Belmont Club

The International Criminal Court Vs The Lords Resistance Army

The world’s mightiest progressive transnational institution of justice takes on a rag-tag gang of psychopathic thugs. Score: 0-1.

Now the question is not whether the ICC can win, but whether by winning its justice game, everyone else must pay. At issue is whether the principle of “let bygones be bygones” (AKA ‘finding a partner for peace’) trumps International Law. One former victim of the Lord’s Resistance Army grew angry when an ICC arrest warrant arrived just as the LRA was in the middle of negotiations with the government.


Moreno-Ocampo, humanity’s avenger, talks softly and quickly. “We help in Africa, we protect Africa’s victims, Africa has called on us for aid,” he says.

But Calvin Ococa, for one, never asked them for help. “Western criminal justice doesn’t bring us any closer to peace,” he says. “We could have had peace a long time ago without The Hague.”

Moreno-Ocampo’s warrant came precisely at the point when Kony’s emissaries were sitting with the government at the negotiating table, just when some observers thought that a peace agreement might be within reach. Kony refuses to sign an accord while the ICC arrest warrant remains in effect. He has gone into hiding in the Democratic Republic of Congo, just across the border, where he rules as a jungle prince with up to 60 wives and an estimated 1,200 loyal fighters.

Over the past few weeks, the army has recommenced shelling, but that hasn’t stopped the atrocities. Recently, over 400 people were reportedly murdered by the rebels during massacres around Christmas. The week before last, the LRA cautiously enquired in Kampala if it might be possible to resume negotiations.

Some lawyers worry that emphasizing “reconciliation” over justice lets war criminals go scot-free. But as a practical matter, the first thing any armed gang will ask for in return for laying down their arms is amnesty.  Since the “international community” is caught between a burning thirst for justice and an equally burning desire to avoid force at all costs, groups like the LRA can simply abandon negotiations and resume their depredations. With only two instruments available to the Guardians of Justice — arrest warrants and ceasefire agreements — the bad men of the world are free to roam between the cracks.


Specialists in international law are taking a critical look at the African approach to reconciliation. Cologne-based law professor Claus Kress, who works as an adviser to the ICC, conducted a study on whether the widespread tendency of politicians to link peace talks with amnesty pledges has created a new “lex pacificatoria” (“law of the peacemakers”) in international law — a new let-bygones-be-bygones principle that puts reconciliation before justice. “Political decision-makers must work according to the assumption that international criminal law takes priority,” says Kress. “This rules out automatic amnesties, at least for those who are chiefly responsible.”

Please don’t think for a moment that Hamas must be “brought to justice”. That’s different. It’s always different. Maybe what the International Justice people secretly crave is a deniable force which will get things done without the necessity of soiling their hands. Now with BHO as President and HRC as Secretary of State, the international progressives may once again possess the means to chase warlords, Serbian genocidaires, Haitian gangs and the Lords Resistance Army with a secret smile and a public frown. The fact is that everybody secretly cheers when the Israeli Air Force ‘illegally’ destroys a Syrian nuclear facility. Who knows but that champagne corks are surreptitiously being popped in Brussels every time a Hamas building goes up in smoke. But don’t suggest it. Don’t even speak of it.


The world really wants it both ways. We want ‘things’ to be done and we want to punish the men who do these things at our secret bidding afterward. This is the moral bargain on which much of modern civilization is founded.  In the film “A Few Good Men”, Tom Cruise plays a lawyer who eventually convicts a Colonel Jessep, played by Jack Nicholson, whose actions he would rather not know about. But when he gets Jessep to admit it in court, the Colonel must go to jail of course. It’s not the act; it’s the admission. But even the jail time is part of the bargain; perhaps that’s the last duty of a “few good men”. But what is good then? Maybe we should ask Dostoevky’s Grand Inquisitor who believed it was necessary to keep the secret of damnation to a few so that the many could be saved.

Kaffee: *Colonel Jessep, did you order the Code Red?*
Judge Randolph: You *don’t* have to answer that question!
Col. Jessep: I’ll answer the question!
[to Kaffee]
Col. Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I think I’m entitled.
Col. Jessep: *You want answers?*
Kaffee: *I want the truth!*
Col. Jessep: *You can’t handle the truth!*
Col. Jessep: Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Whose gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.
Kaffee: Did you order the Code Red?
Col. Jessep: I did the job I…
Kaffee: *Did you order the Code Red?*
Col. Jessep: *You’re Goddamned right I did!*


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