Leading article: Bringing justice to the world's tyrants
Thursday 18 June 1998
Although some kind of final product is almost certain to emerge, the real question is just how powerful the eventual court will be. There have been severe doubts about the effectiveness of the ad hoc courts set up by the UN Security Council to try crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, but the mere fact that the international community was able to muster sufficient energy and commitment to dip its toe in the water gave an impetus to a more formalised approach.
Now that something permanent is envisaged, however, realpolitik has entered the calculations. With the sole - and admirable - exception of Great Britain, the members of the Security Council object to a free-standing court, effectively able to decide it own agenda. They appear likely to veto any body which is not subservient to the UN - and thus to their own interests.
There are great practical difficulties involved in setting up such a court - the question of how the statutes would stand in relation to the national laws of sovereign nations, for instance. But in a world in which tyranny and butchery are an ever-present concern, the need for a powerful, well-resourced and transparently independent system of international justice is paramount.
To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthdaybooks
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