While We Wait…

As long as we’re all waiting with bated breath for this afternoon’s (or this morning’s, if you’re in the U.S.) ICC press conference revealing Pre-Trial I’s decision on the Bashir warrant, I thought I’d do a quick update on what else has been going on in the wonderful world of international criminal law.

  • From the Khmer Rouge Tribunal: The Phnom Penh Post reports that the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges (OCIJ) has ordered Ieng Sary’s defense team to take down its website, which the OCIJ alleges contains confidential material. Lawyers for Ieng and other defendants have countered that the Tribunal is needlessly secretive, failing in its obligation to keep the public informed, and that the posted documents weren’t confidential anyway. (Given that the Tribunal’s website has been down the last several times I’ve tried to access it, I feel like there may be some truth to those charges.) In other news from the KRT, last week Ieng Sary’s wife, Ieng Thirith, threw a fit and cursed the Tribunal, and earlier this week Judge Kong Srim announced that there are no funds available to pay local staff salaries this month. So it sounds like things are going well there.
  • From the ICTY: Yesterday Radovan Karadžić refused to plead to the prosecution’s once-again amended indictment (third time’s the charm guys!); an automatic not-guilty plea was (again) entered on his behalf. It’s nice that he seems to be settling into a routine, isn’t it? Oh, and former Serbian President Milan Milutinovic was found not guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the 1999 conflict in Kosovo. The other five high-ranking Serb officials on trial were not so lucky; everyone got prison sentences.

  • From the Special Court for Sierra Leone: Trial Chamber I returned a verdict last week in the case of three RUF commanders. Not only were all three found guilty on an impressive array of charges, but “forced marriage of captured women” made its debut as a crime distinct from your run-of-the-mill sexual violence charges. So congratulations to the prosecution for the first (and second and third) ever conviction for forced marriage under international criminal law!
  • From the Special Tribunal for Lebanon: Not much to report yet other than yes, we have a new tribunal on the scene in the Hague. (Good thing, too, because the ratio of Dutch people to international lawyers was getting perilously close to 1:1 around here.) Its purpose is to “try all those who are alleged responsible for the attack of 14 February 2005 in Beirut that killed the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others.”

So that’s the news for now. See you in a few hours…

Kate Cronin-Furman

One Comment

  1. Kaing Guek Eav’s apology strcuk me as an extremely disturbing example of a human’s capacity to be both disgustingly inhumane and then empathetic and apologetic in the same lifetime. How was a person, who now at least seems capable of acknowledging the severity and moral wrongness of genocide crimes, previously able to actively participate in such utter cruelty? What factors have the power to so heavily influence a person’s judgments and morals? Most importantly, does anyone, including ourselves, have the capacity to commit such seemingly unbelievable actions? In my opinion, some of the most important factors contributing to genocide has to do with implicit theories, which are defined as “laypeople’s conceptions of particular psychological constructs, such as intelligence, love, and success”(Malley-Morrison & Hines 2004). Essentially, during a genocide such as the Khmer Rouge, people’s implicit theories become skewed. Living during a genocide is extremely dangerous and traumatic for everyone involved. While obviously those who experience the most trauma are by far the victims, the perpetrators must also experience some form of severe trauma and guilt that they can only really ameliorate by changing their cognition. According to Malley-Morrison and Hines (2004), “although implicit theories are fairly available to consciousness, they are influenced by unconscious processes such as denial the psychological mechanism by which we unconsciously avoid thinking about painful realities.” Thus, in order to avoid the threatening reality that they are inflicting severe physical and psychological pain on others and participating in a hugely destructive movement, these perpetrators unconsciously change their cognitions to protect them from feelings of guilt, panic and weakness. They may train themselves to believe that they are killing and torturing others for the greater good, or they may place blame on their victims instead of acknowledging it as their own. Moreover, the presence of other people committing similar crimes may act as a social facilitator; perpetrators might look around and see others also killing and torturing, and their own perceived severity of the crime may be reduced. Ultimately, I think it is important to note that how tremendously far the human mind will go to defend itself from “recognizing our own failings, selfish motivations, hurtful intentions, and immoral behaviors” (Malley-Morrison & Hines 2004). We are prone not only to fall prey to the cruelty of others, but also to the cruelty within ourselves.

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