This week’s New York Times features an op-ed from South African Justice Richard Goldstone highlighting recent victories for international justice and making the case that there has been a global normative shift towards the embrace of increased accountability. Goldstone is a powerful voice supporting accountability and the end of impunity. In his native South Africa, he chaired the commission tasked with investigating apartheid era violence. He then worked as the chief prosecutor for the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals on Yugoslavia and Rwanda, where he oversaw the prosecution of those responsible for some of the post war world’s worst crimes against humanity.
His piece discusses in detail the April finding against former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, but also highlights the ICC’s action against Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir as well as recent proceedings against Charles Taylor, Hissene Habre, Jean-Pierre Bemba, and Kaing Guek Eav. Attributing recent successes to the juxtaposition of “a mature global network of human rights organizations… and the credibility of the new institutions of international justice,” Goldstone, for one, believes that “the elements are in place for a more just and peaceful future.”
Impunity continues in places like Congo, where a war criminal is working alongside U.N. forces tasked with apprehending him and an army meant to protect civilians rapes and kills, or Sri Lanka, where the government disregarded the plight of tens of thousands of civilians throughout a brutal military campaign. However, such horrors should not minimize just how far we’ve come. I, like Goldstone, remain hopeful that, if used correctly, international law can bring justice and help create lasting peace for some of the world’s most acute crises.
Photo: Headquarters of International Criminal Court in The Hague