Monday, July 21, 2008

A good month for International Law?

Has July been a good month for international law?

Today the Serbian government, to its credit, arrested Karadzic. Reconciliation in the Balkans will be important for the peace of the entire world, being seen as it is, as the fault line between the Muslim and Christian worlds. For Karadzic, however, there needs to be a harsh penalty - the man attempted to drive a literally defenseless nation of people into extinction, and nearly got away with it.

Last week, the prosecutor of the ICC (unfortunately not the same body that will try Karadzic, but then again the Rome Statute wasn't built in a day) indicted Omar El-Bashir, the serial killer in charge in Khartoum. He is the second sitting African head of state with an international warrant against him, the first having been Liberia's Charles Taylor.

Which civil war did they indict me for?

Shamefully, the Arab League, itself a cesspool of repressive tyrants and foreign puppets, is trying to stall. The African Union, hopefully for less self-interested reasons, is doing the same.

I applaud both the indictment and the capture, but I have mixed feelings about the entire project of public international law. How can you have criminal law without a monopoly on force? The rule of law means nothing if the brute force to circumvent it is readily available. Moreover, whom could we entrust with such a monopoly on force?

The entire project will prove its validity when we see an indictment passed not against defeated Balkan fascists or thuggish African dictators, but against sitting heads of powerful states. Currently, the evidence exists to charge the presidents of both Russia and the United States with war crimes and crimes against humanity. Is there any principled reason not to?

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