Just when you think the ICC could not bungle things worse

Now, deep into the trial, the defense has produced new evidence that may undermine the entire case, namely claims by several witnesses that Congolese researchers for the prosecution enlisted some witnesses to fabricate evidence.

That is from the trial of Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga.

ICC indictments can often bring short term harm or uncertainty to the backyards of the indicted. Think of the impossibility of negotiating an end to the war in northern Uganda, or the impact on Sudanese politics at such a sensitive time.

The main justification for this short term harm: the deterrence of crimes by future bad guys. If so, this is not the right signal to be sending with your first trial:

Judges have twice ended proceedings and ordered Mr. Lubanga’s release, because, they said, the prosecution erred in dealing with evidence and refused to carry out their “unequivocal orders,” making a fair trial impossible.

Both times, appeals judges ordered the trial resumed and errors redressed. But tensions over a range of issues between the prosecution and the judges continue.

…“The whole trial has been a nightmare since the disputes between judges and the prosecutor began in 2008,” said William A. Schabas, who teaches human rights law at the National University of Ireland, Galway, and follows the court. Relations between the bench and the prosecution have become “ugly and unhealthy,” he said. “There appears almost a breakdown between the two sides.”

At what point, I wonder, will a major human rights organization point out that trying and retrying an indicted criminal until you get the result you want undermines rather than strengthens the cause of international justice?

Comments are closed.