JUSTICE ACROSS BORDERS

Emma Bonino
The International Herald Tribune

Richard Goldstone ("Prosecuting Sudan's leader," Views, July 16) is right to question the short-sighted argument that the International Criminal Court's indictment of President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan would jeopardize a peace agreement. In many instances, the ICC's action has actually strengthened the prospects for a sustainable and just peace. Uganda suffered civil war for most of two decades, and it was only after the court started its investigations that real peace talks commenced.
The International Criminal Court can only act when a state is unwilling or genuinely unable to investigate and prosecute crimes within its jurisdiction. The impetus and responsibility for dealing with war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide continues to lie primarily at the national level, and the international court acts as a catalyst, a guardian, and a last resort for victims to obtain justice.
This is one of the court's strengths because it allows the court to act as a driving force for national efforts to overcome impunity.
A durable peace can only be achieved by providing accountability and redress for victims of war crimes. Whatever mechanisms are adopted to provide accountability and redress - international or local prosecutions or truth and reconciliation commissions - they must be designed in a way that will promote restoration of the rule of law.
Failing to account for past wrongs weakens the rule of law. It allows impunity to prevail and a vicious cycle of violence to continue. Peace and justice are two sides of the same coin: There cannot be one without the other.
The ICC has been operating for five years. It will need more time to affirm itself as a significant instrument for justice. Instead of criticizing it for its current shortcomings, we must work to improve its operations and its efficiency. The U.S. and other powerful countries have not ratified the court's statute - I hope this will change after the U.S. elections - but this is no reason for critics to view the court as ineffective in countries where it does have jurisdiction.