Recent chatter about history, human rights, and justice

Of late there seems to be a lot of discussion about truth commissions, international courts, and international justice in general. There’s a lot of variety between these various bodies–the division between international and national law being the key division–but in general they share a common dedication to human rights and justice. In judging these judicial efforts, I start with three basic questions: (1) What is the impetus for their creation? (2) Do they have any real authority? and (3) How do they treat witnesses and defendants? Of course, these are interrelated issues.

A few recent developments and media events:

Next Wednesday (July 14, 10pm Eastern), here in the US PBS will be showing a documentary on the International Criminal Court to be shown on PBS’s program P.O.V. called The Reckoning. It profiles the conflicts and personalities that went in to the creation of the ICC (which, by-the-way, the US still hasn’t signed on to). For a thoughtful review, see Tom Jacobs’ “The End of Impunity?” in this month’s Miller-McCune.

I’ve discussed the Khmer Rouge Tribunals on this blog, but there are new events each week in Duch’s trial. Catch up on news in detail (largely legal) from U.C. Berkeley’s War Crime Studies’ Khmer Rouge Tribunal Monitor. For an overview of war crimes and attempts at reconciliation (or lack thereof) in Aisa, see last week’s Banyan, in the Economist (Banyan is their relatively new editorial page for Asia… it’s about time).

A lot is going on in Liberia regarding the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which models itself after South Africa’s TRC from the 1990s. Liberia’s TRC report suggested that all supporters of rebel groups in Liberia — including the sitting President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (darling of the liberal West) — should be banned from politics. This has caused a fair amount of blogging kerfluffle; I’ll point you to two who have been a bit more thoughtful than others (as far as I can tell): The Esteyonage (on the ground in Liberia) has been covering it pretty heavily the last week or so, and Chris Blattman’s Blog (Chris has done a lot of development and DDR work in Liberia) has some good things to say about it too (among other topics).

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