Tuesday, September 11, 2007

No applause for "a bad joke"

"It's a bad joke," International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said. Got that right:
The subject of his complaint is the fact that Sudan's nominated its minister of humanitarian affairs to head a commission charged with investigating human rights violations in Darfur. Problem is that, as posted here, that minister, Ahmad Muhammad Harun, is sought by the ICC, having been named as a suspect in atrocities that occurred in Darfur in 2003 and 2004. Le Monde notes that the nomination occurred
just before U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon's visit last Thursday to Sudan. The move increased unease among observers, who noted that in giving priority in July to the deployment of a "hybrid force" to Darfur (UNAMID/MINAUD), the Security Council has relegated to secondary status implementation of the ICC arrest warrants, one of which is aimed at Harun.
Moreno-Ocampo's right to object to this rebuff, of course. Yet it's worth noting that Sudan's gambit has resonance outside the context of Darfur -- Sudan is by no means the only state in history to seek to pack an inquiry panel with persons sympathetic to its viewpoint, if not with persons perhaps responsible for the events that triggered the inquiry in the 1st place. One's reminded of the Widgery Report that exonerated British troops after Bloody Sunday in 1972 left 14 civil rights marchers dead. (See Christine Bell, Dealing With the Past in Northern Ireland, 26 Fordham International Law Journal 1095 (2003); Angela Hegarty, The Government of Memory: Public Inquiries and the Limits of Justice in Northern Ireland, 26 Fordham International Law Journal 1148 (2003)). More recently, there's been a host of post-9/11 inquiry panels said to operate independently of executive pressure notwithstanding that some were appointed by, and some staffed by employees of, the U.S. Defense Department.
These examples suggest that attention's due to developing standards for the promotion of independence and impartiality not only in international criminal trials (a subject on which I've written here and here), but also in commissions established to examine tragedies that have provoked international concern.

No comments: