiful offices in The Hague to revitalize village-level institutions of justice?

One wonders whether the international community ought not have spent more of its time and effort rebuilding local justice institutions in war-weakened countries and putting more traditional diplomatic pressure on states that commit crimes against their citizens.

1 Comments:

Blogger Dustyn Winder said...

"The insistence of many Acholi participants in Uganda's peace process that justice should be handled locally, according to traditional norms is touted by ICC employees as a success in building the rule of law, but is it really necessary to spend millions of dollars on beautiful offices in The Hague to revitalize village-level institutions of justice?

One wonders whether the international community ought not have spent more of its time and effort rebuilding local justice institutions in war-weakened countries and putting more traditional diplomatic pressure on states that commit crimes against their citizens."


*nods in approval*

Wednesday, July 15, 2009 5:04:00 PM

 

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