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Kampala Conference: The Peace and/or Justice Debate

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Kampala Conference: The Peace and/or Justice Debate

Posted by Enough Team on June 4, 2010

Kampala Conference: The Peace and/or Justice Debate

With the tropical storms blown away, the Kampala Conference on the International Criminal Court began the formal exercise of “stocktaking” yesterday, looking at where the Court has been in its first eight years.  The morning session opened with a meeting on how the Court relates to victims and affected communities, which focused on outreach to victims, reparations, and the experience of victims in dealing with the ICC, as described by some survivors of violence in Darfur. A series of meetings kept me from attending, but according to people I spoke to, one interesting topic that the session raised was how to enhance the ability of the international community to find the assets of perpetrators and use them to provide reparations to the victims.

The afternoon session on peace and justice was very dynamic. A wide-ranging panel of human rights activists and international mediators discussed how these two concepts can be mutually reinforcing but occasionally come in conflict. All agreed that with the arrival of the ICC, amnesties are a thing of the past, and that international mediators have had to come to grips with accountability and international justice being part of any peace agreement.

Much of the discussion centered around sequencing. A responsible international prosecutor has to have the judgment and expert advice to understand how his or her actions will affect the dynamics in the country where the investigation takes place and when to take which actions. It was interesting to hear many countries talk about how “there can’t be peace without justice” but then hedge that sometimes peace needs to come before justice.  Some country representatives argued that there were many kinds of justice (truth commissions, traditional justice, national justice, international justice) that can be looked to for ways of addressing accountability; some even suggested that amnesty should not be taken off the table as part of a peace that used less judicial methods.

The conversation raised practical issues that many in the international community struggle with, and there were a number of calls to keep the conversation going. Certainly, experts in international justice and in international mediation need to continue and deepen the dialogue. Human Rights Watch’s Ken Roth, David Tolbert of the International Center for Transitional Justice, Ugandan human rights lawyer Barney Afako, and the other panelists did a great job laying out the issues and leaving ample time to allow for good exchanges with the others in the room. Once the ICC Secretariat publishes notes, this will probably be a session worth reading about in greater detail.

Meanwhile, state parties started vigorous side meetings in earnest to discuss the crime of aggression, with small groups of parties getting together to discuss possible compromises. Rumors continue to swirl regarding whether a compromise can be achieved, with Prince Zeid of Jordan having the main responsibility of brokering a deal. Stay tuned.

N.B.: For a good collection of background reading on the ICC and the Review Conference, check out this special page put together by the Committee on Conscience at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.


David Abramowitz is the director of policy and government relations at Humanity United. Previously, he served as chief counsel to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where he was responsible for advising the committee on issues such as international law, international justice, and global human rights, and democracy.